Archives / Search ›

Do not use adhesive labels on recordable CDs

If there’s a moral I can derive from the past week, it’s above. I’ve been archiving my old data on CD-R since 1998; for the archives I made during 2001 and 2002, I printed carefully constructed labels from Illustrator using a Memorex brand CD label kit, and affixed the labels to the CDs. Thereafter, I got lazy and stopped doing that: for once, I am thankful for my laziness.

The whole story: in the last week, I’ve been setting up my mother’s new PowerBook, which has a DVD writer in it. I’ve had access to DVD writers at school for many years (even a Pioneer DVR-S201 in my old lab, which took rather expensive blanks), but the combination of an easily accessible writer at home and cheap DVD-R blanks made it seem like time to start transferring my archives to newer media.

I never expected all the CDs to be readable, but so far, there’s been a 100% correlation between the archive CDs with labels on them and lack of readability. There still remain five CDs from 2002 to try, but I don’t have much confidence in my luck with them.

If you’re looking to salvage what you can off CDs with adhesive labels, I recommend using Retrospect’s Duplicate option—Retrospect constructs a catalog of the disk first, then tries to read each file in turn, so as long as the catalog is readable, it will do a good (though time-consuming) job. The most recent CD I tried took five hours to read, and I managed to get all but 100 MB of data off it. My initial attempts to use Finder copies ditto were much less effective, aborting at the first I/O error they encountered.

Also, use a desktop, tray-loading CD-ROM drive, not a laptop or slot-loading drive, to read your old CDs; they tend to be more tolerant of discs which are unevenly balanced. The only CD with a label I’ve been able to successfully read, albeit with difficulty, in the new PowerBook’s drive is the MacHack 2003 CD; the older MacHack CDs and my archive CDs just caused the drive to stop the disc from spinning, after emitting a bunch of odd noises, and generate I/O errors thereafter.

The NIST has some useful advice on the care and feeding of recordable discs—including, of course, the admonition not to use adhesive labels. I’m also burning two copies of each DVD now—hopefully at least one copy will last until my next media changeover.

No comments yet. Be the first.

Leave a reply