Thursday, May 11, 2006

Keeping All Your Pictures on Your Computer? Think Again.

Would you run into a burning house to rescue you favorite photos? If so, you aren’t alone, but it turns out your digital pictures are at a far greater risk of being lost in a hard drive crash or other error than in a natural disaster.

MTBF means “Mean Time Before Failure,” and it refers to how long all the components in your computer will run under optimum conditions (and this does NOT include your toddler using your laptop as a stepstool!) before your hard drive crashes and grinds all your precious photos as if they were your morning coffee beans. The MTBF number is a warning. Too often we trust our computers exclusively in storing our digital pictures, and the MTBF estimate is letting us know that this equipment doesn’t deserve our trust. It’s okay to keep your pictures on your home computer, but if you want to leave a family history of photographs, you need to take additional action.


  1. Photo Organizing Software: Often called ‘image management programs,’ these programs can greatly assist you in quickly organizing your digital pictures so you can find your favorites. If the date and time are set properly on your camera, many will even automatically organize them by date, putting them in chronological order. Watching this happen on your computer monitor is almost as satisfying as watching your kids play for an entire afternoon without bickering.
  2. Back Up Your Pictures: If you aren’t sure which back-up solution is best for you, start with a blank DVD and copy all your digital pictures to it. Make two copies, check them to ensure the copy process was successful, and then store them somewhere safe. Better yet—give one copy to a loved one for safe-keeping.
  3. Print Your Favorites: Now that your pictures are organized on your computer, go through and have copies of your favorite pictures printed at a trusted retail store. Having a partner in this process will save you time and money while also ensuring that your pictures are being printed on archival paper so your photographs will stand the test of time.