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CD problem

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B L McAllister:
My past writing is supposedly all saved on CDs.  Today I needed to look at one of those CDs, and my computer drew a blanK: nothing there.  So I clicked properties, and it assured me that the CD is full-----only there's a catch: it indicated that the capacity of the CD is zero.  I know stories were stored on that CD.  Well, of course, I tried several more CDs, and two of them gave exactly the same result, but some others show that they contain exactly what they are supposed to contain.  Does anybody know what it is that causes the CD reading program to mess up in that way? And whether there's a reasonable cure for the problem?  (If things stored on CDs risk becoming irrevocably lost at the whim of an electronic bamboozle, I have serious  doubts about saving stuff on CDs any more.) (And, oh, by the way: I did try looking at one of the baddies on another computer, and that didn't work, either: same result.)


I had a similar thing happen a week ago with a CD. The software my computer used to make the CD wasn't the same software that was trying to open it again. I had to open that software and then get into the CD

B L McAllister:
Oh, boy!  I hope that isn't my only solution.  Because if it is and  if I made the disks on my old computer, I'll never see the content of those CDs again. The old computer finally went the way of all electronic fooferaw, namely to recycling.  (Probably I made them on my present computer, but I'm really not quite sure.)

Byron (who wonders if a bit of regulation of the computer industry would be a pretty good idea)

I have requested this comment be deleted.:
I had this happen when I was backing up Japanese TV shows on DVD.  It could be one of many problems:

Dye from markers can oxidize, taking the CD and data along with it.  Sharpies supposedly are safe.

Off-brand or cheap discs sometimes don't burn or read properly.  This was the cause of my problem, I think; I had bought a stack of cheap discs at Big Lots and, though the burning application said the burn was successful, there were gaps in the data.  I now use only Taiyo Yuden printable discs.  (Discs with matte white surfaces are supposedly safer to write on, too.)

When a disc has minor errors (gaps in the information) on it, your disc reader is supposed to figure out how to bridge the gap and read the disc.  Some drives are better at this than others.  Often, with DVDs, I'll be able to play a disc on my computer (using VLC Media Player), but the DVD player will freeze and skip.  If a disc won't open or copy to my hard drive, I try a second and sometimes third computer.  A lot of my old CDs, I have to try multiple computers.

All discs go bad after so many years.  I don't know if I've personally had a disc go from readable to completely unreadable yet (some of my CDs are probably eight years old, but I assume that the few discs I have that are unreadable were bad burns to begin with), but that's what everyone says.  Most recommend hard drives for archival purposes.  If a hard drive fails, unless it's wiped clean by magnetism or something, there are ways to recover the data.

Solid state (flash) drives, including CF or SD cards, would also work.  They're supposed to fail less often than hard drives, but I'm not sure they're as easy to recover data from when they do fail.  With a hard drive, you can take it apart and the data will still be on that big metal disc; I'm not sure if flash drives work that way.  (Wikipedia calls SD cards a "non-volatile memory card format"--"solid state" implies the data will still be there--I'm just saying I personally can't say 100% with my expertise.)

There are forensic tools you can use to recover information from bad/damaged discs.  I've never had to go that far, so I can't recommend any specific software, but I know there are computer forensics books on Amazon and would guess there are open source or freeware applications.

I see ISO Buster recommended a lot--not in the context of data recovery, but for ripping and dealing with disc images.  It's marketed as a data recovery tool.  $24.99 and has a trial version you can download.  I'd try that if putting the disc in another computer doesn't work.

Bob Mueller:
I wonder if maybe when you burned the CDs, the burn session didn't close properly. I recall that being a problem on certain types of CDs, but I can't recall if it was CDR or CDRW. You had to explicitly close or end the burning session in some way in the software.

Byron, if you recall the software you used, but don't have the original discs anymore, try looking for it at

I'd certainly hold on to your CDs for now; a data recovery firm or local computer shop might be able to help you.


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