Decay of video game discs

Discussion in 'General Gaming and Hardware Forum' started by Atomkilla, Nov 23, 2014.

  1. Atomkilla

    Atomkilla Hazel Hegemon oTO Orderite

    Dec 26, 2010
    So I was thinking about playing a round of Command and Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars, one of my favorite games - I pop the disc in my drive, and it won't load. I try again - nothing. 7 times after that, still nothing.
    The expansion Kane's Wrath loads perfectly - both discs, although old, have been kept away in their original boxes, away from dust, heat or any sort of endangering factor. They have no scratches either - almost like new.

    That got me thinking: first of all, what the hell happened to my CD?
    As far as I know, decay in discs happens over time, over a large period of time, and usually with discs which were either badly produced in the first place, are rewritable or were poorly stored etc. My disc was none of that (at least, I think it wasn't poorly manufactured). Just to make sure, I checked with my friend, who bought his own copy roughly the same time when I did, and his one works perfectly - not to mention that, unlike mine, his video games aren't really kept and stored...well, so neatly.

    Second: how should I run this CD, if that is even possible... It won't load at all, the computer just doesn't recognize it.

    Third and the last: If this was a legit case of a CD decay, a CD which is 5-6 years old, does that mean that, in several more years, majority of my video game collection will be nothing but a useless pile of plastic, or whatever that material is?
    How should I prevent this from happening to my other discs? Like I've said, all of my games are properly stored in their original boxes. They are usually placed in horizontal position, but I doubt that is of any relevance.
    And how come my audio CDs, some of which are two decades old, work perfectly? The process of writing differs, I suppose, but the chemical compound of the CDs themselves should be similar, no?

    A side note: even my pirated copy of the same game which I used before I bought the original disc seems to work...and that one didn't get the royal treatment like the legit copy.
    Last edited: Nov 23, 2014
  2. Gizmojunk

    Gizmojunk Sonny, I Watched the Vault Bein' Built!

    Nov 26, 2007
    While I always assumed it will happen... I still have CD's from the mid 90's that work just fine. It might be a case of the developer pressing with a cheaper disc. Not all writable media are equal.

    There are [read-only] CD-scanning programs that can tell you where the damage is; another test is simply to hold the CD up to a light and look for "pin-holes" of light on the surface.

    I have successfully installed games from the retail disc before, where a file was corrupt, and I managed to ~eventually~ copy that file from the disc with several attempts by a less picky OS; and the game worked. This worked for Halo:CE

    I've even managed to [very luckily] find the file(s) I've needed in the public demo ~and that's neat, though it's not practical advice that will work more often than not... :(

    In my experience, it has been possible to backup the install folder of the game CD/DVD, and use a fresh copy to do the actual install; while retaining the [possibly damaged] original game disc to play the game with.
    Last edited: Nov 24, 2014
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  3. BigBoss

    BigBoss Your Local Scrub

    Dec 24, 2012
    Same here, still got an original pressed Diablo Hellfire CD, works fine except for compatibility issues, of course.
  4. Gizmojunk

    Gizmojunk Sonny, I Watched the Vault Bein' Built!

    Nov 26, 2007
    Same here. :) But my Diablo install is on a PPC based Imac; I haven't even tried the Hellfire CD on that.

    I have Stonekeep on CD, and Lands of Lore; both work fine.

    I just found out last night how to get the GUS running in DOSbox, and how to patch Lands to use it, so I might be playing that next.
    Last edited: Nov 24, 2014
  5. Atomkilla

    Atomkilla Hazel Hegemon oTO Orderite

    Dec 26, 2010

    Can you recommend some of these programs?

    I don't have the CD with me right now, but I did examine it - there was nothing on its surface, no real anomaly.
    Weird thing that I now recall was that when I had put the disc in the drive there was no whirring sound coming out of the machine which happens when the disc loads. I imagine that my computer couldn't even register its presence, let alone load it up.

    I've read somewhere that this could be the problem with a game based for 32-bit system not running on 64-bit...but that doesn't make much sense to me. I believe this is a hardware, not a software issue.
    Last edited: Nov 24, 2014
  6. SnapSlav

    SnapSlav NMA's local DotA fanatic

    Jul 1, 2012
    No, there is no such thing, at least not as long as we note plastic to be a non-perishable item. Discs that are manufactured with programming embedded are worlds apart from discs that are produced to store data later (e.g. game discs vs CDRs and CDRWs) because they're made using entirely different manufacturing processes. When you write data to a CDR/CDRW, you're creating divets in the metal between both layers of plastic, and those are in turn read as binary. These discs can be rendered unreadable if you pass them through a very powerful magnet, because it will shift the metal and alter the code that was written in them. Regular discs, meanwhile, have the code physically stamped into the plastic itself, after which a reflective layer is placed on top of it and the disc is finished with a layer of laminate. You can't do anything to the information stored on the disc because it's part of the plastic, and it's on the inside of the disc, so you can't "reach" it. That's why you do more damage to a disc if you scrape the top/label rather than the bottom, which can be smoothed out and made "good as new" instantly.

    Most likely, something happened to your TS disc's label, or something else just happened to it. I've got MUCH older discs than my TS, and they work like a charm when I slap em in my system. The oldest I tried, a few weeks ago, was my copy of Doom, and it worked without a hitch. Since the plastic doesn't "decay", the information will always be preserved. Since the reflective surface is guarded by laminate, as long as you don't scrape the top, everything should be fine. Granted, my knowledge of the manufacturing process of CDs is a bit over 10 years old, so it goes without saying that there may have been changed/improvement since then. But that means that the process I described, which DOES NOT "decay", would only have been improved upon.

    Whatever happened, it wasn't age that got to your disc. =|
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  7. Atomkilla

    Atomkilla Hazel Hegemon oTO Orderite

    Dec 26, 2010

    Thanks for clearing that up, it was highly informative.
    I should check the topside then - as far as I recall, it looked fine too. It had the "cover" picture on it, all shiny and clear, no scratches or anything...

    Damn it. In a way I wish it was a case of decay. At least that way I'd know for sure what happened to it. Since that can't happen, I'm back to square one. For the life of me, I might never get this disc to run again, but I as sure as hell will find out what happened to it.
  8. Gizmojunk

    Gizmojunk Sonny, I Watched the Vault Bein' Built!

    Nov 26, 2007
    The one I was thinking of is Nero Disk Speed, but there are others.

    I had thought NDS was a retail tool, part of the Nero suite... but I've seen it said that the utility is available as a standalone tool for free.

    Nero offers it on their site, but this site lists NDS and four others:

    *It also offers direct download of those utilities, but you could choose to get them from the official sites. It gives a good reason about Nero though...

    Aside from the plastic stamp & coating... the rest is contrary (almost backwards) to anything I've ever read about CD's and their manufacture.

    CDR/DVDR drives cannot make divots in metal, and CD's are immune to magnetism. CDRs use heat sensitive dye for data recording, while CDRWs use a heat sensitive alloy (that changes reflectivity). Pressed CDs use physical divots (pits) in plastic, but the metal used is gold or aluminum (to coat the clear plastic to make it reflective)... magnetism won't affect the shape of these and the data itself is non-magnetic ~so it won't affect that either.

    High powered electromagnetic erasers do exist, but they are for magnetic media, and all CD/BR/DVD are optical media; it's a major strength of the format to be rid of the risk of magnetic damage. Just consider how many people rest CDs on their stereo speakers; do that with a tape, and you can damage it, but CDs are immune.
    Last edited: Nov 24, 2014
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  9. valcik

    valcik So Old I'm Losing Radiation Signs

    Dec 20, 2008
    I suspect that a drop of Serbian Slivovitz got splashed on Atomkilla's disc accidentaly. That shit could easily melt even through tungsten plate!
    • [Like] [Like] x 1
  10. Hassknecht

    Hassknecht I guess you're through, huh? Admin Orderite

    Aug 16, 2010
    The technical parts are very wrong. A CD-R/RW is written by a laser "burning" the dye-layer of the CD-R, changing the transparency locally. Underneath the dye-layer is a layer of silver (with aluminium) or gold to reflect the read-out laser beam. Note that none of the metals involved are ferromagnetic. A magnet won't do anything to it. You seem to have mixed up HDDs, MiniDiscs/MODiscs and CD production :D
    Writable CDs are very susceptible to light, though, as the dye-layer is made from an organic dye designed to be destroyed (the write-laser). It can degrade, and earlier writable CDs degraded very fast.
    • [Like] [Like] x 2
  11. Atomkilla

    Atomkilla Hazel Hegemon oTO Orderite

    Dec 26, 2010
    Thanks for the links!
    I will try it out once I get back home, which will, hopefully, be soon.

    Nah! No, never!

    ...when I was a kid I used to clean CDs that way...


    The tech stuff you guys have been discussing about is obviously (mostly) new for me (unfortunately), so I wouldn't make any comment on that, but thanks for expanding my knowledge on the subject. Will be helpful sooner or later.
  12. TheWesDude

    TheWesDude Sonny, I Watched the Vault Bein' Built!

    Feb 25, 2005
    here is another thing.

    as the layers of metal and such are laminated on the top of the disc, metal and plastic have different expansion coefficients.

    if the temperature in the room/storage area varies greatly... think of it like concrete.

    as concrete warms up and dries out and cools down and gets wet, it expands and contracts. even when under a predicted load, it can still survive just fine. in fact, concrete can lasts thousands of years. when you do reinforced concrete, which is concrete with rebar inside it, it can decay within 150 years tops. its because the concrete and iron expand and contract different amounts. concrete itself lasts thousands of years. reinforced concrete will not last 150. the reason is because the different expansion values. quite literally, the rebar in the concrete, the part that makes it much stronger, is actually what will make it fail much faster.

    you have the same situation. you have metal on top of plastic. the more varied the environment for temperature, the less the cd will last because eventually the different expansion coefficients of the plastic vs the metal will cause them to separate and damage itself.
  13. Buxbaum666

    Buxbaum666 Heterostructured Nanorod oTO Orderite

    Dec 5, 2003
    Some old game discs had aggressive copy protection that included deriberate corrupt sectors and shit like that. Some drives couldn't read these at all. But c&c 3 apparently had Securom protection so no unreadable sectors there. Some discs just die earlier than others and all CDs and DVDs eventually will. Blu-Rays are supposedly more durable.
  14. alec

    alec Stuck In The Middle With You Orderite

    May 21, 2003
    I have an Aphex Twin cd single that doesn't work anymore and I assume it's because the ink/paint used to print the top of it came off. Like completely, leaving a rough surface, like it was treated with sandpaper, and it didn't take long either. I reckon they used a bad batch of ink there.

    I also used to have a Tindersticks cd single that had a complete Bon Jovi album on it instead. I gave that one to my sister at some point.
  15. Atomkilla

    Atomkilla Hazel Hegemon oTO Orderite

    Dec 26, 2010

    Makes sense, but I doubt it's a potential cause here. I'm not saying it can't be, but all my discs are stored in roughly the same temperature throughout the year (room temperature of 20-25 degrees of Celsius or something like that) and are kept in original boxes, which should provide some protection.

    I doubt video games will see the day when the "golden age" of physical copies will return. Generic DVD cases, single paper manuals, if there is manual at all, no big boxes... Even if video games for PC see the day when they get pressed on some ultra-durable material, I doubt it will be worth it. Majority of retail stuff nowadays is in no way better than buying a digital copy - in fact, it often comes more expensive. Not to mention that some games (like FNV), even when you buy them retail, require Steam activation, which is aggravating.

    The console stuff is already pressed in Blu-Ray or whatever, as far as I know, but I don't think they will avoid the fate of their PC counterparts.

    Too bad about Aphex Twin. I'd love to have his stuff in my collection.

    As for the Tindersticks, you might've got some sweet price for it on Discogs or somewhere else. Some band enthusiasts love collecting "anomaly editions" of their favorite bands' albums etc.
    On the other hand, it's Bon Jovi, not likely anyone would buy that.
  16. UniversalWolf

    UniversalWolf eaten by a grue.

    Aug 28, 2005
    Anyone still have any working 8-track tapes?
  17. SnapSlav

    SnapSlav NMA's local DotA fanatic

    Jul 1, 2012
    Well tell that to the guys at the place I worked at who taught me and mentored me. It was a long time ago, so doubtless my memory of everything I learned there isn't as sharp as had I been there yesterday, but none of this was just stuff I "read" about. None of that information was taken from wikipedia or whatever sources other people refer to. That was knowledge taken directly from memory of my time at a place that manufactured CDs. I had much glee over the fact that they made disc for Interplay, so they were shipping out copies of the FO1/FO2 dual jewel case and FOT at the time that I was there. I worked in their clerical office and sorted (and discarded) their master discs that contained the data that would be trasferred for mass-production. I worked in the rooms where they stored the gigantic nickel beta discs (a step in the manufacturing process between the masters and the finished product). I helped out with the machines that produced the plastic disc before they got the reflective layers and laminate added. So maybe I've forgotten some of the specifics, but don't patronize me by telling me it's wrong because you read about it somewhere.
  18. naossano

    naossano Sonny, I Watched the Vault Bein' Built!

    Oct 19, 2006
    Skipping a part of the conversation, so i might repeat something already said.

    CD are made to work with the current Operating System/Hardware/whatever in on the computer of the current era.
    5-10-15 years later, some don't work or don't work well because they aren't compatible with the current configuration that wasn't imagined at the time.
    Some of them are more lucky and don't have componement that create comptabilities issues.

    I have many CD that don't work, or don't work well these, but i am quite sure they would work if i put them in an old computer.
  19. valcik

    valcik So Old I'm Losing Radiation Signs

    Dec 20, 2008
  20. Hassknecht

    Hassknecht I guess you're through, huh? Admin Orderite

    Aug 16, 2010
    It's not patronizing, it's correcting you when you're wrong, plain and simple. Yes, regular CDs do get pressed the way you described. You wrote CD-R/RW work by that. That's incorrect. I don't mean that in a patronizing way, it's just wrong. Strong magnetic fields (implied to be static by you) don't affect CDs, because the metals used are non-ferromagnetic. Unless the fields change and induce currents on the metal layer it simply won't care about the field. Not patronizing, just being a bit anal about technical details.