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Today’s post is brought to you by the Kingston Wi-Drive 32 GB USB 2.0 Pocket-sized Portable Storage. Advertisers make it possible for Digital Media Mom to bring you great content each day for free, so thanks for your support.
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No One Lives Forever…and neither does any currently-available form of digital media storage
Remember when CDs first came out and consumers were told they were virtually indestructible and our grandchildren’s grandchildren would still be able to listen to them? And for the most part, we bought it. Until the first time one of our discs got a scratch. Or embedded dust. Or slight warping from heat exposure in the car. Or a chip so tiny you had to whip out a jeweler’s loupe to see it. So much for the immortal CD.
Now we know the same is true of ALL currently-available digital media and data storage methods: none of them will last forever. What most consumers don’t know is that lifespans of various types of storage media and methods vary widely. This means that when it comes time for consumers to decide what kind of media to invest in, whether for purposes of buying pre-recorded entertainment and programs (e.g., music, movies, videogames, software) or for use as a backup method, most of them don’t have the answer to the most important question in the equation: “How long will this last?”
Today I’m answering that question.
Different Storage Media Types & Their Lifespans
The Storagecraft blog has an excellent and highly detailed post that covers this topic in greater depth, but here I’m just going to hit the crucial information with a list of storage types and typical lifespans. Note that all of these estimates assume the media is being stored away from hazardous conditions like extreme heat or cold, moisture, magnets and magnetic fields, dust, et cetera.
Magnetic Tape (used for VHS, Betamax, audio, data, more) – up to 30 years in ideal, climate and humidity -controlled environment, otherwise 10-20 years.
NES Game Cartridges, similar game system cartridges – ten years on average.
Floppy Disk – not a terribly reliable media even when new, under ideal conditions the most optimally-manufactured disks can last 10-20 years.
Writeable CD / DVD – 5-10 years.
Writeable Blu-Ray – not yet certain, but as these are an optical disc media like CD and DVD, it’s safest to assume a similar lifespan.
M-Disc – manufacturer claims this media lasts 1,000 years or longer, but as it’s a media type that’s not in wide use (due to being much more expensive than other disc media and the fact they can only be used in an M-disc compatible DVD drive) and has only been around a short time so far, it’s impossible to test the claim. Storagecraft states there’s some impressive documentation and research backing the 1,000 year claim however, so it’s possible.
Hard Disk Drive – as I wrote just recently about them, hard drives’ average lifespan is 3-5 years.
Flash Storage – the lifespan of flash memory (the type of media used by/in SD cards, flash drives, SSD drives) is dictated by quality of manufacture and how often the drive or card is written. In other words, assuming you have a correctly manufactured flash memory card or drive and only write to it once, in theory the card or drive will never degrade further and whatever you wrote on it should still be there for the indefinite future. Of course, small errors in manufacture are typical and most people use their flash memory media over and over again.
Still, having good reason to believe my current laptop is nearing the end of its days, I chose to back up to a flash drive. It’s a drive I rarely use and since I’ve only actually written to it three times (including my backup session), I’m confident the files I backed up will still be there when I need to restore them to a new conputer—whether that’s a few months from now, or a year or longer.
More Good Reasons To Go Digital With Pre-Recorded Entertainment Media
This post has primarily been about the use of digital media for data storage and backup, but media that’s already been recorded won’t last forever, either. Limited lifespan is one of the major reasons I’ve abandoned discs for digital media when it comes to video, ebooks, audiobooks and music. I was getting sick and tired of having to buy new copies of movies and CDs every so many years.
So long as my digital library is being regularly backed up by the vendor I bought it from (Amazon, for the most part), my movies, music and books will always be there for me in the future—and maintaining the backups is no longer my problem.
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And now, a word from our sponsor…
The Kingston Wi-Drive 32 GB USB 2.0 Pocket-sized Portable Storage is a flash drive that can be used for data storage or backup, but it’s also designed to be a wireless streaming server than allows multiple devices to connect to it and use/view/play digital music, video, photographs and the like. I have the 64GB model, but since it only allows for streaming and sharing of non-DRM content when you connect to it and most of my entertainment media does have DRM, I never use that function. Rather, I’m using it purely as a flash backup drive.
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Fire Tablet Tip of the Week: Prime Members: Never Miss Your Kindle First Books Again
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