We have had a few questions in the past about the longevity of optical media. For example:

I recently encountered a high failure rate trying to write to some old DVD-Rs from unopened packages. After a little research, it became clear that the shelf life of unrecorded DVD-Rs (and other recordable optical media) is much shorter than the archive life of data on them. However, I couldn't find an explanation of why that is the case.

I'm thinking about writing a question with three objectives:

  • Alert readers to the fact that the media has a much shorter shelf life before use that the expected service life of data recorded on them.
  • Ask what, if any, characteristics can be used to identify discs with a longer unused shelf life (e.g., media layer color or package terminology).
  • Ask for the technical reasons why the unused shelf life is so much shorter than the service life of data recorded on them (that's what has me intrigued).

I think such a question could be useful. However, especially the last bullet might be viewed as more of a disc technology question, and potentially out of scope for the site.

Any thoughts about whether this would be on-topic (or other suggestions for the question)?

  • 3
    In my opinion it would be on-topic (including the last bullet point) and is also an interesting question.
    – DavidPostill Mod
    Jun 21, 2017 at 7:43

1 Answer 1


Thanks for the encouragement. It was a tough one to write, trying to keep it in-scope. For anyone interested: How to avoid unwritable CDs and DVDs?. Any suggestions are welcome (and answers, of course).

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