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High quality CDs and DVDs have a lifetime of up to 30 years, while cheap blanks may fail after less than five years. Hence, hard disks, which are said to become error-prone after three to five years, may be less durable and reliable.

However, it’s much easier to transfer data from a hard drive, to date the capacity is much bigger, and when dealing with a mass of data, hard drives are of course cheaper, way faster and much more convenient to use for backups.

Now, even if you don’t make backups to CD or DVD, you probably own commercial discs, be it music, movies or programs you bought. If you don’t want to lose them due to “natural decay”, you will have to prepare a backup. Please mind that this is not an instruction to circumvent copy protection. In case you are dealing with copy protected media, you’d best learn how to treat them to achieve maximal lifetime. There is a very good article about CD and DVD Lifetime and Maintenance on Techworld. And to recover an already broken CD or DVD, you should refer to Bill’s recent article Free CD/DVD File Recovery Tool – CD Recovery Toolbox Free CD/DVD File Recovery Tool - CD Recovery Toolbox Free CD/DVD File Recovery Tool - CD Recovery Toolbox Read More .

So how do you create a backup?

Most CD/DVD burners can save ISO files. Back in February Shankar wrote a great article introducing The Best, Free Alternatives to Nero CD/DVD Burner The Best, Free Alternatives to Nero CD/DVD Burner The Best, Free Alternatives to Nero CD/DVD Burner Don't waste money on a CD/DVD burning tool! A freeware application might be all you need. Here we have compiled five alternatives to Nero Burning ROM for your Windows PC. Read More . Another great tool to extract ISO images from CDs or DVDs, is DuBaron’s open source CD2ISO. The tool does not require an installation, simply run the EXE file, select a drive and a target and go. CD2ISO does not read copy protected discs or audio CDs because it relies on a valid file system.

As you see, creating the backup is easy. And once you have it on your hard drive you can burn it to a fresh disc anytime. But why bother when you can read the backup directly from your hard disk!

Playback CD or DVD on your PC from Backup

Dolly, the first mammalian clone, has inspired the name and logo of SlySoft’s Virtual CloneDrive. With CloneDrive you can mount a virtual drive to playback CD or DVD backups in ISO, DUE, BIN, CCD, DVD, IMG or UDF format. The program supports up to eight virtual drives and it’s very easy to use.


After installation the tool appears as Elaborate Bytes folder in your Windows programs list. Open the Virtual CloneDrive menu and select how many drives you wish to mount. Check “virtual sheep” for the sheep head logo to appear as the drive symbol, to better distinguish the virtual from your regular drives.

To mount a CD image you can do two things. Either right-click the backup file and select >Open With >Mount Files with Virtual CloneDrive or right-click one of the virtual drives, select >Virtual CloneDrive and >Mount… from the menu, then browse for your backup file. Wait for a few seconds, then proceed as you would after loading a regular disc.

The advantages of using a virtual drive are manifold:
1. quick access to backed up CDs or DVDs
2. no need to carry discs
3. conserve your CD/DVD drive
4. less noise (especially on laptops)
5. less energy use

What is your experience with the durability of CDs and DVDs? Are you prepared to lose the first CDs you bought back in the 80’s?

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