Helping people with computers... one answer at a time.

Putting a label on a CD or DVD you've burned yourself seems like a good way to identify it later, but you do need to be careful in how you label it.

Do you think printing a CD cover and sticking it onto a home made CD with glue would be a good idea. I mean would it corrupt the CD?

I think you'll find that this is one of those things where you'll hear lots of differing opinions. In part it also depends on exactly what the purpose of the CD is, how long you expect it to last, and of course, what "glue" you mean.

My opinion? No way would I risk it.

Let me describe what I do instead.

I use a Sharpie (indelible ink pen) to write on the CD. And I don't write a lot - just enough to identify the CD. I've done this for years, and have never had a problem.

Now, I mention the brand name (Sharpie) because the risk involved is in the chemicals used. I don't know that other indelible ink pens are as safe. They probably are, I just haven't tried 'em.

My hand-written (and misspelled) SpinRite 'label'

And that's why your use of the word "glue" scares me. Depending on the glue you use, it can do significant physical damage to plastic media like a CD or DVD. At the other extreme, a totally safe glue might well dry up or lose adhesion, and you might find yourself with a CD label flying off while the CD is spinning in your drive.

I'm also wary of self-adhesive labels. If I were to go this route I would only use labels that were specifically designed to be placed on CDs or DVDs to make sure that a CD-safe adhesive was used. In addition, I'd take extra care to make sure that they were applied centered in exactly the right place. An off-center label can cause the CD to become out of balance, and vibrate so much that it's unreadable. In the worst case, it might even rattle itself to pieces in the drive.

"So my suggestion is to simply invest in a indelible ink pen..."

But ultimately, the real risk is increased deterioration over the CD's life due to the chemicals applied. Be it glue, adhesive or ink, these chemicals penetrate the CD's plastic material. Some will do relatively immediate damage, others may do little to no damage over many years.

So my suggestion is to simply invest in an indelible ink pen, and brush up on your handwriting skills.

I do the first part, at least.

Article C3436 - July 6, 2008 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

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20 Comments
jason
July 8, 2008 9:00 AM

Another alternative to labeling CD's (apart from the pen) is to invest in a lightscribe drive. These drives have the ability to not only wright dvd-rw, cd-rw etc etc but with a light scribe disk you can turn it over and burn the name to the disk and even add your own art work or photo as well. The only down side to this is that disks can be expensive, and it can take a long time to burn the name and art work to the back of the cd.

Matthew Brock
July 8, 2008 9:39 AM

I purchase media that has the printable surface. My printer (Epson) can print directly onto the CD to make a nice, professional label for my clients. If it is just for my personal use, I use the Sharpie and figure the printable surface adds a little extra protection.

JB
July 8, 2008 9:50 AM

Leo
I'm a professional communicator, and I'd like to offer you some unsolicited advice. Firstly, I do appreciate receiving the information from you. You also write quite well. However...you always give a caveat in your answers..it might do this, or the answer iw yes and no...waffling all over the place. Most puter users realize there are few absolutes, but there must be another way for you to give responses. Give the 90% answer, and then add the warning.
I enjoy your column, and please don't cancel me for sending you this. Believe me, my intention is positive.

Don Craft
July 8, 2008 11:10 AM

Gasp! Leo, the word for write as in writing on a CD is "Write" not Wright! I enjoy your column otherwise!

Diana
July 8, 2008 11:27 AM

What is up with you guys? Are you all so lacking in something to do that you have to pick his words apart? Leo I think you do a great job in giving out information. I wondered about putting labels on too, for the reasons that you gave.

Barbara J. Wovas
July 8, 2008 12:20 PM

Putting a label on a CD might hurt but not as much as correcting a person's speech while they are trying to help you!!! I do what Leo does and I set up the scenario BEFORE I give the advice. That way - I figure - the person receiving it won't be befuddled by my 'skipping around' 'nuf said GOOD GOING LEO! for shame, you people. LOL

Jerry Schnetz
July 8, 2008 12:33 PM

I have an HP computer, XP Media Center Edition 2005 that has a built in LightScribe DVD+Writer/CD-Writer. I burn the CD then turn it over and burn the label. You can download free label templates at LightScribe.com. The labels look great and it is worth the 25 - 30 minutes time to burn the label.

Glenn P.
July 8, 2008 12:38 PM

But "Diana", they are RIGHT (wright?) to "pick his words apart" -- proper spelling and word usage makes a BIG DIFFERENCE in how one is perceived! What on Earth good does it do Leo to have excellent answers, if no one will read them because they erroneously believe, on the basis of his misspellings, that he is a low-grade moron unworth of our attention? Good spelling, grammar, and word-usage speaks to one's level of education; it tells us something of the correspondent's reliability in what he is saying.

In a high-tech area, such a voicing computer advice, this is all the more important. I have actually TURNED AWAY from computer websites offering some badly-needed computer program or other, because the site had numerous misspellings. Because then you wonder: "Is the programming code misspelled, too? Is it, in fact, SAFE?" Hey, remember programming in BASIC? Remember "?SYNTAX ERROR"? Computers are very unforgiving of spelling mistakes. When it comes to programming, spelling mistakes can be EXTREMELY DANGEROUS. Who dares install a program written by a poor speller?

And quite apart from all that, misspellings give an impression of slapdash haste and inattention -- just as if we weren't worth the time or the effort for the correspondent to write carefully.

Just how far would YOU trust someone's computer advice who consistently spelled badly?

So, sorry "Diana", but YES, it DOES make a difference.

craigcu
July 8, 2008 1:02 PM

Sharpie (imagine the appropriate copyright image here) does in fact make a line of indelible markers specifically for labelling CD and DVD media. I was pleasantly surprised when I found them recently at an Office Depot (ok, name dropping again).
I'm not sure what magic pixel dust is added or removed that makes this ink formula different than the regular Sharpies, but I bought them anyways.

Craig

Bruce Young
July 8, 2008 3:36 PM

I have been hand printing info on disks for years. Sometimes quite a lot. I have used the Sharpie 'Fine point' (so-called, but it gets rather blunted over time), Sharpie 'Ultra Fine point' (works well, but big caveat: it is harder pen tip material, so MUST write gently). I have also used several brands of specific CD markers: Sharpie 'CD Marker' and Bic 'Mark-It CD-DVD Marker'. All have worked OK with no observed ill-effects.
Just note the caveat about being extra careful with markers that have a harder tip. The downside I have noticed that special CD markers sometimes dry out faster, especially from less well-known brands (some which also write less visibly).

machiner
July 8, 2008 10:12 PM

Actually, the most damage is from a label not perfectly centered on the disc.

If a label is at all lopsided it will effect the spon of the disc and will lead to failure much sooner than otherwise.

Yes, I have applied labels to discs although I stopped years ago. I just do what Leo suggests, the sharpie notation is the way to go.

I still have and can read from the cd's that have labels that I applied properly. The ones that had labels that were a wee bit off center are long gone.

Furqan
July 8, 2008 11:22 PM

I use centre transparent portion around the hole of CD/DVD for labelling.

I understand data is not written on this part so its the safest place to write. On the down side you need to write minimum & small.

Leo, I wonder whether we can use ordinary pencil for labelling. Does its lead may harm the CD/DVD ?

~Furqan

Mahmoud Elwahsh
July 9, 2008 12:38 AM

as a start thanks your efforts Leo,I just wanted to add my previous experience with adding labels to CD's ,using special CD labels ,commercially avialable in the market, does not hurt and now with the special technology of "Lightscribe" also is possible to label CD's but is possible only using special type of CD's.

Nick D
July 9, 2008 6:21 AM

I don't know if someone's already said this but you can buy CD's with printable surfaces on them so that you can print a label directly onto the disk with a printer. I've used these for the past year and never had any problems what so ever. I have a Canon PIXMA iP4000 and the software that came with it to do this CD labeling works fine for me. You can also get printable DVD discs as well.

I've made photo compilation discs for my relatives and then printed a nice photo onto the disc and everyone's been pleased with the result.

So if you tend to do a lot of burning discs and then putting labels on the disc I think that getting printable discs and a printer that can print onto CD/DVD's is one of the better options.

Leo
July 9, 2008 2:09 PM

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Yikes - I didn't expect a simple typo of a single word to
generate an argument in the comments.

So yes, Don & Glenn, I totally agree that writing reflects
on the writer. In fact I've written about it before here on
the site. But, alas, I am human. I am not perfect, nor will
I ever be. It's one reason I have an editor review each
article within a week of it being published. (Yes, I
publish, then edit - it's a conscious choice made so as not
to slow down the publication process.)

But if you're turning away from places because they have the
occasional typo ... well, there's probably not much left for
you to read, particularly on the internet. :-)

I also wanted to address JB's comment about not speaking in
absolutes.

I can't. Seriously, as soon as I say "this will work" - it
won't, and someone will be pissed off or worse. And yes, I'm
quite gun shy of that issue. One of the most difficult
problems I face trying to help people is that everyone's
computer, everyone's situation is different and I can't see
the specifics.

As you yourself say there are no absolutes. This is
something I honestly struggle with each time I write. My
approach has been to say "this is what I do and what works
for me" which is both honest and accurate and typically
(another waffle) is the 90% solution.

Leo


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WILLIAM COHEN
July 9, 2008 4:28 PM

I just looked at some CD marking pens made by Memorex- The "magic" word on them is
WATER BASED.

Diana
July 9, 2008 6:26 PM

I don't think he "consistently" misspells words. And I did go back over the article several times and could not find the misspelling. I had to assume it must have been on the picture of the cd. Misspelled words are irritating to me and I normally pick up on them right away. But I still think Leo does a great job and if he does mess up somewhere he admits it and goes on. If you read your own post you misspelled unworthy (left off the y on the end) but that doesn't make me think you are a "low-grade moron unworth(sic) of our attention". No one is perfect. We can only strive for it.

Diana
July 9, 2008 6:30 PM

Ok I've reread the article again and this time I do see the misspelled word. Leo you get 40 lashes with a wet noodle for a misspelled word. I still believe you are doing a great job with answering all the questions thrown at you. Thanks for all you do; you're doing a good job. And hey, I don't have a halo either. :^)

David
July 10, 2008 1:07 AM

leo, I'm sure we've all heard the old adage, if you never make a mistake you're not doing enough so I for one welcome your typos...lol I think you have the greatest newsletter out here specially since gizmo has gone over to the dark side merging with windows secrets. You're easily number one now...imho of course.

Lord Lollipop
July 11, 2008 7:44 AM

What a load of crap. I've done them all for years; full face labels, address size labels, sharpies. I have never seen a disk get out of balance. The "glue" on labels is not gonna damage the plastic. Never has, never will.

Now tell the truth, who has actually had a cd vibrate itself to pieces due to an off center label?

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