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Dec 9, 2022

(+) What to Do to About Damaged CD-ROM Disks

The following is a Plus Edition article written by and copyright by Dick Eastman. 

I received a somewhat frantic e-mail recently from a reader of this newsletter. She mentioned a specific genealogy CD-ROM disk that was produced a few years ago, but her question could apply to any CD or DVD disk of any topic. She wrote (in part):

“Help! I have a CD-ROM disk of [name deleted here] and it cracked. I want to replace it, but can’t seem to find it anywhere. The company that produced it no longer appears to be in business. Any suggestions? Is there any other CD-ROM that has equivalent materials?”

Sadly, I was not able to offer much help. A cracked CD disk is useless, except maybe as a coaster for your coffee cup. Even a scratch the size of one human hair can render a CD-ROM disk useless; if it has visible physical damage, the problem is even worse. To make matters worse, the company that produced her disk is now out of business, so I doubt if she can find a low-cost replacement. I referred her to to eBay to see if she can find a used copy of the same CD for sale.

With a bit of hindsight, anyone can quickly determine what my correspondent SHOULD have done: she should have made a backup copy while the CD was still usable. Then again, how many of us ever do that? I know that I occasionally create CD backups although not as often as I should.

Such a solution would not have been practical a few years ago. To make it worse, many of today’s computers don’t even contain CD-ROM or DVD-ROM disk drives (although you can still purchase EXTERNAL CD-ROM drives that plug into modern computers’ USB connectors). 

Blank CD disks cost 40 cents or less when purchased in quantity at most any discount store. Making backups of your CD disks should be a trivial exercise. After all, how much would it cost you to replace a CD-ROM disk that becomes defective?

Most new computers or new CD-ROM drives include software to write to the CDs. In fact, most have an option to copy the entire contents of a disk to a new, blank disk. This is true for Windows, Macintosh, and Linux systems. Check the software already installed on your computer; I suspect you will find that you already have everything you need. If not, you can download free software that will make copies for you.

Macintosh users already have the required software: open FINDER, click on APPLICATIONS, click on UTILITIES, and then click on DISK UTILITY. In fact, the Macintosh Disk Utility will duplicate Macintosh, Windows, and Linux disks alike. If you would like a more robust disk duplicating program but one that is available free of charge, look at Burn at http://burn-osx.sourceforge.net.

Linux users have a variety of free CD-ROM utilities to choose from. I normally use K3B but can find others.

A Second Backup Plan

With today’s hard drives typically having a storage capacity of a terabyte (1,000 gigabytes) or more, it is now practical to create backup images of CD disks and to store them on a hard drive or, perhaps even better, on USB flash drives. After all, one large hard drive can now store hundreds of CD-ROM disk images. Probably the best method is to create .ISO images of the original CD disks. An .ISO “image” file is a method of merging all the files on a CD into a single compressed file according to a defined format. 

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