Non-current Portable Magnetic Media

   Critically Endangered small

Materials saved to floppy disks, tape, portable hard disks or other numerous magnetic storage devices where the media is out of warranty and reader devices may no longer be supported or integrated easily into hardware infrastructure: typically, more than five years old.

Digital Species: Portable Media

Trend in 2022:

No change No Change

Consensus Decision

Added to List: 2019

Trend in 2023:

No change No Change

Previously: Critically Endangered

Imminence of Action

Action is recommended within three years, detailed assessment within one year.

Significance of Loss

The loss of tools, data or services within this group would impact on people and sectors around the world.

Effort to Preserve | Inevitability

It would require a major effort to prevent or reduce losses in this group, possibly requiring the development of new preservation tools or techniques.


Floppy disks; tape; certain kinds of portable hard disks, zip drives.

‘Practically Extinct’ in the Presence of Aggravating Conditions

Poor storage; inability to access readers; no replication; encryption; aggressive compression.

‘Endangered’ in the Presence of Good Practice

Active management; dependable access to readers; strong documentation; documentation independent from the media.

2023 Review

The 2019 Jury introduced this entry to ensure that the range of media storage is properly assessed and presented. Portable magnetic media is ubiquitous but is fragile not just to physical wear and tear but also to magnetic interference and bit-rot. The substrates of the disks can prove unstable, and in some cases, proprietary reader technology means that the disk becomes obsolete before it degrades. Storage at scale also means the percentage likelihood of failure increases. The 2021 Jury agreed with the entry’s assigned risk classification with no noted changes towards increased or reduced risk.

The 2023 Council agreed with the risk classification of Critically Endangered with the overall risks remaining on the same basis as before (no change to the trend). Additionally, a new entry “Non-current Rare Portable Magnetic Media” was created as a split, related standalone entry to highlight the increased risk.

Additional Comments

There is no "active management" of data found on these media items. The data should be copied off of the media and into a digital preservation system that allows for active management. Data found on these media should be considered a backup, at best.

We know what to do with this type of material, it is the scale that makes it a problem.

There is really no excuse for using floppy disks for storage these days. Tape is a different proposition since it allows high-density back up offline and nearline. But there are challenges with the backward compatibility of popular and even relatively recent LTO versions.

Case Studies or Examples:

  • The Magnetic Tape Alert Project, Information for All Programme (IFAP) of UNESCO, in cooperation with IASA, the International Association of Sound and Audiovisual Archives, to alert stakeholders of the imminent threat of losing access to their audiovisual documents. The project included a survey of existing audiovisual documents on magnetic tape not yet digitally preserved. See Pace, A. (2020) ‘Magnetic Tape Alert Project Report’, IASA & UNESCO Information for All Programme. Available at: [accessed 24 October 2023] and UNESCO (2019), ‘The Magnetic Tape Alert Project is a step to save audio-visual archives’. Available at: [accessed 24 October 2023]

  • de Vries, D. (2016,) ‘8″ Disk Recovery: Kryoflux and Catweasel’, OPF Blog. Available at: [accessed 24 October 2023]

  • The British Library's Flashback Project, a proof-of-concept that explored the practical challenges of preserving digital content stored on physical media (magnetic and optical disks) using a sample of content from hybrid collection items dating from between 1980 and 2010. See Pennock, M., May, P., Day, M., Davies, K. and Whibley, S. (2016) ‘The Flashback Project: Rescuing disk-based content from the 1980s to the present day’, 11th International Digital Curation Conference, Amsterdam, Netherlands, 22-25 February. Available at:

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