Right software rescues what CD, DVD lose

Reassessment: Burning data onto optical media seemed like a great long-term solution, but much can go wrong.

November 06, 2003|By Craig Crossman | Craig Crossman,KNIGHT RIDDER/TRIBUNE

Recovering deleted or lost files from a hard disk drive requires a good disk utility. But did you know that most disk utilities don't work on data that's lost on CDs and DVDs?

In fact, you can lose data on optical media as it's copied.

We consider optical media to be bulletproof, the ideal way to archive data you wish to preserve forever - or at least 100 years, as claimed by most manufacturers. But these mirrored disks are subject to damage such as scratches and other imperfections that can impair the media.

Plus, studies have shown that recordable CDs may have a shorter shelf life than their original claims. Some independent researchers suggest that the dyes used in certain brands of CD-R disks may oxidize and darken in a few years, rendering them useless.

Data stored on optical media is indexed using a different method than computer data stored on magnetic media such as hard and floppy disks. The latter uses indexing methods such as File Allocation Tables (FAT) and the like. Optical media don't, which means that those hard disk recovery utilities won't work on your CD and DVD collection.

One company does make utility products designed to recover lost data on damaged optical media. CD/DVD Diagnostic ($49.95) from Arrowkey (www.arrowkey.com) will recover any files from optical media and back them up to your hard disk drive.

According to Arrowkey, CD/DVD Diagnostic will find and restore this information regardless of the type of data, be it video, pictures or computer data.

The impressive list of supported disks includes all PC and Macintosh CDs and DVDs. The Arrowkey Web site shows all of the supported formats and disk types.

Another CD product worth mentioning from Arrowkey is AccuBurn-R ($41.99). How many times have you tried to burn a CD only to find that you've made a coaster? Many things can interfere with the creation of a CD, such as buffer underruns, or something as simple as a bad spot on the disk. With AccuBurn-R, Arrowkey guarantees that every CD you burn will work.

AccuBurn-R first checks its written data for accuracy. If any errors are detected, such as from foreign objects, media defects, dirt, scratches or any other factors that cause recording problems, they are automatically corrected. Then the data is burned again onto another portion of the recordable CD.

If you use another product, such as those by Roxio, Nero, DLA or others, to create recordable CDs, you can use AccuBurn-R in conjunction with them to ensure a perfect burn. The Arrowkey Web site displays the specifications.

It's amazing how we take it for granted that optical media are indestructible. They're not. When a precious disk becomes unreadable, having one or all of the Arrowkey products in your arsenal of utility software products could help.

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