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On What Media Should I Backup My Photos?

Nick Golna asked whether he should backup his photos onto a flash drive or DVDs. I discuss other options, as well.

Nick Golna asked whether he should backup his photos onto a flash drive or DVDs. I discuss other options, as well.

With one exception, I don't recommend flash drives for backup. On a dollar-per-gigabyte basis, they're relatively expensive.

(The exception? Travel. Flash drives provide a convenient way to carry your backup in your pocket. If you lose your luggage and with it your laptop, you still have your files.)

There are good reasons to backup to an external hard drive, and other good reasons to burn your pictures to DVD. In fact, you may want to do both.

Go with an external hard drive for a normal, daily backup--one that records the changes to your files since the last backup. Why? Because hard drives are cheap (by the gigabyte), fast, and erasable. That's what you want for daily backup.

But since you want to keep photos for a very long time, and you seldom alter them, consider archiving them for additional protection. An archive backup is for keeps--use media that cannot be erased or overwritten, such as DVD-Rs and DVD+Rs.

But are these discs stable enough for archiving purposes? A lot of experts say no. Others say that it depends on the quality of the discs you buy. Special, archival discs cost considerably more than regular ones.

Patrick McFarland wrote the best piece I've yet read on the subject. He recommends Taiyo Yuden/JVC Advanced Media DVD+Rs.

Is he right? The only way to know for sure is to wait for a few decades. By then, it may be too late.

Contributing Editor Lincoln Spector writes about technology and cinema. Email your tech questions to him at [email protected], or post them to a community of helpful folks on the PCW Answer Line forum. Follow Lincoln on Twitter, or subscribe to the Answer Line newsletter, e-mailed weekly.

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