StarfishChris: You'd be mad to keep you digital photos on just your HD. How much does a blank CDR cost? Make two or three for safety. Even then, you need to re-copy every few years. I use PAR2 for extra security.
I work in a computer repair shop, that's why I see loads of dead machines
I too have not had any drives fail, despite having at least 20 odd. Okay, perhaps some of the really old ones from the early 90s have failed by now, but I stopped using them before then anyway.
sthayashi: Thanks for the link. You are right about surge protectors - the cheap ones do nothing. Your best bet is to get a small but good quality UPS. No need for more then a few minutes of power from it, the main thing is that the output is totally isolated from the input and thus immune to spikes.
mathias: Yes, Taiyo Yuden are the only brand I use for anything I want to keep. Everything else is a waste of time, far too hit-and-miss. Plus, they burn perfectly at 12x on my drive, better than at 8x in fact.
For those not in the know, the only optical disc still made in Japan are Taiyo Yuden's. TY invented the original CDR, and their discs are second to none in terms of quality and reliability. Many discs use the TY media code, but have inferior dyes and don't last.
One easy way to tell if your disc is cheap is to burn at a high speed (8x minimum) and then run Nero DriveSpeed or similar. If the speed drops off towards the end of the disc, it's because it's poor quality and the DVD drive has to slow down to accurately read it.