Review: M-Disc Archival DVD and Blu-ray

Review: M-Disc Archival DVD and Blu-ray

Got photos and documents to preserve? Our reviewer examines the archival M-Disc, purported to store your data for up to 1,000 years.

Price: $29.99 for 10 DVDs (4.7 GB each); $14.97 for three Blu-ray discs (25 GB each); $20 to $95 for an M-DISC-Ready Drive
Manufacturer: Millenniata
System requirements: M-DISC archival DVD requires the M-DISC READY Drive for burning data to disc; most DVD drives can read M-DISC
Biggest draws: data and photos stored on M-DISC are rated to last for decades
Drawbacks: more expensive than traditional DVDs; requires special DVD burner
 
Ease of use

Burning an archival M-DISC is easy and no different from working with a standard DVD, except you need to use an M-DISC Ready Drive. LG, Acer and Dell offer compatible, built-in drives, or you can use an external plug-and-play USB model. Just plug the USB cable of an external M-DISC Ready Drive into your computer and burn your data or photos to the M-DISC. The drives work on both PC and Mac computers and includes burning software; however, most new computers don’t require the extra software.

Durability and reliability
Makers of the M-Disc call it a “permanent storage solution.” The M-DISC DVD looks like a standard disc, except it’s slightly thicker and almost transparent. The M-DISC engraves data into the disc to record information and preserve files indefinitely. M-DISC DVDs have passed rigorous testing by the US Department of Defense for temperature, humidity and sunlight, and are rated to last 1,000 years. By comparison, standard discs, which use organic dye to burn data, are rated to last five to seven years. Millenniata, creators of the M-DISC, recommend storing discs upright in plastic or steel DVD cases.

Compatibility

Once information is burned to the M-DISC, standard disc drives on both Macs and PCs can play back the DVD. You can use the M-DISC Ready Drive, which is compatible with Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8, Mac OSX, and Linux, to burn and play standard discs in addition to the M-DISC.

Storage capacity

The M-DISC DVD holds 4.7GB of data, equal to about 8,000 photos or 100,000 documents. Now available is a Blu-ray M-DISC offering 25GB of storage. That’s enough storage for 42,000 photos, 21 hours of non-high-definition (HD) video or 120 minutes of HD video. Although this capacity still can’t compete with that of most external hard drives, the archival M-DISC DVD or Blu-ray promises longer-term archival storage.
 

The verdict

Data backup is always on a genealogist’s mind, and the M-DISC offers a cutting-edge alternative to known longevity problems in using standard DVDs for archival storage. But family historians will have to weigh the peace of mind and effort savings (in making repeated backups) against the cost of purchasing the more-expensive M-DISCs along with a special M-DISC Ready Drive to write the discs—and possibly to read them, as fewer home computers come with built-in CD/DVD drives.
 
Overall rating: 4 of 5 stars

From the May/June 2014 Family Tree Magazine

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