Photos on Optical Media


Today’s Question: In a recent column, you dealt with the problem of CDs or DVDs deteriorating and losing the photos stored on them. I immediately went to my “back-up” DVDs to make certain they were still useable. I have about 100 DVDs going back to the early 2000s when that was the preferred means of backing up photos from a hard drive. My plan is to transfer all photos from the DVDs to one or more external hard drives (3 or 4 TB) to avoid the possibility of losing photos due to break down of the DVDs. Do you agree?

Tim’s Quick Answer: Yes, absolutely! I highly recommend transferring photos from any “at risk” storage media to something you can feel more confident about, and of course ensuring you have at least one good backup (and preferably more) of that data.

More Detail: In this case the specific question relates to optical media (CDs and DVDs). But the same concept here relates to many other outdated storage devices. Years ago I had photos stored on floppy disks, Zip disks, and a variety of other storage devices that are now obsolete to the point it is very difficult to find a drive that can read the media.

Optical media is heading in the direction of obsolescence, with many (if not most) computers no longer including an optical drive. Thus, it won’t be too long before it is very difficult to find a drive that can read a CD or DVD. Therefore, I would most certainly recommend copying any photos stored on optical media to something that is more “current”, such as a hard drive.

Over time you may also find that other storage devices become obsolete. For example, a FireWire connection (IEEE 1394) is not as common on a computer as it used to be, and so if you had an external hard drive that only had a FireWire data connection you may want to transfer any photos or other data from that drive to another drive.

The key is to perform some degree of ongoing maintenance when it comes to your overall storage for your photos and other data. I recommend periodically taking an inventory of your overall storage situation, and updating any storage that is at risk of becoming obsolete. And, of course, always make sure you have a reliable backup copy (or multiple copies) of your photos, ideally stored on different storage devices that you keep in separate physical locations.