Indexing offline CD-ROM archives

Suppose you’ve been good (or sort of good anyway), and you have a huge stack of CD-ROMs (or DVDs) with backups and archives of your old files. Great. But how can you find anything? I solved this problem today by making an index of all the files stored on these disks using a few simple GNU command line tools.

I have a metal CD case that is supposed to hold 200 CDs about half full of CDs, most of which are backups or archives. That’s about 75 backup disks.

There’s no way I can remember what’s on them all. Nor, typically, can I remember which disk will have a given file that I know I had at one point. This came up today because I’m preparing a presentation and I need some old image files that I know I had a few years ago. Moreover, I’m positive that I would’ve backed them up. But where?

Well, obviously, I’m going to have to search every disk. But how can I make that easier? And isn’t there some way I can avoid doing that in the future?

Well, of course, I need to make some kind of database or index of all the files. Something like what the locate command searches to find files on my running system.