Under ideal preservation conditions, optical media can have a lifespan of up to a hundred years.
However, as already described, they may already contain errors. Natural decay may also occur, and the equipment or programmes needed to read or perceive the information may become inaccessible and effectively result in loss of information.
The lifespan of CD-Rs and DVD-Rs remains debatable and is often discussed (though seldom agreed upon) in various forms of publication, including the DIVA discussion list. Too many factors have a role to play: the quality of the material from which the CD-R is manufactured, the data quality, the environmental conditions in which the objects are stored, and last but not least the manner in which people treat the CDs and DVDs.