I'm just curious --

In a business setting with native English and non-native English speakers. Most revenue is software based, but there is a significant category that includes physical CDs, DVDs, and USB drives (containing software).

Currently it's called "physical devices" -- however in a financial book, in isolation, this might conjure up the idea of computers & IT resources, especially since it's usually discussed in terms of cost.

Is a "device" the proper term for CD/ DVD/ and USB sticks?

I would imagine personally that "physical media" is a more accurate term - but am I just being pedantic? Or is the idea that a CD is a "device" simply incorrect?

Example sentence: "These are are wholesale costs for blank CDs and DVDs -- they fall under our Sales/ Costs of ____" (Physical Devices, Physical Media, ??)

  • These are data carriers.
    – RegDwigнt
    Oct 18, 2018 at 18:53
  • Those are all examples of external storage. Physical media refers to cabling.
    – jimm101
    Oct 18, 2018 at 19:05
  • 2
    @jimm101 -- in all my years in the business, I've never heard cabling called physical media. The term physical media came into use (as far as I can remember) when the option of delivering data via a network became a reality. As in, you can get the new software over the network or on physical media. Oct 18, 2018 at 19:17
  • @RogerSinasohn In the networking world, it's whether you're using copper, fiber, etc., and that goes back decades. See en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Physical_media
    – jimm101
    Oct 19, 2018 at 14:48
  • @jimm101 -- Huh. I'll admit that my networking experience is pretty much limited to the unfinished wiring poking out of holes in the wall all over my house. Now I've learned something new. On the software side of things, however, media refers to the discs (and memory sticks) you put your software on. Consider SuperMediaStore.com which has product categories including Blank CD/DVD Media (the actual discs) and Media Accessories (cases, labels, and mailers, etc.). Oct 19, 2018 at 18:15

2 Answers 2


If you are referring to the flat circles that hold data, software, music, and movies, along with flash memory that plugs into a USB port, then, collectively, they would indeed be called media. The Oxford Dictionaries has this definition of medium (the singular form of media):



  1. A particular form of storage material for computer files, such as magnetic tape or discs.

Magtape and disks (I've always argued that magnetic disks, both hard disks and floppy disks have a K while CDs -- Compact Discs -- and the like are discs with a C) are less common these days, but this definition would definitely be used for CDs, DVDs, and flash drives/cards.

If you want to be specific about what they'll be used for, you could call them storage media and if you want to highlight that your software will not be transmitted via the internet or other network, then physical media would work.


The expression I'd use is (external) storage device.

Device alone can refer to a lot more than what you're describing: computers, phones, fax machines, etc. Just think of the acronym BYOD. Saying it's a "physical device" doesn't clear this up.

Storage Device

Any media, permanently attached or transportable, capable of storing electronic information.


  • hard drive
  • CD-ROM
  • flash media
  • "thumb" drive
  • memory stick
  • [...]


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