Home-recorded CDs inferior to factory-pressed CDs
Thanks to readers of this column I can provide to you answers to things I wouldn't have thought about! We've done a few columns on converting older media such as tapes or records into CDs and in response, readers have asked about the longevity and proper storage of this format. I wanted to follow up in particular on a question from Jim in Pearl City:
Question: I've noticed that some of my personally burned CDs (that are only a few years old) either skip or have this weird echo sound. How do they differ from commercially made CDs? I've still got some over 20 years old that work fine. Is there a right and wrong way to store CDs so that they will last longer?
Answer: There's a huge difference between factory-pressed CDs and the recordable kind that you burn. With a factory pressed CD, data is actually molded into the media. Unless it's physically damaged it will last forever (at least longer than our lifetimes). However, recordable CDs vary in stability and life expectancy because they are manufactured by a completely different process and use dyes. Their lifespans may not exceed five or six years, so if you have stuff you really like, I'd burn new copies. (I suspect the newer CDs have better technology and will last longer).
To make sure they last, you'll want to store CDs in low humidity and keep them away from the heat or light. It's also not a good idea to label your burned CD with a permanent marker pen. Indelible pen-type markers inks can be absorbed in the dye layers and wipe out your data. The best thing to do is to write on the clear inner hub (where there is no data).
The quality of the burner you're using and the recording speed can also affect longevity. If your burner is not working at 100 percent, it could "under expose" the media to the laser beam. If this happens, the recording may sound good now but could rapidly fade. As a rule, the faster the recording speed, the less stable the CD. (Better to record at 16x to 32x rather than 52X).
One other note: Erasable "RW" media is much less stable than one-time ("R") media and should not be used for any permanent recordings.
Q: Beth from Waipahu says she wants to move the data from her old Windows 95 computer to a new XP box and wants to know if she can transfer an entire so program.
A: Beth can use the Files and Settings Transfer Wizard that comes with Windows XP to move data files and settings between computers. Go to the Start button/All Programs/Accessories/System Tools. Just connect the computers via a home network or with an inexpensive serial cable. The program won't transfer entire programs but it is best to reinstall them on the new computer due to changes in the computer and Windows system. You might check out Alohabob's PC Relocator at alohabob.com ($29.95 from) or PCmover ($39.95 at laplink.com).
general manager of digital phone at Oceanic Time Warner Cable, has been a telecommunications and computer expert for 25 years. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org