kissing the CD goodbye.

I think it's time to stop living in the past and admit that I never access CDs after I have ripped them -- and stop devoting so many square feet of wall to making them easy to get to. Since I never do. Here in the 21st Century, they're solely for backup.

I know a lot of DJ folks who use those CD notebooks and throw away the jewel cases, but I'd feel bad just throwing away all the other pieces of the package (back cover art, etc.) and I sure don't want to tear up my fingernails by disassembling 1700+ jewel cases to save all that extra paper too.

So I'm thinking maybe I'll just get a few of these and fill them with jewel cases, and tuck them away in some write-only corner of the apartment. Something like that seems better than, like, comic book long-boxes or something, since it's roughly the right depth.

Have any of you come up with anything better?

Update: I got some of these plastic "underbed boxes" instead. I actually meant to get the "long underbed" boxes but I picked up the wrong one. But, I'm glad I got the smaller ones, because they're pretty heavy when full. It's not a perfect fit: the lids don't snap closed, and the last row of CDs is angled; but each box holds about 170 CDs. Good enough!

Tags: , , ,

77 Responses:

  1. niltsiar says:

    I've seen a few DJs who get those CD notebooks and put the other stuff in the pocket above the CD and use it vertically, that away they've got the track listing and all, but don't have the nasty jewel cases that take up too much room.

    • jwz says:

      See above, "don't want to spend the rest of my life tearing apart jewel cases with the bloody stumps that I used to call my fingers."

      • greyhame says:

        You still expect people to read your posts before commenting? Have you learned nothing?

      • nonbinary says:

        It actually doesn't take that long. A couple evenings. I did it about five or six years ago to store my back catalog. But, after having them untouched for years I plowed though looking for some new music to rip and was dismayed. All those disks that seemed important back then just seemed like silly wastes now, and without jewel boxes are now worthless for resale.

        • transiit says:

          One alternative is to exploit that slave-labor favorite, the (future) DNA Lounge internship program.


          • ctudball says:

            The strange part is it doesn't take a leap of imagnation to picture crowds of <lj user="jwz">-fanboyz lining up to volunteer for such a task.

  2. endico says:

    That's exactly what i do. I use these boxes from ikea. I just counted and one of them has 70 cd's in it including a couple double cd's that i counted as two. The box you pointed out seems pretty big. Is the cardboard strong enough to hold that many cds? (My massive collection fits in 3 boxes)

  3. mandil says:

    Disks eventually get damaged in binders. Your idea is great.

    • transiit says:

      Isn't this a bit like saying "Every day your house doesn't burn down increases the chances of the same"

      On the long term, everything gets destroyed. See also: The seven wonders of the world. (Go Egypt!)


      • spendocrat says:

        No, it's more like saying "There's a very high correlation between putting your disks in binders and them being damaged in the near future."

        • transiit says:

          I've got a staple gun that says jewel cases aren't any less impervious. You exercise about the same level of caution with your binder as you do your jewel cases, and other than a bit more friction against the readable surface on insertion and removal of said binder sleeve, they're about the same.

          But hey, if you've got some uneven furniture to prop up, I guess you gotta do what you gotta do.

          Besides, if you've decided that ever touching your CDs again is a lost art, you might as well leave them in the jewel cases when you pack them all away, rather than taking the previously-discounted example of his associate DJ folk.


  4. musicscene says:


    spent alot of time ripping all our cds into itunes... then stuffed them into Rubbermaid storage bins and exiled them to the garage. They are much cheaper than the above-linked-to Archival Underbed Garment Boxs.

    • mark242 says:

      Same here-- plastic bins are much better at repelling the elements than simple cardboard boxes.

      • autopope says:

        Let me second the vote for plastic. Plastic, stackable boxes with handles that lock the lids shut. (The variety I use is available here in the UK -- dunno about the US -- but there should be some local equivalent you can use.)

  5. xenogram says:

    If you're going to relegate them to backup, have you considered storing them offsite?

    • jwz says:

      You can't have them, if that's what you mean!

      • xenogram says:

        Have you really considered the security advantages of storing them at my place in another country? For a small additional fee you can receive postcards featuring CDs from your collection and a sheep, item of civic art, native bird or panoramic photo of a scenic feature.

  6. grahams says:

    I actually had the "do I really need CDs" revelation forced on me by a move... I have no room to put my shrines to CDs, so all of my CDs are packed in boxes and taped shut... I just used generic uhaul boxes though...

    A guy in college had those cardboard storage boxes you linked to for your cds and they seemed to do the trick, even holding up pretty well during moves...

    • jerronimo says:

      I'm considering doing this; putting all of our CDs (about 1400+ total between me and Pam) on hard disk, and just sharing them in the house, but it begs a few questions...

      Backups? That's a lot of time to rip them all... it would suck if the drive(s) crashed...

      What compression format/Bitrate?

      • grahams says:

        I originally started ripping my 500ish (CDs) back when I worked at Rovia... Every day after I got home from work I would rip some discs while watching some TV or reading a book.. It took about a month, and I ripped at 192kbps.

        In retrospect, I think I should have just bought some really big disks and gone with a lossless format (not because I am critical of 192kbps, but if I am truly going to leave my CDs in cold storage forever, I should at least have full-quality backups of them)... I suspect I am going to be re-ripping everything all over again at some point... :)

        After I ripped everything I left the music in the hands of the data gods for far too long, but luckily I didn't have any data loss before I got a DVD burner and was able to back everything up... It took about 18 DVD-Rs, but it did the trick. I was planning on RAIDing it up, but <lj user="jwz" /> rsync mirror sounds like a better idea.

  7. otterley says:

    If you're considering moving your source material to a difficult-to-reach place, I suggest you buy an extra hard disk or two first. At current hard disk prices of about 50 cents per gigabyte nowadays, I think it makes sense to re-rip all your CDs into some non-lossily-compressed format, whether it be WAV or FLAC or whatever, and stashing them on some easily-accessible hard disks which will take up only a tiny bit of physical space. MP3 is not going to be the most-supported compressed music format forever, and so you'll eventually want or need to re-encode all those songs in the future. It may well come down to a choice of either doing the work now, or doing it later when the risk of your CDs rotting or being otherwise inaccessible is greater.

    Food for thought, anyways.

  8. FWIW, I'm doing exactly what you're doing. For about 4 years now I've been accessing new CDs just once to rip them to my fileserver, and archiving them away in big cheap generic boxes. Interestingly, my brother-in-law (20 years older than me) spent years doing the exact same thing converting his brand-new LPs to cassettes. Somewhere in his house are boxes and boxes of mint-condition LPs that have been played just once.

    I agree with a previous commenter about thinking about how you're storing your live copies though -- not only would it be pertinent to consider what quality you've stored them at (I've been using highest quality VBR MP3) but you probably want to think seriously about protecting the data. I gave up on CDs/DVDs of MP3s ages ago because the writable discs deteriorate so quickly (only last about a year or so) and a tape drive is just way too expensive. I ended up buying 3 x 250G SATA drives and a hardware RAID-5 card and using that as my fileserver.

    (And I never used the term "write-only" to describe any part of my house before, but it's part of my vocabulary now. Nice.)

    • transiit says:

      I've yet to have a CD-R bitrot on me. Ok, so I'm still working on my 4-year old spindle of Memorex discs, but I can still pull data off the earliest I can find (dug out a few before this post).

      I'm thinking that either the CD-R rot stories are grossly exaggerated, or you people keep buying the absolute cheapest blanks you can find.


      • I've had it happen with a number of different kinds of CD-R and DVD-R, and I take pretty good care of them too.

        The other problem of course is that it's even more discs to store somewhere. My fileserver doesn't grow as I add more mp3s to it.

    • harvie says:

      In response to this I grabbed a couple of CDRs I wrote in April 1997. These sat on a windowsill for 4 years and were then moved to a better (dark) location. They've been used about 3 times to restore data from backups. All files on both discs CRCed perfectly to the copies on the fileserver.

      (Philips CDR-74 green/gold discs, support 6x, written at 2x - I can't find a program to get the media code from a written disc, let me know if you know how...)

  9. certron says:

    While my collection is much, much smaller, I have found success with using model 1852 Sterilite shoeboxes, either from the evil Mal-wart, or the less-evil Target. They are stackable, and 3 of them duct-tape together for easy transport. I'm happy with them, but I don't know how many of them I can stack before they crush...

  10. phoenixredux says:

    For the record, I would go with plastic boxes if you're planning to store them in a basement, garage or attic. Plastic is a superior material for repelling mice, insects, dust, moisture, and debris. Roaches love cardboard. Need I say more?

    Thanks for the link. I'm in the process of organizing a new apartment. That looks like a very useful site. We seem to have a very high crap:space ratio.

    • transiit says:

      I'd be surprised to see documented evidence of a mouse opening a jewel case, much less one that's rather densely packed with a bunch of it's familial ilk.

      The easiest way to keep vermin from your space is to bring your environmental standards so low that even insects can't survive.


  11. twiin says:

    Ikea sells nice and cheap CD Bookcases. Like normal bookcases, but sized to fit racks and racks of CDs. Easy mass-storage.

    • transiit says:

      By the same note, o-cousin-of-the-double-i, Sir Zawinski already has a plethora of homebrew cd racks. The intent here was to stash said clutter to a space where he doesn't have to think about it, much less allocate space to the organizational prowess of the Ikea mothership.

      Now go watch the Fight Club scene about the IKEA catalog, and be sure to savor the irony that you're watching a licensed format of a major-studio release that's trying to teach you (amongst other things) about the dangers of blind consumerism.


    • geektalk says:

      Yeah, I have a bunch of the Benno CD racks. They're far and away the smallest CD racks I've ever found. For one thing, they're only 6" deep, and for another they're 7.5 feet tall. So you can have 700 CDs that only take up 2.5 feet of wall space (and only come out from the wall 6 inches).

      Obviously won't work for jwz, but I for one was really happy when I found them.

  12. ciphergoth says:

    I put all my CDs in storage after I'd ripped them. Then I destroyed the hard drive that had all my music on it in the process of trying to back it up. It took me months to get around to retrieving the CDs so I can start ripping them again.

    • jwz says:

      My MP3s live on a drive where no partition is larger than 12GB. All partitions are mounted read-only except the one that is not yet full. There's a second drive in the same machine that's an exact clone of the first (via rsync, not RAID.) Once a month or so, I manually rsync from A to B.

      Not using RAID saves me from "rm" fuckups, since it'll only operate on one copy.

      • ciphergoth says:

        That should do the job.

        I stored all my music on my portable MP3 player. Then I took the hard drive out, and tried to plumb it into a desktop PC. Only I put the connector in one set of pins out of whack, and put power across the data pins. I have had plenty of time since to reflect on the wisdom of my decisions in this regard.

        I'm sure all the data is still there on the platters, but retrieving it at this point is about a thousand pounds to a data retrieval company...

      • vordark says:

        Is this drive only for MP3s? I don't think state secrets are this well protected.

      • zuvembi says:

        That sounds about like what I'm doing with my collection. I've been rsync'ing my important personal data to a friends server in Ohio for a while now. I've arranged with him to pop a hard drive I'm sending him for music into his server, using rsync with rate-limiting to back everything up. I think that short of thermonuclear warfare, my music will be safe.

        In the event of thermonuclear warfare, I'll be too busy stocking up on mutant repellent to worry about whether my PWEI is backed up.

        • tyggerjai says:

          On behalf of your unavoidably mutant offspring who will be thus deprived of PWEI, I question your sense of priorities in this matter.


  13. ydna says:

    I came to the same conclusion a year ago. All the CDs and jewel cases are in $6 stackable plastic totes from Costco. The downside is the CDs would be stacked in layers and you can't see what's in there. Those cardboard underbed garment boxes tend to puke when filled up with CD cases and you try to pick one up. And $40 for a cardboard box? Wow.

    The totes are 12 gallon capacity, about 23" x 15" x 10"H, model CU2212CBL, Costco item 80977, UPC 020027057184. They have sloped sides, nest when not in use, very sturdy walls and lid, stack six high with huge heavy things in them without trouble. Blah blah blah. I'm using hundreds of them.

  14. hotzenplotz says:

    Talking about ikea, check out MP3-Cube. It's in german but looking at the pictures you get the idea. They are based on

  15. rjhatl says:

    I feel your pain. I've got almost 1900 CDs, and I've finally decided that I'm either going to need to build custom shelving for them ('cause nobody makes CD racks for that many CDs) or put them away.

    • jerronimo says:

      At a previous house, i was using some homemade shelves for my cds. They were made out of simple, stained/varnished 1x6 lumber. the verticals had dados cut in them every 6(?) inches or so, and the horizontals fit into those dados. two drywall screws then secured those through the verticals. It was then secured to the wall to keep it from toppling over.

      It held about 600 cds comfortably. 3-4' wide, 7-8' tall

      I had to give it up when i moved, and everything (for the past 2-3 years) is in rubbermaid containers, whcih suck for looking for things, or remembering what you have. :(

  16. alisgray says:

    Cardboard boxes built to hold textiles may not be sturdy enough for transporting heavier CDs, but for storage those look like an excellent option. The broad lid offers a useful space to paste a list of what's inside. Nearly all of my records I bought used and dented anyway so I guess I don't care if they're lightstruck. (I guess.)

  17. pixiecup says:

    sell them on

  18. In what way would you feel bad about throwing away the cases & case inserts? That you would never again get to gaze upon the back sleeve art?

    I'm at nearly the same point as you. I'm going to use DJ notebooks, keeping any booklets/front sleeve inserts which are trivial to get out of the jewel cases, and sacrificing any sleeve art that would require disassembling the jewel cases to get to.

  19. roninspoon says:

    I did roughly the same thing a few years ago, put all the disks in binders and the jewel cases in boxes. Granted, I only had a few hundred and so I used old boxes from the garage, which was fine becuase that's where the boxes went right back to. While cleaning up this spring, I found the boxes of jewel cases and realized that not only had I not once sought those boxes out, either to appreciate the artwork or look up a track listing. In fact, I realized that I didn't even know what had become of the binders of CDs. Turns out my wife had appropriated the CDs. Looking at the dusty boxs chock full of empty jewel cases I decided I'd never need them and put them out on the curb.

    Predictably the box was gone in the morning. Our local garbage scavengers had absconded with them. I got a little tickle thinking about someone believing they'd scored a few boxes of CDs and then later finding out they'd hauled away my garbage.

    Of course, you may have more sentimental attachment to jewel cases than I do.

  20. rpkrajewski says:

    I use binders that are kept well off the floor (which matters because the binders are in the basement) and keep the backing papers in small cardboard boxes, sorted (err, mostly sorted). Digipaks and other interesting packaged CDs stay the way they are.

  21. ckn says:

    CD case/art storage has been a problem I've faced for several years, with all of the moving around I do. I have tried small boxes like the one you are considering, however due to circumstance you may not face when that particular box gets wet things get ruined.

    The other situation that we both may share is the size of those containers, they're not so very large and we both have tons of CDs. For this, after much deliberation and research I settled on some 30-gallon tupperware box I got at walmart for $10. It holds atleast 400 cd-cases and stacks nicely in a storage area.

    thankfully we dont have to keep the packaging discs come in too!

  22. travisd says:

    There's these, which claim to handle the back-inserts and such as well. Probably wasted money though if you don't intend to actually access them. I'm sticking with random cardboard boxes for now.

    And on the backup subject: I've just started doing the "convert everything to MP3" exercise. For backups I rsync it to another machine in a different location. Even over a moderate speed connection it works fine. You could put a backup drive over at the Lounge. Nice thing with rsync is you can do the initial copy locally and then just push updates over the wire.

  23. johnreen says:

    So, I may have missed this, but how are you storing your digitized music these days?

    That is: are you doing straight MP3? Ogg? FLAC/WAV with automatic conversion to MP3/OGG/WMA for whatever "on-the-go" player you need (yes, I've heard of people doing this).

    I ask because this post got me thinking about encoding all of my CDs, and... well... I was curious what route you took, and why you took it.

    (Yes, there's probably a post where you go into detail on this somewhere.)

    • jwz says:

      I hate your icon, please change it.

      I encode everything at 128k MP3. I can't hear the difference (and I like it that way).

      And it means I can fit the whole collection on one drive, so I don't have to fuck around with a machine with more than 4 devices in it (system, mp3, mirror, cd). My music collection grows more slowly than the rate at which disk capacity increases, so I expect it to always fit on one drive.

      I don't give a shit about Ogg because the whole wide world uses MP3.

      Grip + lame -q 2 -b 128 -m j. I don't use VBR because it wasn't well supported a few years ago, and I never found a reason to care.

      • johnreen says:

        This one better?

        So, I've heard of people doing the FLAC thing (precisely so they *can* get rid of these antiquated plastic disc thingies), and then re-encoding those as necessary for devices that don't do FLAC. I've actually heard three different groups of people try that, so it seems to be popularish.

        Have you considered doing this (especially given the fact you want to dump your "hard copies") or do you not-care enough to not-bother?

        • jwz says:

          128k sounds fine to me, so I just don't care.

          I don't know how well FLAC compresses, but I doubt it's the 10x you get from MP3, which means the archive would no longer all fit on one disk.

          • kfringe says:

            I use duffel bags piled in the closet. I had duffel bags, and I had a closet. It was a real no brainer.

            Flac tends to compress at about 50%. This may be useless for you, but it was the single thing that got me to move over to a computer for music. I, unfortunately, can hear the difference.

            Flac has a couple of real benefits over rziping up the wav files. That is to say that it makes a playable copy that has tag information. The benefit of lossless encoding, of course, is that I don't have to shuffle 1400 discs through my drives when I want to go to a higher bitrate mp3. All I would need is a disposable perl script. I haven't needed it, though. First, I haven't used headphones in ten years, so small device support hasn't been on my list. Every larger device I've looked at in the last year or so has supported flac, so that's easy. Best yet, Slimserver will transcode the flac to a reasonable bitrate of mp3 for streaming, so I don't even need to worry about that.

            I should warn you that there will be people who take offense to the idea that Ogg Vorbis is a joke. Ogg Vorbis is not a joke. Is is keeping the proud tradition of features by assertation. You would have to be some sort of bitter cynic to think that a great format that is supported by three or four whole hardware devices from Formersovblocistan is a joke.

            • photwenny says:

              I'm with jwz on this, except for the 128 part. I think I've convinced myself that I have heard artifacts in some 112 and 128 kbps mp3s, so I encode at 160 or 192VBR (depending on whether or not I remember to change the mp3 settings on iTunes). Yeah, I use iTunes to import. I'm beyond lame (however you want to interpret it).

              My music collection is small enough that it could probably fit on a single 500G disk, uncompressed, if/when those are available. I just ripped the whole thing to 192VBR mp3, and after the first 50 or so CDs, I decided I never want to do this again (and I only had about 450 to go!) and thought about the Flac thing (I won't use apple's lossless encoding, since its probably not well supported outside of macs... and I NEVER want to have to load 500 discs into the drive again). But I didn't have a single drive large enough to hold it (250G is really like 232 on this drive), and well, I'd already done 50 to mp3s.

              But I can't tell the difference. I really can't tell the difference in the environments I listen to music. My office has fan noise, and dogs and cats , and a TV on in the other room. In my car, the road noise masks more of the nuances than mp3 artifacts. And, well, my acoustically-perfect, double-walled, sunken listening room just doesn't freaking exist, but if it did, that's where I'd store all my CDs on nice racks (and while we're dreaming, however you want to interpret it), since that would be about the only place I might need perfect copies. And then I'd just get beat down by those vinyl freaks.

              What I really need to do is a Lego Mindstorms CD/DVD loader robot to feed my computer discs, so tedious manual labor involved in managing my music library (since I can't "legally" download music in a format as useful as on a CD) isn't my problem. Like that's gonna happen.

          • johnreen says:

            Out of curiosity, then, how many physical CDs are we talking here?

            I'm curious because this discussion has prompted me to think about digitizing my collection, so I'm making the big decisions (format, etc.) right now... because like someone else said: I never want to have to do this again.

            But at least now I'll know where to put the things when I'm done...

    • geektalk says:

      I do the FLAC + conversion thing. I rip everything to flac, then do one conversion to mp3 for sharing and another conversion to ogg for my player (since my player supports ogg, and the files are way smaller than mp3, so I can fit a lot mor).

      It works well for me, but takes a lot of drive space, of course, since I end up storing three copies of my music.

  24. rearkick says:

    I'd say screw it and A)Make wall art out of the CD's B)Make furniture out of the CD cases.


  25. jkonrath says:

    I'm trying to do the same thing with DVDs except I don't actually rip them, I'm just trying to store away the ones I don't watch that often and gain back some space in my living room, as opposed to storing my new purchases in the bathroom or kitchen or something.

    Anyway, I went through a few different iterations of plastic boxes before I found the Rubbermaid Keepsake Box. It only holds 32 DVDs, but try swinging around boxes with 150 DVDs in them when you need to find something. They are also notched on the top and bottom so you can stack a fuckload of them together without worrying about a collapse.

    That site has them for $7, but I found a store locally that had them for $4 and cleaned out their stock.

    And if anyone's looking for storage for oddball stuff, check out They sell archival supplies for libraries, but have acid-free cards and binders and boxes and cases for whatever cards or figures or booklets or novels or whatever else you might want to sock away.

  26. Is it really goodbye if they just go to a far corner?

    Is there another corner with plastic boxes of cassette, vinyl and 8-track "backups" :-)

  27. One thing about those boxes (I believe my wife bought the same ones from the same chain of stores). Over two years or so the plastic has become brittle on mine, and difficult to open the lids. In fact the other day I couldn't open one up, so I punched it, shattering the plastic and cutting my hand up pretty nasty, leaving me looking pretty retarded. Er, so, uh, yeah.


  28. morganw says:

    When I put my CDs in a jukebox, I put the inserts in a notebook full of 5x7 photo pages like these

    It's not that hard to get the back paper out of a jewel case with a little practice. I don't even use my finger nails, just fingertips to start the left edge, then release the top & bottom pegs closest to the spine, then the other two top & bottom pegs.