Four Steps to Protect Your Precious Photos

It may be hard to believe, but it’s true: your digital photos captured with the latest and greatest technology may not last as long as the old film photos you snapped a generation ago. The reason is simple – in the old days, the only way you’d lose your photos is if some massive catastrophe struck – a fire, or flood or any event that would physically destroy those photo prints.

Today, in the digital world, your images can disappear in the blink of an eye thanks to a hard drive crash. And, unlike fires, floods and tornadoes  a hard drive crash is a very common occurrence. Hard drives last on average about five years. And it’s important to realize, hard drive crashes are not a matter of “if” but “when” – and when your hard drive goes, it could very well take all your digital photos and videos – your digital memories – with it. Imagine the photos of your child’s birth and first steps wiped out forever. Yikes!

So it’s very important that you devise a photo protection plan to ensure your digital photos will last as long as your film prints. Here’s our four-point plan that can save your digital memories.

Step 1: Stay Organized.

Before you can protect your photos and videos, you need to know where they all are. If you’re not using some form of photo software, like perhaps an award-winner such as Zoner Photo Studio, to organize your photos and are instead trying to deal with folders on your PC, you’re not as organized as you can be. A photo software program like Zoner can find and organize all the images and videos on your computer and get your photo library completely organized so finding your favorites can be a fast and easy process.

Zoner

Step 2: Make a Copy (or Two).

To keep your digital photos and videos safe what you need to do is make a copy of those digital files and store them on something in addition to your hard drive. The idea is to have multiple copies of the same photo on different storage mediums. If this sounds confusing, don’t worry it’s pretty straightforward. You have a number of options for storage such as CD, DVD, thumb drives, external hard drives, and cloud services, such as Zoner’s free cloud service Zonerama. Our advice: use both a large external hard drive and Zonerama to give you the ‘best of both worlds’ security.

Step Three: Make it a Habit.

Depending on what (or where) you choose to store your photos on, you’ll need to be sure you’re regularly copying over any new images. If you use an external drive or online service, this can sometimes be done for you automatically: every time you load a new photo onto your hard drive, it will be automatically copied to an external drive or online server. But if you don’t have this automated option, you’ll have to get into a routine whenever you load new photos onto your computer to also back them up on another storage media. It’s requires just a bit of extra time but it’s all about preserving your digital life, so it’s worth the extra few minutes.

Step Four: Stay Informed.

The trickiest part of any photo protection plan is keeping up with different storage formats. Today, all computers come with DVD drives. In 10 years, chances are, they won’t. If you’re sitting on a pile of DVDs with photos on them, you’re going to have to move them onto another storage format as DVDs become obsolete. If you’re at least somewhat aware of changing technology trends, you’ll be able to stay ahead of this curve and move your images onto updated storage formats as times change.

Last updated 21. September 2014

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Author: Michael McEnaney

I am a veteran technology journalist with over 20 years experience covering consumer electronics and imaging tech as well as launching, editing/writing content, selling and marketing a variety of publications and websites. Most recently I helped NAPCO launch the Technologytell.com network of consumer tech websites and also helped launch the popular tech website TechTimes.com as well as launching his own website at www.your-digital-life.com that covers all consumers can do with their digital images and videos after they’ve captured them. My true passion has always been photography – both capturing life’s most precious moments as well as covering the pros that capture the world.

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Comments

  • Rayaz

    Using a SSD drive with an external enclosure seems to be a good backup option these days

  • Graham Goodwin

    Wouldn’t it be really good if there was a Zonerama sync function as there is in Picasa? Then photos could be uploaded to the online gallery automatically. I’d even be happy to pay for this facility :) .

  • Antonio Raffaeli

    uso Zoner Sttudio 12 mi trovo benissimo

  • Dandy

    Congrats for picking this subject ! It’s a very important one!

    My opinion: it’s a great idea to have 2 external hdds. And not just any brand, just search for the most reliable one. It may be more expensive, but if you care about your photos, that won’t really matter. Also, I would choose some high quality CDs and DVDs, for personal movies and photos.

    One question though: should we trust the “big clouds” (dropbox and alike) with our photos? It’s all about privacy and they don’t offer any guarantee against a hacker (man or institution). They just offer insanely amounts of space, based only on Moore’s law, and less on common sense. But nothing about privacy protection. Or… is this a question for another article? :)

  • gollem

    I have a lot of CD’s and DVD’s that give’s an error message when I try to read them, something with “redundancy check”.

    • gollem

      And they were not the cheapiest,
      sd cards can fail too.
      My slides and negatives are still in good shape after 40 years

  • Unfortunately this is the risk we all run when using out-of-date tech to store our images but I suggest checking drive itself and the discs for signs of damage and dust. If the face of the discs had been marked with a marker this can cause damage over time as well. Outside of that…. there is always our old friend Google for help.