How long can data on hard disks, DVDs and CDs be read? Your digital photos on HDD or music on CD? Here we give you a comprehensive overview of the average lifespan of storage media.
Storage Media Durability – An Overview
In the following table you have an overview of the durability of hard disks, DVDs, CDs and more. Detailed information about the lifetime and storage of storage media can be found further down on this page.
|Storage Media||Average Lifespan|
|Internal Hard Disk||5-12 years|
|External Hard Disk||8-12 years|
|SSD||10 years (Limited writing cycles)|
|USB-Stick||20 – 30 years (Limited writing cycles)|
Hard Disks as Data Storage Devices
External hard drives equipped with either a USB or Firewire Connections are an excellent choice for long-term data storage. They are now available at very affordable prices and can store vast amounts of data in a compact space.
The lifespan of a hard disk when in use is typically only a few years, as a backup medium, it can last for ten years or more, requiring infrequent updates.
Proper storage is crucial for Harddrives, and care should be taken to ensure that the hard-disk is not exposed to physical shocks, as it is more vulnerable to damage than optical or flash memory.
While a DVD can typically withstand a fall from a desk without any issues, a hard disk can be entirely destroyed by the impact.
When you store a hard disk for an extended period, it is important to keep the humidity at an appropriate level to prevent rusting of the mechanical components. Additionally, data can be damaged or destroyed by magnetic fields.
Hard drives are very affordable and can store massive amounts of data. However, who hasn’t experienced hard drive failures!
Read also: What is Data Archiving – Pros and Cons
CDs, DVDs and Blu-rays
Modern Storage Media such as CDs, DVDs, or Blu-rays are usually more reliable and durable. They are widely used for digital data storage in private households, as they are affordable, compact, supposedly indestructible, and easy to handle.
Manufacturers promise a lifespan of between 80 and 100 years, which is sufficient for a human lifetime.
However, this information is based on ideal storage conditions, which includes optimal temperatures, no light exposure, no scratches, stickers, or fingerprints. It is a common misconception that a CD stored in a cardboard box in a bedroom closet, free of scratches and stickers, will last forever.
While it is protected from light and scratches, the right temperature for permanent storage is crucial. The range required is between 23°F and 86°F, with the optimum service life only achieved at exactly 77°F. It’s also important to avoid temperature fluctuations. The optimum humidity for storage is between 40% and 60%.
CDs, DVDs, and Blu-ray discs are suitable for archiving music files and photos. However, their lifespan is limited.
USB-Sticks / Flash Storage
In principle, USB Sticks and Flash Storage they are very well-suited. Flash memory is only threatened by wear that occurs during the writing of data to the memory cells.
However, manufacturers guarantee 100,000 or more write cycles – so if you only use your USB flash drive as a long-term storage device and only occasionally rewrite it, you will never reach the limits of its durability.
It is advisable, however, to purchase high-quality products. Do not buy a no-name storage device; instead, choose sticks from reputable providers.
USB flash drives are easy-to-use and now very affordable storage devices. However, they are not infallible.
What about: Cloud as Long-term Storage
Storing data in the cloud is also an option for secure long-term archiving. To prevent external access, the cloud provider should offer encrypted transmission and storage of the data.
With professional providers, there is no risk of data loss due to hardware failures, as the data is redundantly backed up on different servers. In any case, it is advisable to choose a reputable provider that is not likely to disappear quickly.