Fenella France, chief of preservation research and testing at the Library of Congress, and her colleagues are trying to determine how compact discs (CDs) age in order to preserve them. The Atlantic reports that researchers are experimenting on non-library CDs so as to identify how best to care for library collections. Some specimens are being put through "destructive aging tests." For example, two ostensibly identical music CDs were subjected to temperatures of 175 degrees and a relative humidity of 70 percent for 500 hours. Other discs are simply stored away in order to gauge the effects of time.

It's not quite that simple

Their efforts are complicated by certain factors, including manufacturers who keep their formulations proprietary. France also noted that "modern formats" were built for mass production and not longevity. Additionally, she explained that recordable CDs are more prone to complicated degradation issues while DVDs are less stable than CDs due to their higher data capacity. "I wish we could definitively say, you know, 'If you have a CD that was manufactured in 1984, that's terrible.' But it's not quite that simple," said France.

There are ways to mitigate the deterioration of your CDs outside of avoiding high heat and scratches. Contrary to popular opinion, it's more important to prevent damage to the top surface than the bottom layer. France recommends pinching the hole in the middle when handling a CD. Labels are also not suggested as the adhesive can cause harmful chemical reactions.