Are you really backing up your digital photos?

In the last year we’ve had two friends lose digital photos when they were burglarized.

My girlfriend that I mentioned in the blog this morning not only lost all of her electronics, she also lost some of her digital baby photos that she hadn’t backed up yet.

A few months ago our friend’s house and car were broken into. The thieves stole his laptop and his digital camera.

Our friend was an early adopter of digital photographer and probably had at least 10 years worth of digital photos of his children on the laptop and a bunch in the camera that he hadn’t transferred over yet.

He had not been backing up his digital images to CD, DVD, other hard drives, or to a photo site like Shutterfly. So he has lost ALL of it! (He could actually track his computer and could tell the police the address that his laptop was currently at and the police refused to go and get it. I am still trying to figure that out.)

So I am wondering how many other families out there are dropping their digital images into one family computer and assuming they will be there forever? Are you backing up your digital family photos? If so, how? If not, why? Does my friend’s story make you want to immediately run home and burn some dvds?

44 comments Add your comment

Wow, this headline/topic...

September 22nd, 2011
1:09 pm

…is really up there with all the major problems facing moms and families today…


September 22nd, 2011
1:10 pm

Boy you are in gloom and doom mode today. What’s the next topic going to be: Is your family prepared for when the zombie apocalypse happens?


September 22nd, 2011
1:32 pm

We do keep some backup and I try to put pictures I really like out on Facebook (not the best backup but at least they are there.)

We have some baby pictures on picture CDs and some on DVD backups. We also have pictures on both a computer in the house and a server in the garage but that won’t help I guess if both got stolen.

I’ve been meaning to do a more full back-up of recent pictures onto a CD but hadn’t gotten around to it. Guess this is a good reminder that the server backup isn’t enough.

Fortunately, we are home most of the time and live on a cul-de-sac. Not a guarantee but does give us some measure of security.


September 22nd, 2011
1:35 pm

I really don’t understand those people who check out the blog just to complain about the topic. There is nothing that says you have to read a blog. If you have this blog on your RSS feed and you always hate the topic, I’m pretty sure you can remove it from your feed.

I think this is an interesting topic and one that most people don’t think of. I have had friends who have lost pictures because of hard drive failures (including one where her laptop hard drive was cracked so there was no real possibility of recovery). So it is not just burglary that can cause you to lose all your pictures.


September 22nd, 2011
1:39 pm

I would love suggestions on how to back them up. Can you tell I’m not a techie? External hard drives and CDs don’t work if the house burns down and everything is gone. I have mine on my computer and iPod, but I don’t think that’s enough. Any suggestions on websites that are good and cheap?


September 22nd, 2011
1:52 pm

Michael does burn them periodically and I don’t thin those would get stolen but could burn down. We also have many on shutterfly and facebook. Often they are on multiple computers but if all were at home then all would be stolen. The main thing is not to use thmb drives because they fail frequently.


September 22nd, 2011
1:54 pm

We put our photos up on Google’s Picasa (which is free). We don’t put everything up there, but we create albums from different events and vacations, so we have most of the pics we’d actually want there. We also have both our laptops synced, so if one dies before we get to upload the next group, the other person still has a copy of everything. Obviously if both computers were stolen, we’d lose some stuff, but not what’s already uploaded.


September 22nd, 2011
1:56 pm

This is a REALLY important thing to do. I did not, and my house burned down 2 years ago ~ Total loss of everything. I no longer have baby pics of my 3 boys, baby books, art projects, christmas ornaments, Home made gifts from them, all sorts of sentimental trinkets. Ugh… I get so upset every time I think about all that was lost. I don’t facebook and seldom sent out pics…and no family to get doubles from. I would strongly advise taking pics of art drawings or Favorite projects, then put on a disk with your other pictures in a fireproof safe.

Lady Strange

September 22nd, 2011
1:57 pm

I also use Picasa but I do burn CDs as well. I am about a year behind though so thanks for the reminder!


September 22nd, 2011
1:58 pm

You are way more likely to lose photos due to a hard drive failure than a burglary but everyone who has a computer should invest in an external hard drive. It’s one of the best investments you’ll ever make. Buy an external hard drive for $50-100 and back your stuff up!!! Last time the Western Digital external hard drives went on sale at Target I encouraged several friends to go buy one (the 320 GB drive was like $45; you can get a 1TB drive for $100 and that should be more than enough space for even the click happiest folks).

WD includes software that is simple to setup for each computer you have at home. After you’ve set it up, plug it into each computer at least once a month and it will backup any file changes. Doesn’t really matter where you get or even if you get a different brand (just be sure it has ‘automatic backup’) but here is an example of one at Target:


September 22nd, 2011
2:19 pm

I have an external hard drive and have my best photos that I sell archive on my sales site, but I’m looking into cloud storage options as well. I don’t think I’d depend on a photo site designed primarily for photo sharing and promotion of photo products. I’d feel more secure with a general storage site and am researching/pricing those now. CDs/DVDs are nice now but be prepared to transfer all that over in a few years when those become obsolete and their drives are no longer standard on computers. Cleaning out our office a few years ago, we found a lot of 3.5″ and 5″ floppys carefully stored, so someone must have thought their contents were important, but there wasn’t a computer in the office that could read them.

But Wayne......

September 22nd, 2011
2:30 pm

Enter your comments here

Hey penguinmom.....

September 22nd, 2011
2:33 pm

…(and what is a penguinmom anyway?) – we were commenting on the topic/headliner – who reads the stories attached?

Regarding staying on topic (as motherjane usually suggests) – what is that computer backup system that Neal Boortz endorses that costs $59 a year? That may be a way to go…


September 22nd, 2011
2:50 pm

Does anyone know how to develop pictures off an iPhone?


September 22nd, 2011
2:54 pm

That is a great question. I almost like it. This does not rise to the level of importance I want to spend an awful lot of time on. Pictures last under the best of conditions a millenium more or less. I like a backup for banking and there is.


September 22nd, 2011
3:12 pm

A cool trick I use is that I email them to myself, created a folder on AOL and store the emails in the aol folder. It uses up their space, is secure, away from home, etc. I have thousands of pics in there and it’s been free.


September 22nd, 2011
3:26 pm

For the last few years, I’ve been backing up onto an external storage device called Clickfree. It sells on Amazon for less than $100, it backs up automatically (no real effort or tech knowledge required), and it’s easy to restore/transfer between computers. It keeps the documents from each computer in a separate folder, so it really isn’t that hard to find something when you need to restore it. For a non-tech person, it has really been very easy.


September 22nd, 2011
3:27 pm

@Jeff, I e-mail them to myself as well! Thought I was the only one who thought of that little trick.


September 22nd, 2011
4:15 pm

I backup my photos using Photobucket, then email them to myself on my Yahoo and Hotmail accounts, plus I save them to CD.

So, if something happens to one of those methods, I still have the other ones.

Dean Malenko

September 22nd, 2011
4:24 pm

Yikes Theresa, maybe think about changing photos up top.

As far as theft, Chris Jericho stole the US title from me and I never did get it back. LOLWUT

Dean Malenko

September 22nd, 2011
4:28 pm

Yes Erin, but what happens if your camera is stolen, Photobucket crashes, and your email accounts get hacked and everything is deleted? All you would have left are your CDs, do you REALLY think that’s safe? Get with the program girl!


September 22nd, 2011
4:58 pm

I would be devasted if something happened to my pictures, i.e., theft, fire, hard drive failure. I have an external drive I back up to periodically. I also occasionally burn a CD/dvd and keep it at another location like the office or a friends house. It gets a little more comlpicated the more data you have but better than nothing.

Fairly easy and cheap option. But you have to actually back it up!


September 22nd, 2011
6:14 pm

I’m a photographer & understand just how important that images are & they must be backed up. An external hard drive is great but you still need disc stored off site with friends, family or at your office. If your house burns or is blown away in a tornado you’ll still have pix. It’s a good idea to have pix of your house & contents stored away too. You also must remove your memory from your cameras & carry it on your person. If you are on vacation & leave your camera in the car for just a few minutes to eat or shop it can be stolen. They don’t care about your pictures just the hardware. Same for stolen computers. So, back up AND make disc. Oh, websites might be reducing the quality/size of your files too for storage. Make no sense to buy great cameras & save low quality images.


September 23rd, 2011
7:51 am

Yes I back up everything. I have 2 1tb External HHDs and do a complete backup once a week (ISO image for entire drives all pc’s in house), Both HHDs go in the emergency papers box (insurance stuff , policy and content video).


September 23rd, 2011
8:21 am

I have 2 external hard drives that I back up our computers at home on every week . One I keep at home that’s a backup incase a computer’s hard drive fails and the other one is a much smaller one that I keep in my purse at all times that is a password protected backup of pictures, documents, other important personal things, etc.

We also at the end of each year, copy all of the current year’s photos onto dvd and give them as presents to all of the grandparents to give them access to all of the pictures taken for a particular year, plus worst case scenario it gives me that many more option in case something happens to all other backups :) Also, we figure it lets them print out any particular photographs that they might want to have ;)


September 23rd, 2011
8:31 am

Morning all. Putting my computer nerd hat on :-)

Don’t depend on a backup to an external drive – those can fail as well. The best backup medium is one without moving parts (flash drive or burn to DVD). There’s a 64Gb USB drive on Woot today for $49.99 plus $5 shipping. Plenty of space for pics and great price for that size drive.


September 23rd, 2011
8:32 am

Just realized I didn’t give the URL for Woot –


September 23rd, 2011
8:53 am

I put my pictures on an online site but also burn to CDs which I place in my safety deposit box.


September 23rd, 2011
9:38 am

There are online services that look pretty good, but some of them don’t do pictures and music. That bites. Something came across my email a while back and I was going to get one and for whatever reason I didn’t – a fireproof external hard drive! Looked pretty cool. Radio Shack had them.

I’d probably get one of those, and use online as much as possible. Friend of mine had his house burn down. His fireproof safe didn’t end up being so fireproof. I mean, really? Buy something that is advertised as fireproof and it failed. Can’t trust anything.


September 23rd, 2011
10:58 am

We use Carbonite & have for years. As much as an external hard drive protects your data, it can just as easily get stolen along with your computer or burned in a house fire. I realize those scenarios are uncommon, but like home owner’s insurance, having off-site backup is my little insurance policy to know I won’t lose any of the pictures of my precious babies.

Warrior Woman

September 23rd, 2011
12:45 pm

I back up my entire PC, including photos, music, and videos to a pair of large external hard drives in rotation. At any point in time, one of them is stored offsite.


September 23rd, 2011
1:52 pm

We use an online backup service called Carbonite which is fast and simple. For $60 a month you can back up an unlimited amount of data. It runs in the background and backs up new/changed files constantly. If you have a lot of date, backing stuff up to CDs and DVDs takes too much time.


September 23rd, 2011
3:33 pm

Eek, is Carbonite $60 per month or per year?


September 23rd, 2011
9:53 pm

Dropbox is free up to 2GB but I got 3 more GB free for referring other people. Everything important on my laptop backs up there daily.

Is people are smart enough to use digital cameras and laptops but dumb enough to not backup then they deserve to lose stuff. Backing up isn’t new technology people. Do it or lose it.


September 24th, 2011
9:42 am

T all the cynics, this is for informational purposes. If you need it good, if not, just and read the next article..sheesh!! I have a 500G external hard drive. Takes care of everything for me…if you’re storing stuff and it’s still inb a folder IN the computer, what’s the point? So goes the computer, so goes the folder….


September 24th, 2011
11:56 am

With the picasa app it is so easy to move photos over from your camera directly to online (edit if you like). When I am away from home on vacation i always back up the days pics to picasa in full resolution so I ALWAYS have them for download anywhere. I also keep backups on external hard drive and dvd as well. Online storage is cheap. Totally worth my 5 bucks a year.


September 24th, 2011
1:56 pm

Mozy and Picasa.


September 24th, 2011
7:20 pm

I have three external hard drives and a couple of dozen flash drives with my photos etc, I’m buying a new 3 TB hard drive next month to try to fit everything in one place.
I just bought a 32 GB flash drive, haven’t filled it yet.
And yes, we’re also prepared for the zombie apocalypse. :)


September 25th, 2011
3:26 pm

I use several dropbox and sugar sync accounts as well as emailing the most important items/pictures. My pictures are uploaded to Picassa and Shutterfly. We also have a External harddrive that we keep in our safe. I’m not big on the hard drive anymore after my flash drive crashed and I lost everything a few weeks ago. That’s why I have so many backup methods- none is really 100% but I have a nice mix.


September 25th, 2011
9:59 pm

We too back up our photos on external hard drives and then burn copies to DVDs. We store those at home and in the safety deposit box at our bank. However, realize that years from now, DVDs, external hard drives, thumb drive etc., will become obsolete technology. That is why I get my favorite pictures printed on PAPER or in those cheap photo books. Yeah they can burn up in a fire but thieves won’t take them. I also put my favorite photos on the online Picasa just in case….

retired teacher

September 25th, 2011
10:48 pm

I have a dozen DVDs of my photos and they are in the safe deposit box with my family photos–from years ago. I also have favorites on my iPhone; Mobile Me allows me to see them anywhere. I have about 1/4 of my digital photos on jump drives too. So easy to take to Sam’s Club and make prints for 13¢ each. I have 2 back up LaCie external hard drives and they are almost full. The one thing people cry about in disaster is photos. I have baby photos to weddings in my collection all safe and secure with triple back up. Paper, DVDs, and digital. Go on vacation and it all goes to the bank; just in case.

Rafe Semmes

September 25th, 2011
11:05 pm

I back up ALL my personal files on three secure/passwprd-protected flash drives. I keep two at home, and one in my desk at work. That way I have multiple copies in case one of them crashes , and one that’s offsite, it doesn’t cost anything, I have used secure flash drives for a number of years, and only one died unexpectedly. Photos are not the only thing to worry about losing.


September 26th, 2011
9:17 am

Had a friend who’s laptop was stolen – had their photos backed up on a thumb drive. But the thumb drive was in the laptop when it was stolen.

I use snapfish – HP’s online service. I try to upload the best pix about once a month, maybe every other month. I have almost 5 years worth of photos on there now. Then my family can go look at the pix too and order from the website via mail or straight to walmart/walgreens/etc. It’s free if you purchase a few pix a year.


September 29th, 2011
12:44 am

I would suggest backing them up to a CD/DVD and putting a copy of that (plus everything else on your computer) into your bank’s safety deposit box. That’s where other important stuff should probably be anyway.