CD Tips

Things You Should Know About CDs

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CDs - The proper care and handling of CDs

Protect the right side







Move your cursor over the image above to see which side of the CD that needs the most protection.

You won't believe this -
Most of us protect the wrong side of the CD. It seems so natural and right to protect the shinny side from scratches by laying the CD, face down on our desk when not in use. That's a big mistake and here's why. The label side of the CD usually has a thin layer of lacquer (thin varnish like substance), next a reflective coating that looks like gold or silver and a finally a very thin layer of dye. Scratching or damaging this side will damage the CD beyond repair. Even worse, scratches can act like rust which will continue to destroy the area around the scratch causing you to continue to lose files or other information from the CD. Once I watched an increasing number of pictures literally start to disappear from a damaged CD over the period of a month.

Once, I successfully used tooth paste applied to the end of my finger to buff out scratches on a CD that wouldn't read in the computer. There are also resurfacing kits available.

So make a New Years Resolution to start protecting the side that usually has the name of the disk manufacturer printed on it.








Dropping a pencil on a CD can ruin it.

One scratch or ding can destroy a CD. Once I accidentally dropped a pencil on a CD. It resulted in a tiny little pin hole on the surface of the CD. That was the end of the CD. Apparently the damage prevented the computer from reading the CD.

Still don't believe me? Take one of your bad CDs (coaster), get a butter knife and with a light pressure run it across the label side of the CD. You will be amazed how easy it will chip off the reflective coating. That's how I damage the CDs I throw away.

Never use a ball point pen or other sharp writing tool to label a CD. Your chances of scratching or damaging the surface are almost 100%. Be sure to use the proper felt tip, acid free CD markers to write on your CDs.

Sun light and "gold" CDs.


Sunlight can tan your CDs. A CD works when the laser in your CD / DVD drive shoots a beam of light through the clear plastic side of the CD. The light is reflected back by the reflective coating (like a mirror) on the CD and is read by the computer. Over time the reflective coating may start to oxidize or deteriorate. At some point in time, the reflective coating may not reflect enough light back for the computer to read the information.

Direct sunlight can also damage CDs and cause the quality of the reflective medium of the CD to degrade. The two CDs shown on the left were never exposed to direct sun light. However, you can easily see the difference in color. Both CDs were purchased at the same time and came from the same CD spindle. The CD on the far left was kept in a jewel case in the dark and does not appear as "gold" in color. The other CD was left in a room and only exposed to ambient light for eight months. As you can easily see, the ambient room light caused the unprotected CD to degrade.

The reflective layer in a "Gold" does not oxidize. Gold CDs cost more and are more difficult to find but should last longer than silver or other types of reflective coating. Just because it looks like its a gold CD does not mean it has a gold coating. Check the package labeling carefully, if it doesn't say it's "gold" it's not a gold CD. Gold DVDs are also available and a much better value when you consider how much more data a DVD will hold compared to a CD.

Not the correct way to store CDs. Don't stack CDs in jewel cases.


Stacking CDs and the Leaning Tower of Pizza. Do you stack your CDs like the photo at the left? According to many CD manufacturers, CDs should not be stacked but placed standing on edge in plastic jewel cases, in a drawer and in a dark place out of the sunlight.








Pass your cursor over the CD to see what a harmless "sticky" label can do to a CD.

To label or not to label. Decorative labels are probably OK for a special occasion. However, it is not recommended to put any kind of a label on an archival or backup CD. It is virtually impossible to get a paper label perfectly centered on a CD causing it to bulge upward or wobble as it spins at high speeds making it difficult or impossible for the computer to read the CD.

Do not put small labels on CDs. It will cause the CD to become unbalanced as it spins.

Once, I put a "sticky" label on a CD to temporarily label it. The little label was only on the CD for a couple of weeks. When the label was removed, it also removed the top two layers of the CD destroying the CD.



A Reusable CD? A CD-RW is a CD that you are supposed to be able to erase and reburn many times. The proverbial reusable CD. My personal experience has not been very positive with CD-RWs. I use them, but only for test purposes when I'm burning several CDs to test a CD burning function. The main problem, and I've used different CD-RW brands, is that the CD-RW is NOT reliable and I never know if the burn is complete until later when I want to use the CD-RW. I have even had failures using the "verification" option in burning software which I've learned is no guarantee that all all data will be burned to the CD-RW. They also take MUCH LONGER to burn.

I have also had problems with the "Quick Erase" function in Windows and other software programs. I have been able to increase the reliability of a CD-RW by using the "Full Erase" function in Nero. It takes about 30 minutes but it seems to restore a CD-RW that has been quick erased several times.

The Bottom Line - In my opinion, CD-Rs are inexpensive and much more reliable especially when you consider the added cost of CD-RWs, extra time they take to burn and their unreliable history.

Not all CDs are created equal


Determining CD quality is about like flipping a coin. Not all CDs are created equal. The best advice is to stick with name brand CDs and avoid buying inexpensive CDs on closeout sales unless you know and have used the brand before. The CD industry has "A, B and C" quality classifications for CDs. Most consumers have no idea how to recognize an "A" quality CD.

The problems stems from the fact that one CD manufacturer may produce the same CD with many different brand names. CD quality may change within the same brand name. Some name band companies may decide to switch to another less expensive CD manufacturer. So the consumer has no idea who really manufactured the CD until they buy the CDs and run a program to check who really manufactured the CD.

Nero burning software has a little program called Nero Info Tool that you can run that will tell you who manufactured the CD (Manufacturer ID). However, it may not always return a brand name. For example, inserting a blank CD and running the program just returned the following manufacturer information "unknown (code 97m17s061) (97m17s06)." You may have to go out on the Internet to decipher the codes. A good place to begin learning about deciphering CD codes is at

Copyright 2007 Heritage Collector and LifeStory Productions, Inc. Patent #7,197,493 B2     
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