A tragic story of (preventable) loss

Over on Flickr, saraeigen writes:

diagnosis is in: material on the hard drive is irretrievable. parts of a manuscript gone. all course preparation done during the last month, gone. ALL PHOTOS GONE.


Hard drives are the devices inside your computer where your data (like digital photos) are stored. Modern hard drives are made of multiple platters spinning at 7200 RPM. Imagine several round platters stacked on top of each other, spinning incredibly fast, with little spindles reading and writing data from each platter. It’s incredible technology despite the fact that they’ve become so commonplace. And they are fairly reliable. Hard drive manufacturers are offering 5-year warranties on their newest devices.

But hard drives do fail. And if they fail badly, your data can disappear without a trace. Ask yourself, “How would I feel if all of my photos were erased and I could never see them again?” The only defense is to prepare for the worst and create a backup copy of your photos (and other important files). It’s not that difficult to do and you’ll feel much better when you’re done.

By John Watson

John Watson is the original founder of Photodoto. If you're interested in what John has been up to, you can browse his personal blog.


  1. I posted my multiple backup process on your previous post but I’ve changed it (improved?) since then.

    I use the Microsoft Sync tool to auto-sync pics to my media center pc. This gives me backup and living room viewing convenience. I replaced my old 250gig external with one of those new 500gig Maxtor One-touch III’s. It comes with some sync and backup software that’s easy to setup. I still have Norton Ghost and recommend it but don’t use it with the new Maxtor drive since the Maxtor software will back folders and/or the whole drive. On occasion, I also burn pics to DVDs for offsite storage.

    The new addition was to add a Flickr pro account and use it for backup as well as sharing. Though, with the monthly upload limit I can’t always backup all my new pics. $20 a year is cheap for unlimited storage and sharing.

    I know this sounds like overkill but I too lost some pics (a relatively small number got corrupted somehow).

    The only downside is when I do try to clean out some of the pics that aren’t worth keeping, I often have to delete them in 2 or 3 places.

  2. I used to use my Flickr pro account as a photo backup, but I’ve found a more complete offsite backup solution in Carbonite.com. For $50 a year it will automatically back up all your photos, DOC files, spreadsheets, etc. Or you can tell it to watch certain directory paths and it will back up whatever’s in them. They claim UNLIMITED storage for this price and I have 22 Gbs with them. Restoring individual files is fairly painless, and if your house burns down, or you replace your old PC with a newer, faster one, you can have Carbonite move everything you backed up to your new machine (though it might take a few days!).

    Obviously you need a broadband Internet connection, but this solution is pretty much “set and forget”. I think this is a terrific price for unlimited offsite storage and the interface couldn’t be cleaner.

  3. As a systems admin, the top three important items of concern for me have always been: 1) get good backups 2) get good backups 3) get good backups.

    At home I use the external hard drive method, along with a scheduled automated backup using Retrospect. I too copy all my photos to a Home Theater PC. This is not just for easier viewing, but it adds a layer of data protection. And, every 4-6 months, I burn several DVDs of all my critical data … especially my photos.

    The next batch of DVDs I am planning to copy and store at a relatives house. This covers me in case of a fire or other catastrophe that could ruin my computer. I like the Carbonite.com solution… I’ll be looking into that.

  4. This is a source of huge worry for me, I used to back up important stuff to disks but then (as so often happens with Dell) my disk drive inexplicably stopped working and can apparently only be repaired by formatting the hard drive! Yaay! So I’m getting an external hard drive to back up photos and college stuff.

    I’ve also been told that you can partition your hard drive and store, for example, all your photos on one part, all college stuff on another part, and the OS on another part. So if your operating system goes down and you have to format and reinstall it, all your stuff should still be there. But I need to look into that more because it sounds too good to be true…

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *