Tape Care & Preservation

The sounds and images of the world are preserved on magnetic tape. They can be kept alive only as long as the tape lasts.

Few people know that magnetic tape can start to lose data within 8 years and become totally unreadable within 20 years.

Magnetic Tape Care
Magnetic Tape Care

Yet, magnetic tape has been entrusted to preserve a precious commodity — our cultural heritage. Video tapes of historic events, master tapes of original music performances, home videos of family memories, and tapes of valuable business data are quietly deteriorating in drawers and cabinets all over the world — soon to be lost forever, leaving only the tape backing and a pile of magnetic dust behind.

Fortunately, this cultural heritage can be saved and preserved indefinitely with proper care and treatment with LAST Tape Preservative.

What Causes Tape Deterioration

Breakdown of the binder that holds the magnetic particles to the plastic tape backing is the main cause of tape deterioration. The polyester component of the binder absorbs moisture from the air. When that occurs, the polyester breaks down into an acid and an alcohol and loses its ability to hold the magnetic oxide to the tape backing. If you have ever opened a box or canister of old tape, and smelled a “vinegar” smell, you have directly experienced binder breakdown.

Typically, tapes are exposed to changes of temperature that cause the tapes to expand and contract. This speeds up the process of moisture absorption. Once binder breakdown starts, it accelerates over time, and culminates when large segments of magnetic oxide separate from the tape. When this occurs, the tape is irretrievably lost.

In addition, tape wear caused by misalignment of guides and heads in the tape transport further contribute to tape deterioration.

Tape Squeal

As tape ages, in addition to absorbing moisture, it loses internal lubricants. This increases stick-slip and can result in tape squeal.

How to Preserve and Protect Magnetic Tape

LAST Tape Preservative stops the mechanism that causes binder breakdown and data loss, while dramatically reducing the friction at the tape/head interface. The result is greatly extended tape life, improved performance, and increased head life. LAST Tape Preservative:

• Significantly reduces data loss from magnetic tape
• Increases head life
• Reduces tape wear
• Prevents tape squeal
• Reduces tape abrasiveness
• Improves playback performance
• Extends tape life by up to 10 times

Treated tapes stored under normal household conditions will last for decades. Treated tapes stored in ideal conditions may last more than 100 years.

New Tapes — New tapes should be treated with LAST Tape Preservative immediately to prevent moisture absorption.

Old Tapes — Older tapes have already absorbed moisture need to have the moisture removed before treatment with LAST Tape Preservative. We have found that vacuum drying (which requires special equipment) is the best method to remove moisture from tape. Once drying is finished the tape should be treated with LAST Tape Preservative.

Improve Frequency Response and Increase the Life of Heads and Guides

Designed to improve the interface between tape heads, guides, and magnetic media, LAST Tape Head Treatment reduces friction, tape stiction, and wear of guides and expensive tape heads. Frequency response is improved and dropouts are greatly reduced when tape heads and guides are treated with LAST Tape Head Treatment. Tape motion is noticeably smoother, resulting in a measurable reduction in I.M. distortion.

The life of treated guides and heads can be further increased when tapes have been treated with LAST Tape Preservative. LAST Tape Head Treatment clings to the surface of heads and guides with incredible tenacity. One application will last the entire length of the tape.