Disc rot & Cartridge failure


#1

Wanted to ask about others experience with this.

Personally I have zero disc-based games with rot related failure (holes, oxidization, or cloudiness). I have a few with severe scratches of course, usually that’s caused by issues with disc drives themselves scratching discs in a perfect circle.

However I have four cartridge-based games with failure that I have not been able to repair (it seems to be the rom chips themselves):

  • Donkey Kong 2001 (Japanese ver of GBC DKC)
  • Pokemon Crystal (GBC, intermittent failure, but permanent seems imminent)
  • Pokemon LeafGreen (GBA)
  • Densetsu no Starfy 2 (GBA)

I’m not sure what caused the failures here; it may be an electrical issue, maybe even originally a manufacturing defect, or environmental given these are all handheld games – they may have spent time outside in rain, snow, or worse.

I’m not trying to deny that disc rot is real but it seems fairly rare and isolated to poor manufacturing practices, poor storage conditions (extreme heat/humidity?) or handling, or a mix of both, certainly not something that is inevitable. For games it seems older Sega discs for Sega CD and Saturn games that are most likely to fail, likely related to poor manufacturing.

For CDs & Blu-Rays the top lacquer layer ought to be enough to protect the reflective aluminum layer, and for DVDs you have the polycarbonate sandwich is arguably even better.

Anyone else want to share their experiences?


#2

I don’t have any disc rot but I do have 2 FDS games that won’t read and apparently that’s becoming an issue with magnetic based media.

I don’t have any carts that don’t work however in my field of work chip failures are becoming more of a problem as time goes on. I worry about the same happening with video games although they are not powered 24/7 like an elevator is.


#3

I have hundreds of discs and thankfully no problems with them. The oldest are DOS CD games from the early 90s (King’s Quest V or Interplay’s Lord of the Rings are likely the oldest)

On the console side I didn’t do anything with discs until the PSX - those are also all ok.

I’ve only had one cart failure - Metroid II on GB. I tried to reflow the solder, but couldn’t bring it back to life.


#4

I had a GCN copy of Twilight Princess that looks pristine that will succumb to DREs no matter which GCN or Wii I use to play it. I didn’t buy it new though so I can’t conclude for sure whether it was damaged in some way by poor handling.

It worked fine for the first 5-10 hours I played it. And now won’t even boot.

I’ve since bought another copy for the GCN as a replacement.


#5

Interesting, I have heard some chatter that people have issues with GameCube games, especially MGS Twin Snakes, but personally I don’t see any issues with my 50+ GC games. I may try to verify some of them against online checksums to see if there’s anything I’m missing by eye or experience.


#6

@poptart yeah you could try reflow the solder on the chips on your faulty carts and see if that helps. Voultar has a video of fixing a GB cart by doing that here.

As for myself I’ve only had one cart that was problematic. Kid Dracula for Famicom. That game has a built in copy protection algorithm that triggers if something is wrong and makes enemies as well as the rotating platforms in level 2 not spawn, meaning you can’t progress. That happened almost all the time with that cartridge. Maybe it was a bad connection with the console connector or something but I eventually got another copy of it.
And also my copy of Contra for Famicom is quite difficult to get to start, but again that’s probably the pins on it being a bit worn or something. It does work eventually.

Discs I haven’t had any issues with yet.


#7

It isnt the solder, I reflowed one and tested every card edge pin to chip pin on all 4 carts and they’re all fine.


#8

I’ve seen Mega CD disc rot. The game still played but it was clearly deteriorating.

Had a Killer 7 GCN disc 2 that didn’t work. Perfect physically. I could get into the game by force skipping the disc 2 intro.

And two PCE hucards have failed.

Apart from that the only other issues were with clearly mistreated items. Like some beat up carts with corroded parts, or FDS games from a flea market that were left in the sun. All well looked after carts and FDS disks have never skipped a beat.


#9

I’m only just above the 400 game mark, but I haven’t run across a single game that doesn’t work (disc or cart).


#10

Checked MGS Twin Snakes Disc 1 because people seem to think it’s impossible to find any copies that don’t have disc rot.

Of course it’s fine. Most of the stuff I’ve seen online makes it look like label peeling is an issue with that game, which shouldn’t be a big problem anyway as the label is separated from data by a polycarbonate layer on DVDs.

Was kinda annoying to do this cause I had to rip the thing with my Wii first and then bring it to a PC to check the sha1. I’ve been thinking to make a bunch of rips anyway so maybe once I get that done I could do a set of checksums against online DBs to see how things look.


#11

Cross post from GAF

Disk rot is real. My oldest music cd (…and justice for all, bought in 88) is skipping a lot of tracks because of severe disk rot and I lost some neogeo cd and saturn games because of disk rot. I even had it on dreamcast games (my gigawing disk have a lot of graphical glitches that is getting worst over time). And I take good care of my games.

But my sega cd and playstation games are fine, no one had any disk rot so far. Go figure.


#12

Almost all Commodore floppy disks and tapes I have has since the '80s still work. My original World Karate Championship died, though.

There was a huge pile of C64 disks someone gave me in 2008 and about a quarter were defective. They probably weren’t stored as safely over the years. On some disks, you can tell there’s disintegration in the form of brown powder.

As for discs, I haven’t checked any for rot. I have had scratches screw me over, especially for Sega CD but also Playstation. The first copy of Resident Evil I would fuck up about 75% of the way through the game. And when I rented Crash Bandicoot back then, it just stopped working completely.

For cartridges, I noticed some stopped working:
Frogger (InTV)
Chopper Command (2600)
Operation C (GB)

And some cartridges I bought used would never start up:
Atomic Robo Kid Special (PCE)
Demolition Man (Gen)

I’m forgetting a couple but overall it hasn’t been too bad.


#13

Disc rot for music CDs especially from the 80s and 90s seems more common for some reason than with games.


#14

I have yet to encounter disc rot, but I have had two genesis cartridges that I have been unable to get working: Alisia Dragoon and Valis. Unfortunately neither are cheap to replace.


#15

Damn. That hurts :frowning:

Great games too. Especially Alisia Dragoon.


#16

At least disk rot won’t totally destroy music cd (at worse, it will skip some seconds) as it can do with games. Also, reprints are more commonplace.


#17

I have about 200 5 1/4" floppies for C64, and they all work flawlessly.

In the flip side, I got a big box of 3 1/2" floppies (probably 300+) for Amiga, and well over half don’t work.


#18

I remember watching an old episode of Modern Marvels years ago about the Library of Congress, and they spoke about preserving CDs. Apparently the dyes used prior to 1994 were susceptible to failure from what we call ‘disc rot’, and were expected to last ~25 years or so before beginning to become damaged enough to lose irrecoverable data.

After '94 the dyes used were improved and the better formulations were rated at 4x the longevity of the old ones so around 100 years of reliable reads (ideally). The catch is manufacturers still used the inferior stuff for cost/supply reasons at least into the mid-90s, and it is impossible to tell what type of dye/material was used since manufacturers did not differentiate when pressing.

This was just a few minutes of a TV episode so it is probably not 100% correct, but this is what I remember. The episode is on YT (don’t want to link it since I’m sure it is on there without permission). I have no idea if this applies to DVDs of a certain vintage, since they are made differently.

I haven’t had any problems with disc rot with my modest collection, even though much of it is stored in less-than-ideal conditions. Actually, I’d love to see more videos on preservation of different media, (best practices, ideal conditions, etc), presented in a fun way by a real professional.


#19

Pressed discs don’t use dyes except for the labels.

The failure pressed CDs experience is due to the lacquer coating failing or not being applied properly. When that happens the aluminum in the reflective layer oxidizes and you get bronzing or holes.

Apparently there was a problem early on where the lacquer used in some CDs where it would react with sulfur and degrade, exposing the aluminum to oxidation. That was compounded by the paper in the manuals / cover containing sulfur.

I think that was corrected around 1994 so that may be what you’re thinking of.

I’ve seen some estimates on the lifespan of CD-Rs which do use dyes (the dyes change reflectivity when heated with a laser), and the lifespan was in the decades on the low end unless there were manufacturing defects. But afaik nobody really knows how long a properly manufactured pressed CD or DVD should last in the real world.


#20

Ah, that must have been it, I haven’t actually watched that episode in a while so I didn’t remember the details, thank you for the correction!

I am not worried too much about disc rot or cart failure though, as thankfully all of these things are digital. Compared to something analog like tape, it is much easier to get a pretty much perfect copy of a CD, and even carts if you have the right tools. Reproductions are relatively easy to produce for things like the cases, manuals, ect. as well, as long as they are scanned at some point. As long as games are preserved, I’m not so fussed about my personal copies.

What does worry me is the custom hardware/software and chips used in some consoles. A project like the Super Nt is such a wonderful thing, but until the details of the chips and other hardware used are well known, these types of efforts are almost impossible to do with complete accuracy. Thankfully preservation efforts seem to be increasing every year and progress is being made to make the process of accurately dumping easier. Hopefully we can minimize the items that fall through the cracks.