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Digital Photo Backup

Updated on April 18, 2018
RuthCoffee profile image

I've been researching and writing about consumer electronics for over 12 years.

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All About Why and How to Backup Your Digital Photos

You go happily about your business snapping photos of important events, loved ones, memorable vacation sites or perhaps you are a professional creating the images that others will covet for their beauty and uniqueness. Once your digital camera and memory card are full, you download those photos to your computer for editing, sharing, or perhaps printing.

But then what? Are those precious photos left sitting on your computer hard drive, unprotected from a virus or some type of physical disaster? Are your photos safe? Could you lose them forever, without a trace? Read further to learn about your digital photo backup options.

Why Storing Digital Pictures on Your Computer Isn't Good Enough

Digital photo backup is critical if your photos are important to you. Here are some reasons why your computer is not the place, or certainly not the only place, to store your digital photos.

  • Hard drives sometimes fail resulting in a potential loss of all items stored.
  • Fire, flood, and other natural occurrences can destroy computer equipment
  • With your computer housing many files and a limited storage capacity, it's not inconceivable that there won't be room for large photo files or that they can't be accommodated without detrimental effects on computer performance.
  • The hard drive on your computer is connected to the internet; that exposes it to viruses which make it vulnerable to crashing; resulting in the potential loss of your photos along with everything else.

The Options

The primary options for backing up your digital images are:

  1. Discs
  2. An external hard drive
  3. Online services

You can learn a little bit more about each of these below.


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Digital Picture Backup on Discs

One affordable option for digital photo backup is to store your images on discs:

  • CD: These discs are inexpensive and easy to use . The storage capacity is fair; about 700 MB per disc. The life of the disc should be at least 60 or 70 years.
  • DVD: A DVD offers about 4.7 GB of storage on a single layer or more in a multi-layer format.

A laptop or computer with a CD or DVD burner would be needed or possibly a standalone device to perform the task.

In either case, the discs should be protected from physical damage by keeping them in cases. Ideally they would also need to be stored in a fire proof safe.

The discs can be labeled easily with a marker.

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Digital Picture Backup Using an External Hard Drive

Digital photo backup in the form of an external hard drive should offer much more memory capacity than your computer. In addition, if it is used exclusively to store your pictures it shouldn't be exposed to internet villains that could potentially cause damage.

Some external hard drives are quite portable. They can offer up to 2-40 TB of storage so that they should easily accommodate large file sizes and huge collections of photos.

To be an effective backup however, an external hard drive should obviously be stored separately from the computer or other photo storage device in case of catastrophe. Of course it is possible to damage the hard drive by dropping it and so forth so it's important not to move it around excessively. Like any piece of equipment it can degrade over a long period of time. In other words, it's not completely infallible.

Manufacturers such as Seagate, Western Digital, LaCie, and Samsung are generally well regarded.

Digital Picture Backup Using Online Services

Another attractive option for digital photo backup is to submit photos to one of the various online services. The fee is generally quite small.

With this option, physical damage is essentially impossible although slow connection speeds and hackers could theoretically create some havoc in accessing your photos.

Snapfish, PhotoBucket, Flickr and others have been around for many years. Dropbox, Evernote, and Apple's iCloud are other popular options.

For those who sell their photos there is also the risk of online theft, but there are precautions that can be taken. This article on PetaPixel describes some of the precautions that can be taken.

How to Use Flickr for Digital Photo Backup: Tutorials

© 2008 Ruth Coffee

Digital Photo Backup: Did You Find What You Need? Let Us Know!

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    • profile image

      squidootime 7 years ago

      Good info - liked it.

      Cheers

    • mariaamoroso profile image

      irenemaria 7 years ago from Sweden

      Such richness in saving photos. I basically use one of my laptops as an external harddrive. And some photos are on usb - memories and others on CD´s

    • profile image

      anonymous 8 years ago

      Great advice on backing up our digital photos!

    • aka-rms profile image

      Robin S 9 years ago from USA

      You make a very good point! Thanks for sharing this information. I need to get to work on backing up my photos!

    • rebeccahiatt profile image

      rebeccahiatt 10 years ago

      Great info. I have thousands of photos and I use an external hard drive to store most of my photos.

    • TonyPayne profile image

      Tony Payne 10 years ago from Southampton, UK

      Great lens. I am virtually paranoid about losing my photos. I back up mine on an external USB drive, and with the prices today dropping fast it's cheap enough to have multiple drives. A 500gb drive is now under $150 (USA). Offsite backups are also invaluable - in case of fire, flood, theft or virus attacks etc. CD or DVD backups can be stored at other family houses, or at work. Also consider rotating multiple memory cards so that your most recent photos stay on a card for several months.

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