How to Put Your Family Pictures on CD/DVD

July 2008
I have no affiliation with any of the products or suppliers mentioned here

About 7 years ago I collected and scanned all the family historical pictures I could get my hands on, and gave copies to all family members I knew of above the age of 18.  I sent them to everybody in hopes a precious few would actually keep/preserve them for posterity.  I'm doing it again now for my wife's family.  It took a lot of research each time to figure out the best way to do it.  By that I mean which media to use and which CD/DVD writer to use, since you want these disks to last as long as possible.

It's pretty simple once you know the answers.

The bottom lines are:

The CD/DVD Writer

Buy a Pioneer 115/215 or a Samsung SH-S203 -- if you can't get one of those get an Optiarc7200 (or 7201 or 7203 -- same burner more features)

You can use the one you have but chances are it won't make disks that are as good, that can be read by as many people's computers and will be readable for as long as a better writer/burner.  There are other good writer/burners, but there are also a lot of inferior ones, and I found doing the research to figure out which are good to be difficult.  You can get any of these for under $40 and if you are going to invest all the time and effort to do this, pinching pennies doesn't make sense to me.  In a year these choices will be obsolete, and you'll have to do all the research again. 

Other models of the same brand are not necessarily good, but if these burners are no longer available get a Pioneer, Samsung or Optiarc.  There's used to be a forum called CDFreaks that knew everything there was to know about burners and disks (that's where I learned what I know), but when I tried to find it recently it seemed to have changed to something named Club MyCE and after fooling around for maybe five minutes I couldn't find the main forum, only the newbie forum.  The mail forum has a poll of what these knowledgeable people use.  Maybe you will have better luck finding it than I did.

The Media

Buy Taiyo Yuden CD or DVD disks from or from Rima.  If buying DVDs Verbatim DataLifePlus are also good.  Again, you can find them cheaper other places, but counterfeits exist and I have no idea to know how to recognize them.  I'm sure there are other vendors who can be trusted, I just don't know who they are, and disks aren't the place to pinch pennies.  The quality of the disks determines how long they will last (be readable).

NOTE:  If you can afford to have your disks "pressed" commercially they will be more durable and last longer than ones you make yourself.  I did not research places to have this done.

Labeling the Disks

Most everyone who knows about this subject advises against using paper stick-on labels of any kind.  Stick-on labels can get the disks out of balance and make them unreadable or hard to read.  Over the years the glue can eat into the surface of the disk making it unreadable.  Also, with age, the glue can release causing this paper to lift from the disk and jam inside the reader. 

The simplest safe way to label them is with a fine (not extra fine) tip Sharpie brand felt tip pen.  Though you can find people who say no method of labeling is acceptable, most agree regular fine tip Sharpies are safe -- but it you want to be safer Sharpie makes special pens for writing on CDs/DVDs.   My inkjet printer will print on disks, so I'm using that.  To print on them you have to have a printer made to do that and special "printable" surface disks.  The special disks are only slightly more expensive than regular disks.