Nowadays, data storage is one key aspect of everyday living; be it your personal life or business. The market today offers wide variety of data storage platforms options than what was available in the last 10 years. We now have cloud storage, flash drives, network drives, and so much more. There is one method, though, that has remained in use, at least, for the last 20 years; CD-R discs. Some people and businesses still choose CDs to store important files and media. In fact, music albums and films are still released via CDs and DVDs widespread in the world. [no_toc]

However, the question is – how do you know which CD to buy?

First, you have to know the basics of a compact disc and the technology behind it.

Structure

There are at least four layers in every recordable CD, plus a fifth one where an image in plotted on the disc surface. These layers are created in stages.

The first layer is the plastic base. Usually made of polycarbonate (E), this layer gives the discs its necessary strength and form. It also makes the most contribution to the physical size of the disc.

Next is the active dye layer. This layer is the one where data is recorded, and hence, determine the reliability and quality of recording. There are 2 popular and widespread die type: cyanine-die discs and phthalocyanine die discs.

Cyanine CD-Rs

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Cyanine-type CD-Rs tend to give the disc a sea-green color. While phthalocyanine varies from colorless to pale green to gold, hence discs with phthalocyanine layer are also known as golden discs. There is not much of difference between the 2 types of die layer, so it can be difficult to ascertain which is better. However, there are differences that have been noted by several users. The cyanine discs tend to have a higher tolerance to several combination of read and writing of data versus the phthalocyanine ones. Though, phthalocyanine is a more advanced die disc solution and makes the discs less sensitive to sunlight and UV rays. Phthalocyanine discs are more durable and offers higher reliability of data storage in even in not-so-good conditions, such as changing humidity, temperature and exposure to sunlight and other radiation.

Phthalocyanine CD-Rs

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After the die layer, the disc is covered with a material solution that reflects light. CD-R manufacturers commonly use aluminum; however, silver is sometimes used to achieve a much higher level of reflection. The level of reflection of light on this layer also relates to the level of quality that media and files are stored into the disc.

The fourth layer is a basic protective coating on the disc. Most manufacturers use a special varnish to give the discs more resistance to external mechanical and chemical damages. This further extends the longevity of the discs, though, in reality, many manufacturer tend to choose cheaper protective coating solutions at the expense of the protection quality provided. The last and fifth layer is the external layer where images are printed.

So, now that you know the basic structure of recordable discs, how do you choose which discs to buy and use?

You need to consider the manufacturer of the CD-R and not just the trademark.  Manufacturers sell their discs to several companies; one example is Taiyo Yuden that sells their discs to largely known record and technology companies like Philips, Sony, TDK, Hewlett Packard, etc. This means that discs from these companies will most likely have the same quality and appearance even though they are sold under different trademarks.

There are programs that can give you the details such as the CD manufacturer, called CDR Identifier. These programs require ASPI drivers installed and run in your drives. However, these programs are also prone to giving wrong or deliberately falsified information, especially if the manufacturer has placed data in the discs to be read by CDR Identifiers.

One thing you also need to consider is intended use for the CD-Rs. There are some recordable CD discs selling in bulk packages. Such are usually intended for use in duplicator machines, a device used to record into multiple several discs the same data or media, usually for small-scale reproduction. Bulk packages are also packed in polyethylene, or in special boxes on a spindle. These discs do not have a printed image so as to allow the buyers to print their desired pictures on the disc with special bubble jet or printers with thermo-printing capability. These type of CDs sold on bulk package are great for storing non-sensitive data that do not require long term storage access, or for media that does not prioritize the quality, such as power point presentations and documents. Bulk packaged CD-Rs often have compromised quality.

On the other hand, some CD-R discs sold by piece and have the logo of the distributor company and the trademark on the idle surface of the discs. These are more suitable for recording music, songs, video and files that require long-term storage access.

There are also some manufacturer brands that are worth noting, such as the relatively inexpensive cyanine MMORE discs, which are manufactured by CMC Magnetics, are sold as “no name” discs bulked in a spindle packed boxes. As per some user experiences, most of these discs become unreliable in 3-4 months. In some cases, the discs start to have read-write related issues such as, discs read slowly or total failure to be read. Some cyanine die CD-R discs are known for their high quality, such as Taiyo Yuden discs and are popularly used and well suited as audio discs. Also there is the Mitsui Chemicals that manufactures phthalocyanine die layer discs. As a testament, Microsoft chose Mitsui Chemicals’ discs for rolling out their software and application updates and add-on packages.

Nonetheless, before setting your mind to buy a particular type or brand of CD-R, it imperative that you try at least 1 or 2 discs on your player-writer-recorder drive and check which company manufactured the discs and the die types.