Storage media

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My recommendation for general-purpose home computer data storage is to always use hard disk drives (HDDs). As of May 2020, hard disk drives typically have the lowest cost per gigabyte, and are the easiest to use and manage. Regular defragmentation and disk checks keep your hard disk drives in working order, and can predict when a failure might be imminent. Always remember to back up your data regularly. Solid-state drives (SSDs) are just not as reliable, and with frequent use, do not last as long as hard disk drives do, in addition to often costing more per gigabyte. I would only recommend solid-state drives for mobile or rugged use since they are less sensitive to vibrations and use less electrical power to operate. Solid-state drives have become popular in computers since they have faster read/write speeds than hard disk drives do, but they still cost more, do not last as long, and are less reliable. I have never had any problems with computer performance when using hard disk drives, especially when boosted with Microsoft Windows ReadyBoost on Universal Serial Bus Three (USB 3).

You should be able to differentiate your storage media between temporary or short-term data storage and long-term or permanent data storage. USB flash storage drives and flash storage cards (such as Secure Digital [SD] cards) are often the most expensive storage media to use in cost per gigabyte, but their compact size and ruggedness makes them convenient for mobile use when you want to temporarily store data. A common use for these types of storage media is to transfer files (such as digital photographs) between devices. Rewritable optical discs and floppy disks are likewise best used for temporary or short-term data storage. I would not recommend using solid-state drives (including flash storage drives) for permanent data storage.

For permanent archival storage, optical discs can be the cheapest option in cost per gigabyte per year, and are the only option available for nonrewritable data storage. As of May 2020, optical discs typically have the lowest cost per gigabyte after hard disk drives, and for millennial discs (M-discs), the lowest cost per gigabyte per year of data storage. M-discs are designed to last for up to one thousand years or more, whereas hard disk drives typically have to be replaced every five to ten years or so. [1] [2] I would recommend single-layer bluray M-discs as the best choice of format for permanent archival storage of your most critical data (such as photos or essays), but regular (nonmillennial) single-layer bluray discs are still the second best choice. When compared to compact discs (CDs) and digital versatile discs (DVDs), bluray discs (BDs) have the lowest cost per gigabyte, the lowest cost per gigabyte per year, the highest storage capacity per disc, the fastest read/write speeds, and the longest lifetimes per disc (for any bluray discs, not just bluray M-discs). A single bluray disc can hold terabytes of data, but commercially available bluray discs are only available in sizes of up to 100 gigabytes (GB) per disc. [3] [4] Note that a single BDXL (Blu-Ray Disc XL) of 100 GB can still be cheaper per gigabyte than a similarly-sized USB flash storage drive, flash storage card, or solid-state drive.

Choosing a brand for hard disk drives, solid-state drives, USB flash storage drives, or flash storage cards is mostly just a matter of personal preference. For mobile devices (including cameras), I exclusively use Western Digital SanDisk flash storage cards. For USB flash storage drives, I primarily use SanDisk. For external hard disk drives, I use Seagate, Toshiba, and Western Digital. For optical discs though, one brand does stand out above the rest, which is Verbatim. Verbatim holds a number of exclusive patents and licenses that sets its optical discs above the rest, and is one of only a very small number of manufacturers of M-discs. Verbatim's continued support of M-disc technology is particularly impressive since the original developer of M-disc technology, Millenniata, has been out of business since December 2016. Verbatim was also only one of a small number of manufacturers of LightScribe discs, but Verbatim discontinued LightScribe support after the original developer, Hewlett-Packard (HP), did. Verbatim was purchased in June 2019 by CMC Magnetics, who also manufactures the optical discs branded for HP, Imation, Memorex, Office Depot, Philips, and Staples (amongst others). [5] [6] [7] The main advantage of Verbatim discs is in the use of their patented azo dye, which allows discs to last longer. However, not all Verbatim-branded discs actually use the azo dye, and they need to be branded as "Azo" or "DataLifePlus" to incorporate this technology (typically at additional cost compared to the non-azo discs). [8] [9] Verbatim bluray discs use a different life-extending technology called HardCoat, which is available on all Verbatim bluray discs. Verbatim also manufactures gold-based "UltraLife" CDs and DVDs that are guaranteed to last for up to one hundred years (azo discs will not last that long), but bluray M-discs are cheaper per gigabyte, and last up to ten times as long (thousands instead of hundreds of years). [10] [11] For non-azo CDs and DVDs, there should be no significant differences between generic discs from Staples versus Verbatim-branded discs, since they are now all manufactured by the same company. HP-branded optical discs are no longer in production (formerly manufactured by CMC Magnetics for HP), so any HP-branded discs you see for sale online are from old stocks. [12] Unburned optical discs will degrade more quickly than burned optical discs, so avoid purchasing discontinued brands of optical discs such as HP if possible. [13] [14]

You should never label any discs intended for archival storage. Place the discs into a standard-sized jewel case (not a "slim" jewel case) and use a sticky note to label the case instead of the disc. Inkjet-printable discs should not be used for archival storage. For non-archival storage, the only methods that are safe to label a disc with are either using an inkjet-printable disc or using a water-based marker labeled as safe for optical discs (not a Sharpie or other non-water-based permanent marker!). Remember to never leave optical discs inside a vehicle, or exposed to heat. Keep the disc inside a sealed container such as a jewel case or a CD binder/wallet whenever it is not in use (don't leave it in an optical drive). I only trust Case Logic ProSleeve binders/wallets for mass storage, but individual jewel cases are still much safer to use, and you should never use sleeves/wallets/binders for archival storage. Never touch the disc other than on its sides. If the disc needs cleaning, gently use a clean microfiber cloth designed for use with optical equipment. Remember to back up your purchased discs to your computer so that you can burn copies if the originals become damaged (this is legal in the USA, but check your local laws if you are not in the USA).

For optical disc drives, my suggestion is to get a drive that can burn everything if possible. "Everything" should include (at minimum) CD-RW (Compact Disc Rewritable), CD-R (Compact Disc Recordable), DVD+RW (Digital Versatile Disc Rewritable), DVD+R (Digital Versatile Disc Recordable Single Layer), DVD+R DL (Digital Versatile Disc Recordable Double Layer), BD-RE (Blu-Ray Disc Recordable-Erasable Single Layer), BD-R (Blu-Ray Disc Recordable Single Layer), BD-R DL (Blu-Ray Disc Recordable Double Layer), BDXL, and BD-R M-disc. You should use only DVD+R and not DVD-R. DVD+R (DVD+RW) produces less read/write errors compared to the older DVD-R (DVD-RW) format. [15] The only exception to this is for old DVD players (manufactured before February 2008) that do not have DVD+R support. M-disc compatibility is the most difficult item to get, but even if you don't plan to use it, you should at least have the option (I've never actually used an M-disc myself, but I like that I have the ability). Gold-based CDs and DVDs can last for about one hundred years, inkjet-printed photos and text can last for about two hundred years, but an M-disc can last for one thousand years or more, so maybe you will want to burn one before you die. [16] Your only other option to have your work accessible to future generations might be to start chiseling stone tablets.

I use the LG BP50NB40 external BDXL M-disc multidrive, which can be used with or without a computer, so you can plug it directly into a printer or television with a USB port to read files from optical discs, without needing a computer connection (though I haven't personally tested this feature). The LG BP50NB40 is still the cheapest external BDXL M-disc drive on the market as of May 2020. Other manufacturers of external BDXL M-disc drives in May 2020 include Buffalo and Verbatim, but I like the LG version best. Always make sure that your computer optical drive is tray-loading and not slot-loading. If the disc becomes stuck, it can be very difficult or impossible to remove from a slot-loading drive. Tray-loading drives have an emergency eject button so that a disc can be removed without a power supply. Also, you cannot use drive-cleaning discs with slot-loading drives. Note that you do not need a USB 3 connection to read or write bluray discs (or any other optical discs). The maximum speed supported on USB 2 is 480 megabits per second (megabaud, MBd), whereas 1X read/write speed for bluray discs is 36 megabits per second. [17] So USB 2 allows a read/write speed of up to 12X (432 megabits per second) for bluray discs, but you should always read/write optical discs at the slowest possible speed (this means that you should only use 2X-4X CD-RW and not 4X-12X CD-RW).

Producing inkjet-printed discs does cost more than using a water-based CD marker to label your discs, so I recommend to only use inkjet-printable discs when necessary, such as for special projects or for printing a long playlist on the disc label for a mix CD. For general use, I always recommend getting branded discs instead. Branded discs will usually show the disc specifications (disc type, disc capacity, disc speed, disc manufacturer, etcetera) on the preprinted label, as well as providing lines for a handwritten label. Whereas for inkjet-printable discs, you may not be able to tell whether the disc is CD-R, DVD+R SL, DVD+R DL, BD-R, etcetera, unless you print it on the label. You should not inkjet-print on rewritable discs, and only inkjet-print the discs after they have been burned. I exclusively use Verbatim inkjet-printable discs. There are two main types of inkjet-printable discs, determined by whether they are hub-printable or not. Hub-printable discs do not have a separate plastic ring (plastic hub) in the center of the disc, and provide a larger printable surface. Whether you need or want a printable center hub or not is up to you. My opinion is to get hub-printable discs if possible since you will then have the option to choose whether to print on the hub or not (anything not printed is left white). Always use white inkjet-printable discs (think of the discs as being blank sheets of paper to be printed on). For disc printing, I use and highly recommend the Epson XP-7100.

recommended optical discs

Always purchase discs either in jewel cases or in spindles. Avoid purchasing wrapped discs, even if they are cheaper, since these are very difficult to store properly and could degrade more quickly.

Rewritable discs are convenient for temporary content or test discs. Rewritable discs can typically be rewritten up to one thousand times. You should not write or print labels on rewritable or archival discs (including M-discs), and only store them in standard-sized jewel cases, using sticky notes to label the cases instead. Sticky notes can also be used to keep a tally of the number of rewrites so you can know when to replace the discs. Note that USB flash storage drives also have a limited number of rewrites before they need to be replaced.

Non-azo discs are cheaper than azo discs, so it can be cost-effective to have both azo and non-azo discs. The main advantage of azo discs is that they last longer than non-azo discs. But if you are burning something like a Linux live disc, you may need to burn a new copy each year. I wouldn't recommend using a rewritable disc as a live disc, so write-once non-azo discs are the most cost-effective option to use for live discs. I use both optical discs and USB flash storage drives for live media. Using a live disc is my preferred choice to reinstall the operating system on a computer with an internal optical drive, since I want to avoid any possible conflicts with needing to load USB drivers. Non-azo Verbatim DVD+R (labeled as "Life Series" instead of "DataLifePlus") are no longer manufactured by Verbatim. You should avoid purchasing these since they are from old stocks. I don't actually own any azo discs or M-discs myself. I recommend them, but you have to decide whether the enhanced longevity of the discs is worth the extra expense. Copying your data between hard-disk drives is easier to maintain for long-term storage, even if the hard disks do not last as long as optical discs do.

Third-party sellers typically have Verbatim discs for much lower prices than available from the Verbatim Store. Prices given below are from Staples and Verbatim Store in USA dollars (USD) as of May 2020. To make sure you are getting the correct discs, check the product numbers. Many discs have similar listings, such as azo versus non-azo, hub-printable versus non-hub-printable, and white inkjet versus silver inkjet.


Do not use 4X-12X CD-RW. The lower burn speed available with 2X-4X CD-RW will produce more reliable burns and rewrites. Always burn at the slowest possible speed.


CD-R azo


Do not use DVD-RW unless you need to.


Get 16X DVD+R SL instead of 8X DVD+R SL. Always burn at 1X, but having the faster read speed of 16X is better. Do not use DVD-R unless you need to.

DVD+R azo


DVD+R DL azo



BD-R M-disc


BD-R DL M-disc

BDXL M-disc

recommended disc accessories

Don't forget to get standard-sized jewel cases to store your most important discs in, including rewritable discs, live discs, and archival discs. Jewel cases are standardized so you can get them from any number of sellers or manufacturers (you don't need name-brand jewel cases from Verbatim). I primarily use jewel cases from Microcenter and Staples. If I had the storage space, I would use jewel cases for all discs, but disc binders are more compact to store less important discs like music and movies that have already been backed up to hard-disk drives. For your travel music CDs, I recommend using single-sleeve disc wallets, such as the Case Logic CDW-32 or CDE-24.

Water-based optical disc markers can be difficult to find. Note that not all markers labeled as "CD/DVD" markers are actually water-based. It has to actually say "water-based" for it to be water-based.

storage speeds

Disc speeds given refer to recommended Verbatim discs. [18]

  • 1.0 MBd. floppy disks [19]
  • 1.2 MBd. 1X burning speed for CD-R
  • 2.4 MBd. 2X burning speed for CD-RW
  • 4.8 MBd. maximum speed (4X) for CD-RW
  • 11 MBd. 1X burning speed for DVD+R SL and DVD+R DL
  • 12 MBd. USB 1
  • 36 MBd. 1X burning speed for BD-R SL, BD-R DL, BDXL, and BD-R SL M-disc
  • 44 MBd. 4X burning speed for DVD+RW SL
  • 62 MBd. maximum speed (52X) for CD-R
  • 72 MBd. 2X burning speed for BD-RE SL
  • 89 MBd. maximum speed (8X) for DVD+R DL
  • 140 MBd. maximum speed (4X) for BDXL and BD-R SL M-disc
  • 180 MBd. maximum speed (16X) for DVD+R SL
  • 220 MBd. maximum speed (6X) for BD-R DL
  • 430 MBd. maximum speed (12X) for BD-R SL on USB 2
  • 480 MBd. USB 2
  • 580 MBd. maximum speed (16X) for BD-R SL on USB 3
  • 1500 MBd. SATA (Serial Advanced Technology Attachment) 1 [20]
  • 3000 MBd. SATA 2
  • 5000 MBd. USB 3
  • 6000 MBd. SATA 3

storage capacities

  • 0.0012 GB. floppy disks
  • 0.70 GB. CD-R
  • 4.7 GB. DVD+R SL
  • 8.5 GB. DVD+R DL
  • 25 GB. BD-R SL
  • 50 GB. BD-R DL
  • 100 GB. BDXL


  1. wikipedia:M-disc
  3. wikipedia:bluray
  5. wikipedia:Verbatim (brand)
  7. wikipedia:CMC Magnetics
  15. wikipedia:DVD+R
  17. wikipedia:USB
  19. wikipedia:Floppy disk#Sizes, performance and capacity
  20. wikipedia:SATA