Why Your CD Player isn’t a good place to store CDs

Scratched-CD

Once upon a few years ago CDs were all the rage! VCDs, DVDs! Nowadays though, things have changed. Outside of gaming consoles, CDs have virtually been abandoned. And even in gaming CDs are struggling to survive if the recent PS5 Digital Edition is anything to go by.

That being said, it is likely that you have some CDs lying at home. And if you haven’t thrown it away yet, you might have a CD player, possibly even a portable one. So if you are in the mood for an old movie which somehow hasn’t been grabbed by any streaming service yet, you might as well plop your DVD in and grab some popcorn. Assuming that your CD still works, but of course.

As depicted in the thumbnail, CDs have a notorious tendency to get scratched. While a single scratch won’t render the CD entirely unusable, as little scratches accumulate over time it can become impossible for a player to read the disk. Scratches were most often caused by exposure to elements or handling disks improperly (ex. accidentally scratching a disk with one’s nails).

A decade or two ago, there was a debate on whether or not it was safe to leave a disk inside of the CD player. Seeing as there are a lot of moving parts within a CD player, who’s to say these wouldn’t harm a naked disk when the player was turned off? General consensus was that it was perfectly ok, except for cases where a faulty disk tray might lead to complications. But now, seeing as the years have gone by, leaving a CD in the player might not mean leaving it there for only a week, but potentially for months if not years.

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At home, we recently found this particular disk you see here, a copy of Barbie as Rapunzel to be precise, left inside of our portable DVD-player, which we rarely ever use. That being said, we do take it with us on car trips once or twice a year and frequently move it around the house every spring cleaning.

And it seems that the years had taken their toll on the disk. What might have been negligible jostling and bumping around have added up to the point where entire chunks of the DVD are no longer readable. We also happened to discover an unreadable (likely misaligned) cassette tape, which we had left in our family Camcorder the last time we were watching it, which was probably a few years ago.

It might seem like common sense to keep CDs in the most secure container possible, as far as preservation enthusiasts are concerned anyway, but sometimes we just leave them inside of the player and forget to take them out, for years. So it’s perhaps a good habit to also check inside of your old media players (not just CD-players for that matter) to see if you have left inside, you might even find something you thought you had lost ages ago.

While the idea of leaving a CD inside of a vintage CD-player to hide in a time capsule for your unsuspecting offspring might seem tempting, don’t. Keep your CDs in a case, plastic sleeve or something meant for containing it, which doesn’t have any other parts inside. And leave it next to the player. Who knows? Maybe your message might reach them after all…

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