What's the expected life of a DVD-RAM disc?


Novice Member
Probably a bit like asking the length of a piece of string but I'm looking for an "average life span". I've seen figures for read/writes in the 10's of thousands but that's not what I'm interested in.

One of the reasons to have a DVD recorder is to archive my old home camcorder tapes. Some of the earliest ones (16 years old!) are starting to deteriorate so burning onto DVD seems a good way to delay this.

I'm using genuine Panasonic DVD-RAM disks. Once burnt they'll be kept in a dark, dry cupboard at normal room temperature. Maybe they'll get played once a year or so.

Does anyone know how long I can expect these discs to last before the dye starts to deteriorate? I've searched Google but haven't found any consistent opinions.



Well-known Member

DVD-RAM life span is normally quoted as around 30 years, this is based on quality media (i.e. Panasonic).

The best option is to use DVD-R, with quality media from the likes of Verbatim rated upto 100 years.

We will not know how accurate these quoted figures are for a while of course.





Using DVD RAM discs for once-only recording seems rather extreme. The whole point of DVD RAM is that it can be re-recorded on over and over again (up to 100 000 times according to the bumf) and they cost anything up to 20 or 30 times as much as DVD-R which should have a longer shelf-life.



Distinguished Member
The best option is to use DVD-R, with quality media from the likes of Verbatim rated upto 100 years
Those of us who have been recording to DVD for years appreciate that DVD-R, whilst a great media for compatibility, is not necessarily the best media for archiving. I have had major brand media - including Verbatim discs with their associated 'guarantees' - fail. I have had cheap discs fail within weeks of being burnt. Ditto DVD-RW and DVD+R. The fact is optical media, including DVD-RAM, isn't ideal for long term storage. That said I have been using DVD-RAM since the late 90s (December 1998 infact) and still have readable discs recorded around that time. So out of all the DVDR types, DVD-RAM is the format I trust most - it has a proven reliability record.

Your best bet is not to trust ANY single type of disc though. May I suggest you have a look at this guide for advice on how to backup using a PC DVD burner. My personal (current) backup strategy is every recording is archived on:
- Panasonic/Ritek/Maxell DVD-RAM
- 2 DVD-R (of different brands and produced in different locations)
- TDK Scratchproof DVD-R (working copy)
- 1 DVD+R (branded)

...and then after 18 months a further 3 discs - two DVD-R and one DVD+R (all different brands) - are burnt. This strategy has kept me safe from dataloss so far!

this is based on quality media (i.e. Panasonic).
It's worth noting it is very hard to get "poor" quality DVD-RAM media. Due to the more complex production there are currently three producers of DVD-RAM worldwide - Panasonic, Maxell and Ritek - all other brands are produced from the same production lines. Hence the reason you don't get dirt cheap DVD-RAMs - and hence the reason why most DVD-RAMs are of a highly callibre.

Using DVD RAM discs for once-only recording seems rather extreme
DVD-RAMs can be purchased for under £1.50 each online - that is only a few pence more than a decent DVD-R. Thus I would argue that cost isn't too much of a concern these days. What makes DVD-R so popular as a backup medium is, of course, it's near universal compatibility.


But will there always be support for DVD-RAM? Even if the discs are still readable, that won't do me any good if I can't buy a recorder to read them. Don't get me wrong, I love using DVD-RAM for time-shifting, but for long term storage I prefer using DVD-R which I believe there will always be support for it.


Novice Member
Thanks for the interesting and helpful replies.

Choosing DVD RAM for once-only recording seemed a reasonable thing to do. They're not that expensive (<£2 each) and I don't need hundreds, I like being able to fiddle around with editing until satisfied with the end result, plus I've read that DVD RAM is a more fault tolerant system than other formats.

I take the point though that no media is going to be 100% safe so will create a set of DVD-R copies once a year or so as extra security.

In the end I guess that anything over 10 years life should be fine as no doubt by then there will be new, not yet invented storage media and systems available?


Distinguished Member
But will there always be support for DVD-RAM? Even if the discs are still readable, that won't do me any good if I can't buy a recorder to read them.
I can assure you that you will be able to buy a machine that reads them. The companies that use DVD-RAM are generally the ones that are the prime motivators behind new technology. Toshiba for example has developed HD-DVD - and you can't help but note from the front of Home Cinema Choice this month that their new HD-DVD player not only has support for DVD-RAMs but also caddied DVD-RAMs.

BluRay support for the format is, as you would expect, strong: Panasonic is one of the major companies behind the format and they are simply making too much money from DVD-RAM to abandon it: as we move into the era of BluRay recorders you will find that recording support for BluRay is simply added to their line of DVD recorders as per the Panasonic E700 BluRay DVD-RAM recorder.

And on the PC support for BluRay is increasing: HP being the latest company onboard. The reality is DVD-RAM compatibility is slowly becoming less and less of an issue.


Novice Member
Hi! I own both the Panny DMR-E50 and DMR-E55. I can no longer get RAM discs that I've recorded on them to play (NO READ). Is it more likely that both machines are failing, or that my RAM discs have deteriorated after 10-12 years? Both machines play commercial prerecorded discs fine, as well as most DVD-RW's. This problem didn't happen all at once: for a while the RAM discs would play, but only after several attempts. Thanks!


Standard Member
I have a Panny DMR-E50 and a DMR-ES10. I'm finding it's my DVD-RAM media which seems to be deteriorating. It's usually OK for reading recordings made a long time ago but there are now often problems writing new data. I have a mixture of Panasonic, TDK, JVC and Maxell media- all good quality in theory. Originally it all performed perfectly. I used the majority of it for PC backups but I'm in the process of switching to BD-RE discs which seem very good (just like DVD-RAM did 15 years ago of course). When this process releases a DVD-RAM disc I try to do a full format on it (on one of the PC drives). About 50% of these formats are failing and then I cut the disc in half and throw it away. Hopefully I'll still have enough working DVD-RAM discs to outlast the DMR video recorders.


Standard Member
Hi, thank you for sharing a long-time experiences! I seems the same as in my case. I had bougt some DVD-RAM discs (Panasonic and Vebatim) about 10-14 years ago. I used them for backups but not much often last years as I prefer USB RAID box. Now I had some time to check my DVD-RAM discs and found that they can be still read but I cannot write a new files (free space avail.). Even the attempt of write to discs led to corruption that it was not able to be read and even full formatting process went wrong - permature end with error. One disc became write-protected and cannot be longer formatted and cannot be unlocked with WPtool. I just tried to unlock it under Linux that passed but formatting still fails. I tried about 7 different optical drives from various manufacturers (LG, Samsung, Toshiba, NEC) and any of them was not able to finish formatting. Some drives gave up quickly in few minutes some after about a hour at ~95%.
Even those discs that are not dead yet suffers with extreme slow writting speed at about 100kB/s with often audiable head seeking (in old times the writing went smooth at ~3MB/s) and also reading is very slow...

So so sum up, adding read of your experiences I definitely come to conclusion that DVD-RAM are rotting as well as other common optical disc and there was not anything superior on them that someones pretended. Only advantage was easy (over)writes but in long term stability of recor it failed.
I already bought and recorded some Data Tresor Disc and Verbatim M-Disc that claims long life so let's see in future...

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