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How long does data last?


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#1 herme3

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Posted 25 February 2005 - 05:36 AM

I had a pile of old floppy disks that I hadn't used in a while. When I put them into my computer, I found that most of the data was either gone or corrupt. Does the data on a floppy disk always go bad after several years?

Also, how long does the data on a hard disk last before disappearing or becoming corrupt? What about the data on a CD-R or a CD-RW?
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#2 Sayonara

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Posted 25 February 2005 - 01:33 PM

Floppies are fairly prone to damage from magnetic fields, and will usually last no more than 10 years.

CDR media is effectively immortal, but that only really refers to the plastic disc. The metal foil layer, in which the data is actually recorded, can degrade in as small a period as 5 years depending on the quality of the disc.
CDRs which have the metal foil stuck to the back of the plastic disc can be damaged before they even reach the store shelves.

Hard drives are a much more permanent form of storage, but again I'd expect them to be susceptible to magnetic fields (although not to such a large degree). They're also susceptible to damage from mechanical shock, as they use glass plates and delicate electronics.
Expect data on a HDD to last at least a decade, assuming it's looked after.
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#3 herme3

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Posted 25 February 2005 - 02:03 PM

Thank you for the information. I once had a CD-R fall apart a few days after I burned it. It looked perfect when I first burned it, and I never did anything that damaged it, but the metal layer on the top of the disc began to get bubbles in it. A day later, it completely separated from the plastic part of the disc. The disc was made by the same company that made all the other CD-Rs I've burned. I've never had any of the other CD-Rs fall apart and I've had some of them for years.
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#4 Ophiolite

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Posted 25 February 2005 - 02:21 PM

How long does data last?

Until shortly before you need it. This is a sub-axiom of Murphy's Law.
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#5 Newtonian

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Posted 25 February 2005 - 02:23 PM

lol ,how right you are Ophiolite

#6 ed84c

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Posted 25 February 2005 - 06:37 PM

yeh they found out that the first CDs are now beggining to degrade from the glue that was used to gix them together,
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#7 mmalluck

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Posted 25 February 2005 - 07:50 PM

Hard drives are still the way to go for long term storage.

Copy everything to a drive, pop that drive out of your computer, and stash the drive in a static free, air tight container. I prefer army ammo cases.

If you're going for the extreme long term, it may not be a bad idea occasionally copy the data from one drive to another. This will do two things. First it will refresh the magnetic bits on the disk. They still degrade with time, seeing how they are subject to the earth's magnetic field like all other forms of magnetic media. The second thing is that by copying your data to a new drive every now and then, you make sure your drives never become totally obsolete.

There's nothing worse then archiving data onto a media, just to have that media become so obsolete nothing can read it.


The only question now is what is the expected shelf life of a hard drive?
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#8 herme3

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Posted 26 February 2005 - 02:12 AM

There's nothing worse then archiving data onto a media, just to have that media become so obsolete nothing can read it.


I think hard disks have always connected to the motherboard using IDE cables. You could probably take one of the first hard disks and connect it to a new computer's motherboard. The only difference is the type of file system the files are saved as. This can be changed when you format the hard disk. I know Windows 98 used FAT32, and Windows XP uses NTFS. I also know that Windows XP can read a FAT32 and NTFS hard disk, but Windows 98 can't read a NTFS hard disk. Now, I'm not sure how many formats there have been, or which ones Windows XP can read. However, if your motherboard has an empty IDE connector, you should have no trouble connecting a really old hard disk to a new computer if the old hard disk still works.
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