In The Year 2525, Will My Pixels Be Alive?
Q) If I record a bunch of pictures, say, on a DVD-R, as a way of archiving a large number of pictures, will I be able to retrieve and view the pictures 20 to 30 years from now?
La Crescenta, California
A) I can't promise you'll be able to view these files in 2035, but I can suggest ways to limit any future problems. There are three reasons that you might not be able to retrieve images decades from now:
1. The media on which the images have been stored has failed.
2. Hardware that can read your media no longer exists.
3. The file format of the images on the disc is no longer supported in existing operating systems or image-editing software.
Let's tackle each problem individually.
1. As I've mentioned before, use good-quality media. Also, stay away from rewriteable disc formats. While rewriteables are okay for temporary storage, they're not for archiving. Be sure to handle and store your media according to the manufacturer's directions. Handling the disc by the edge, paying attention to proper labeling and storing discs vertically in a protective case can go a long way to safeguarding your data.
2. As far as hardware no longer being available, this is something about which you'll need to be vigilant. So far, manufacturers have been diligent about supporting older optical media, such as CDs, with newer disc systems, like DVD. When new technology comes out, pay attention to how it supports your current technology. It may be the case that in 15 years, you'll have to convert your discs to another format; however, because so much material is on the current type of media (CD and DVD), I don't think a changeover will happen quietly, if at all. In other words, you'll get plenty of notice.