Digitisation -
This is how long storage media last

Durability of storage media

Have you brought your old analogue slides, photos, negatives or videos into the modern era and had them digitised? Do you already know how best to store your media now? Which storage medium will last the longest? And what should you consider when digitally archiving? We at MEDIAFIX can help!

Even though your digitised media is now no longer threatened by chemical decay, fading or colour casts, you still need to technically secure your images. The images no longer suffer any loss of quality once they have been scanned. But: the storage media can be broken or lost! Unfortunately, DVDs, USB sticks and hard drives don’t last forever either. They are also quite small, so they can sometimes “disappear” during a move or when tidying up.

Archiving requires some basic knowledge about modern storage media. The following applies to all storage media: do not save on the price. Cheap data media are often of inferior quality, which is first and foremost at the expense of durability.

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Storage media – an overview

In our chart, we have listed the average lifespan of common storage media:

Between 5 and 100 years: the average shelf life of storage media depends on the type, temperature, humidity, use and storage.

CDs and DVDs

The durability of CDs and DVDs depends on whether the data has been burned (i.e. written) or pressed onto these storage media. When archiving your digital data, the images or videos are burned onto the DVD or CD. With a durability of up to 30 years, burned DVDs have a clear advantage over burned CDs, which only survive for 5 to 10 years.

They last significantly longer than burnt DVDs or CDs thanks to a different manufacturing process.

Durability of USB drives and SD cards

USB sticks and SD cards are NAND flash memories. With these data carriers, individual memory cells are interconnected and in this way larger storage spaces are created. USB sticks and SD cards usually last about 10 years or longer. Data carriers that are only used for archiving digital images are particularly durable.

The less often the data on the stick is overwritten, the longer it will last. The USB stick also has two advantages over the hard drive: it saves space and is less sensitive! Unfortunately, USB sticks and SD cards are lost much more often due to their size and it is difficult to write on them. So store these data carriers in a safe place and remember to name your digital pictures and videos.

Durability of hard disks

Regardless of whether internal or external – there are basically two models of hard disks: HDD and SSD. What is the difference between HDD and SSD hard drives? HDD stands for Hard Disk Drive. These traditional hard disks still work via a mechanical write head, which makes them somewhat slower than SSD hard disks. SSD stands for Solid State Disk. SSD hard disks work via a chip and do without mechanical elements. This makes them not only faster, but also lighter, more compact and more durable.

HDD hard disks

HDDs are said to have a lifespan of 3 to 5 years if they are in constant use. At first glance, this is not very much. However, bear in mind that it is not unusual nowadays to buy a new PC at a similar interval. Scanned pictures and videos can be copied to a new hard disk with a simple click of the mouse.

SSD hard disks

The durability of SSD hard disks depends on the degree of use and the storage conditions, just as with USB sticks or SD cards. Since SSD hard disks do not have moving mechanical parts compared to HDD hard disks, the shelf life is longer: about 5 to 10 years.

Other factors influencing the durability of flash memories:

In addition to the durability of SSD hard disks, USB sticks or SD cards in years, one often also finds information on the durability in write and erase cycles. This has to do with the “flash cells” on flash memories, which unfortunately cannot be erased and rewritten an infinite number of times. Here, manufacturers’ specifications range from 1000 to 100,000 write and erase cycles before the maximum lifespan is reached. The wide range is due to different storage technologies. Here is a brief overview:

  • Single-level cell memories can tolerate up to 100,000 write cycles per cell and are considered particularly fast, durable and fail-safe.
  • Multi-level cell memories can tolerate up to 10,000 write cycles per cell, but are cheaper in cost.
  • Triple-level cell memories can cope with approx. 3000 memory cycles per cell.
  • Quad-level cell memories are much cheaper, have more storage capacity and a higher storage density, but also only have a service life of approx. 1000 write or erase cycles per cell.


Cloud storage is an online storage service offered by Dropbox, Apple or Google, for example. You upload your data online and the provider stores everything on internal, physical hard drives. Backups are created again and again, so theoretically you don’t have to worry about your pictures. However, if the providers of this cloud storage get hacked or go out of business, you don’t know what will happen to your data. So you should rather use cloud storage as a supplement to another storage method to additionally secure your digitised images.

A big advantage of cloud storage is also that you can access your images from anywhere using this method. You can also give family members or friends access to your digital picture collections. So you can then also share the most beautiful experiences from days gone by with your aunt in America or your girlfriend in Australia.

Durability of storage media – A summary

Media Durability
CDs and DVDs
Pressed CDs and DVDs 5 – 10 years
Pressed CDs and DVDs up to 30 years
NAND flash memory
USB drive 10 – 30 years
SD card 10 – 30 years
Hard disks
HDD hard disks 3 – 5 years
SSD hard disks 5 – 10 years
Cloud storage Theoretically unlimited, depending on the provider

The best tip: Back up digital media multiple times

To archive your digital memories optimally and for the long term, you should back up your pictures several times. Simply save your photos on several data carriers and additionally with a cloud provider. Storage space is becoming more and more affordable. Think about the future and enjoy being able to show old family memories to further generations already now!

At MEDIAFIX you get the first data carrier of your choice. Then simply transfer your pictures or videos to other DVDs, USB sticks, hard drives or upload them online to a cloud. This way you are perfectly equipped and your memories are saved.

Save storage media now!


Die Haltbarkeit der Speichermedien - MEDIAFIX erklärts.


Making data media last longer: short summary

  • Storage and use influence the shelf life of your storage media
  • Little use
  • Dry storage
  • Storage at room temperature
  • Avoid vibrations
  • Put away in a place where you cannot lose data media


MEDIAFIX saves your memories

You can also have us transfer storage media. You can get your DVD as an MP4 file from us starting at £7.19.

Do you still have slides, negatives, photos, video cassettes or cine films leading a sad existence in your home? Bring your analogue media into the digital modern age! MEDIAFIX does the work for you: we digitise your memories – all with a best price guarantee.

Questions? Let our friendly customer service advise you individually and without obligation. Simply call us at 020 3904438-0.

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