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External hard drive? How do you store images off computer?

Dan Hall , Jan 29, 2008; 11:44 p.m.

I have an IBM laptop and while using PSE 6.0 lately, I am getting warnings that my C-drive (IBM Preload) is nearing full capacity. It prevents me frop pp images in PSE 6.0. I wonder if I should store my photos on an external hard drive or similar device. I have seen pictures of some that hold the CF card and makes a copy of all images. Do people use these to store images instead of loading them and storing on the PC? I heard some will burn the stored images on to a DVD. Would this help me free up some space on my hard drive so I can continue pp in PSE 6.0? I have 3000+ images in "my pictures" now. Any insights would be most appreciated.


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Chris Eastwood , Jan 30, 2008; 12:46 a.m.


I'm mainly out and away from "home" ... often for a few years at a time. I use a laptop for most of my imaging. Personally, after using CD's and then DVD's as my backup for some time, I've been seduced by the drop in prices of large external USB hard disks. I've been gradually expanding mine from 160gig a few years ago to a new 500 gig just the other day. Always seems to be costing about a hundred bucks. (quick note, in Europe I call a 100 euro a 100 bucks, in Japan 1man yen, in Australia $100...)

Beware of hard disk failure, so as a 'just in case' I back them up to DVD's too. One can get a spindle of 50 DVD's for not much more than 15 bucks (which amounts to over 200Gig) This is cheaper than a second hard disk (for justin case your new hard disk is instead wallaby teds bigger bigger brother "roo ted" and you loose your images)

My rule of thumb on HDD's is that they'll kick the bucket in short order or last for 2 or 3 years. I've kept my older 160 in a drawer for justin case

The cost of the USB 2.0 powered external drives is low now at 20c a gig, add to this the speed of access its hard to ignore them.

Just make sure you don't fluff the disk up with accidental formatting or access with a program which wipes it (that's were those $20 worth of DVD's will come in handy to restore from)


Edward Ingold , Jan 30, 2008; 01:23 a.m.

I use a portable USB2 80G drive, which holds 3 or 4 weeks worth of RAW images when I'm on the road. Each night I back up the days shooting to that drive and to DVDs. A laptop makes that easy. I carry the blank DVDs in a CD "book" and return the burned DVDs to the same pockets.

Douglas White , Jan 30, 2008; 02:14 a.m.

Here's how I do it, your mileage may vary.

I keep 1 external HDD for image backups. I back up my images once every couple of weeks to this HDD.

When my processed image folder reaches 8 gigabytes, I back them up onto 2 dual layer DVDs and remove them (the processed images) from my main HDD (leaving them on the back up HDD).

Once a year I buy a new larger external HDD and back up the old external drive to the new one. I then retire the old drive. The reason why I do this is because HDD's have a much higher rate of failure when they aren't used regularly, so retiring the external drive once a year keeps HDD failures to a minimum. (I haven't had an HDD failure in years, so I'm probably doing something right... And that coming from someone who was an IT for over a decade).

My internal HDD's get replaced when the warranties are up or 3 years, whichever comes first.

Also every five years I back up my DVDs (Yes, optical media can fail too after a period of time).

If your external drive doesn't get a lot of use, be sure to spin it up once a month, defrag it, run a virus scan, and run scandisk on it just to make sure it's in tip top shape.

Douglas White , Jan 30, 2008; 02:18 a.m.

Oh one more thing, If you have a tendency to write on your DVDs like I do (instead of making labels) Grab yourself an Acid Free marker to use. Don't use the regular markers. The acid contained in regular markers can eat through the disk over a period of time and ruin it.

If you sign your photographs or have a tendency to write on the back of them you probably already have a few of these markers laying around anyway.

Chris Eastwood , Jan 30, 2008; 04:50 a.m.


Dougs point on "If your external drive doesn't get a lot of use, be sure to spin it up once a month, defrag it, run a virus scan, and run scandisk on it just to make sure it's in tip top shape." is a good one (and hadn't thought of that myself)

there is some literature out there suggesting that 'bit rot' can effect data which is not refreshed. If the files get moved to another location from time to time that should fix that error

some worthwhile reads here are http://photo.net/bboard/q-and-a-fetch-msg?msg_id=00NV9g

as well as the comments by CA church in this one: http://photo.net/bboard/q-and-a-fetch-msg?msg_id=00NXpz

Chris Eastwood , Jan 30, 2008; 07:44 a.m.


on a non photographic related point, don't let your hard disk get too close to capacity with windows OS's (in case you're not using linux on your thinkpad that is). Windows gets cranky if it hasn't got enough space on the partition where the swap file (virtual memory) resides. If you only have a C drive, that'll be the one.

Suggestion: get a new 100 gig drive (guessing you have something smaller) and partition it into 30 and 70 (well, it won't turn out exactly like that but anyway round numbers). Keep windows on the 30 size, and put your images an stuff on the 70. You might need to struggle with software that defaults to "my pictures" but you'll gain a lot in being able to 'snapshot' the 30 gig partition which has all your apps and OS installed on it. So when (not if) your hard disk gives up, you'll painlessly be able to restore to a new partition.

feel free to email me if you want more ideas on this.

Kelly Flanigan , Jan 30, 2008; 07:51 a.m.

Degradation of an HDA's discs tends to happen with newere drives; ones made with AFC type media. This use ruthenium between two mag layers. The sandwitch is thicker but appears sort of like a thinner one; and thus supports a higher aeral density. This was coined Pixie dust in the drive industry; drives first came out in 2001 at IBM; research goes back to about twenty years ago. The loss is called superparamagnetic effect. A newer trend beyond AFC media is perpendicular recording; is been worked on in labs for decades too; actually over a century. The 2.8 meg super floppies by Toshiba did this for IBM's old PS2 computers in the early 1990's. The Apple ipod's HDA uses PMR' perpendicular mage recording in its HDAs.

Chris Eastwood , Jan 30, 2008; 09:00 a.m.


great bit of info there (being a collector of eclectic snippets myself) but I'm not sure what it is your suggesting about anything said so far, apart from that newer drives may suffer more from degradation than older ones. I guess there has to be some penalty for the higher density.

I wonder if we'll go back to punch card based tech?


(wondering if the moderator will delete this any time soon)

John Gettis , Jan 30, 2008; 09:23 a.m.

On my computer I have two drives that are configured in a raid so that they back each other up. I also have a 500 gig external and a smaller 160 gig drive. I back the photos from my main drive up every time I down load new ones and back up that drive to smaller one once a week. Smaller drive is kept in fire safe when not in use. Anything that is important I have copies on either CD or DVD both at home and I send a copy to my sister for safekeeping. John

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