Records Managers

Transfer of Electronic Records

This overview on the transfer of electronic records is taken from NARA's regulations in the Code of Federal Regulations (36 CFR 1235.44/.46/.48/.50). For more specific details, see Part 1235.

Transfer Media

  1. Magnetic tape: Agencies may transfer electronic records to the National Archives on magnetic tape using either open-reel magnetic tape or tape cartridges. Tape cartridges may be 18-track 3480-class cartridges recorded at 37,871 bpi and blocked at no more than 32,760 bytes per block, or DLT tape IV cartridges that must be recorded in an uncompressed format.

  2. Compact-Disk, Read Only Memory (CD-ROM): CD-ROMs may be used as transfer media for fielded data files or text files if they: conform to the International Standards Organization (ISO) 9660 standard and to the American Standard Code for Information Interchange (ASCII); are not compressed unless NARA has approved the transfer of the compressed form in advance; and are individually addressable. The CD-ROMs may contain software files and temporary records, but permanent records must be in files that contain only permanent records.

  3. File Transfer Protocol: Agencies may use File Transfer Protocol (FTP) to transfer electronic records scheduled for preservation into the National Archives. For specific requirements related to FTP transfers, please review Part 1235.


Records shall be in a format that is not dependent on specific hardware or software, written in ASCII or EBCDIC with all extraneous control characters removed (except record length indicators for variable length records, marks delimiting a data element, field, record or file, or Standard Generalized Markup Language tags). Records should not be compressed unless NARA has approved the transfer in the compressed form in advance.

Data files and databases shall be transferred as flat files or as rectangular tables, that is, as two-dimensional arrays, lists or tables. All records in a database or tuples in a relational database should have the same logical format. Each data element within a record should contain only one data value. A record should not contain nested repeating groups of data items.

NARA accepts records in a limited number of additional formats, including: digital photos, PDF records, GIS records, web records, scanned text, and email records. For information on transfering electronic records in these formats, please review the Electronic Records Management Initiative materials at

Documentation in electronic format shall be transferred as separate files, and the transfer format standards for electronic records apply also to files that contain documentation. For more information, please review 36 CFR 1235.48.

November 2009

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