Have you owned PCs for a while now? That is, over decades, not just a few years. Then you probably have dozens of backup CDs and DVDs sitting in your closet, waiting for you to get that data onto more reliable media.
It’s one of those projects that most everyone knows they need to get to, yet never do. (If you’re anything like me, you don’t want to face just how much of an obsessive anime nerd you were back when downloading a bootleg 320x240p episode of Weiß Kreuz took hours.)
But bit rot is a real thing, as YouTuber EposVox points out in a recent video. Like other forms of physical media before them, optical discs can suffer from degradation. Commercially produced discs are more resistant to such deterioration, but CDs and DVDs burned at home commonly fall victim to data loss. Your only protection against losing precious files like photos and home videos—plus the cash spent on music albums and movies—is to copy the data elsewhere.
You can make the process less arduous by watching EposVox’s PSA, which is only 12 minutes long and jam-packed with helpful tips. Grizzled PC vets will know some of it already, like having more than one optical drive on hand (and of different model, if not make) to see if at least one of them can read a fussy disc; imaging discs for both archival and file harvesting purposes; and using MakeMKV for ripping DVDs.
(Speaking of, you can use our instructions for ripping 4K Blu-rays with MakeMKV for DVDs and Blu-ray. It’s actually a simpler process; no flashing of the optical drive is necessary. Just pop the disc in and go.)
But you may still pick up some new stuff from the video—I myself will be trying out TeraCopy, which he’s found to offer more reliable bulk file transfers, clear identification of files that error out, and checks of file integrity. It keeps the original time and date of the files, too. (All vast improvements over Windows’ File Explorer experience.)
Of course, once you get your photos, videos, and other nostalgia-inducing files (hello, my random but prized episodes of Escaflowne and Trigun) safely onto your current PC, your job still isn’t done. You still have to properly back them up by modern standards: at least a couple of copies aside from your primary location, with at least one offsite. Fortunately, that’s easy. Choose one of our recommendations for an external USB drive and cloud backup service, and you’re covered. You’ll also never have to deal with finicky backup media again.
Alaina Yee is PCWorld's resident bargain hunter—when she's not covering PC building, computer components, mini-PCs, and more, she's scouring for the best tech deals. Previously her work has appeared in PC Gamer, IGN, Maximum PC, and Official Xbox Magazine. You can find her on Twitter at @morphingball.