Preservation Week Quiz: Monday’s Question of the Day

As part of Preservation Week 2015, the State Archives is partnering with the State Library of North Carolina on a Preservation Week Question of the Day – a series of questions related to the preservation of materials both physical and electronic. Visit the State Library’s blog to see their question of the day posts.

When CDs first went on the market, sellers often claimed that the disks could last up to 200 years. Today, experts estimate that a CD will last how long if left on the shelf?

  1. 50-75 years
  2. 30-50 years
  3. 10-30 years
  4. 5-10 years

Do you know the answer?  Find out below.


Answer: 4 (5-10 years)

According to the Optical Storage Technology Association (OSTA), the shelf life of a blank rewritable CD is between 5 and 10 years from the date of manufacture. According to the National Archives, the lifespan of a CD under normal conditions of use is usually just 2 to 5 years.

Lots of factors can influence the lifespan of CDs. Hot (or cold) temperatures, high (or low) humidity, light, air pollutants, sticker labels, and certain inks can erode a disk to the point that it is unreadable. Not all CDs were made equal, and some are made of more durable materials than others (e.g., gold CDs are more durable than silver or standard ROM CDs). CDs can become warped and bent if stored flat (horizontally). Ideally, a CD should be stored upright in a standard jewel case at 68 F and 40% relative humidity, according to the National Archives.