When you need a storage medium for archival purposes (meaning, long term data storage and retention), you have two options: optical or magnetic media. Magnetic media refers to things like VHS tapes or compact cassettes. These are no longer much utilized mediums as they can wear out over time and don’t come with digital access that we prefer to use now. Optical media like CDs and DVDs, though often considered a vintage technology, maintain their original quality level from the first copy to the 500th copy.
In short, no. Optical media like CDs and DVDs does not wear out from repeated use. It can degrade or become damaged, however.
CDs and DVDs can degrade over time because their recording layers are made with a dye that is extremely photosensitive; it deteriorates when exposed to UV rays over time. Since information burned to a disc is stored in the dye layer it can cause failure in playback. Discs do contain error correction which helps the player correctly decode blocks of data that it has difficulty reading. However, too much degradation can overwhelm the error correction feature. Or, reading errors might be due to physical damage such as scratches and damage incurred due to improper handling. Discs are vulnerable to scratching, fingerprints, abrasions, direct sunlight or high temperature environments. However, replicated discs can usually have scratches buffed out as the recording layer is stored on the metallic portion of the disc, not the plastic. Keeping your discs in packaging, away from heat sources, and handling with care is key to longevity.
However, the biggest reason for encountering read or playback errors is due to poor media quality. Discs made with low quality organic dye may only last 5-10 years before it becomes unreadable. High quality archival CD-R and DVD media, however, has been demonstrated to be able to last up to 100 years or more with laboratory testing.
For recordable CD-R media, it’s best to pick a disc with a dark colored dye like green, blue, and gold. All DVD-R media is purple, so picking a quality brand is important (we like Taiyo Yuden, Verbatim, Falcon Media, or US Digital Media). If you need to store data for a long time, then it’s best to use archival discs such as those available from Mitsui.
Check this out if you want to learn more about CD-R. We urge you to check out other topics regarding optical media in our knowledgebase.