Thursday, January 1, 2004

Safeguard your precious photos

THIS WEEK'S POWERTIP

By David Gewirtz

So, you think you had a good holiday season, do you? Maybe you got a digital camera, or maybe you just took a ton of pictures. If you're like most folks, you copied those pictures into a folder on your hard disk.

Well, guess what. Hard disks fail.

Yep, they do. I've lost data because I didn't backup often enough and lots of other people have as well. But now, we're not just talking about precious accounting data, we're talking about pictures of your precious. If you don't back up your digital camera pictures, you could be putting some priceless memories at risk.

Fortunately, doing a Windows-based backup is easy, especially if you're using Windows XP. First, you need a CD or DVD burner. If you don't have at least a CD burner, go buy one. With burners under $50, you no longer have any excuse. I should know. I bought my first 1X burner back in the day for well over $2,000. Now, 24X burners are less than a night out at Bennigan's.

I'm serious about this. Having a CD burner is a great way to do backups. If you don't want to install one inside your box, get a USB2 or Firewire-based burner. These simply plug into the front or back of your machine; no need to open the box. These are a bit more expensive, but isn't it worth a few dinners out to save Junior's first baseball game or the time you caught a shot of Bob actually walking into a wall? Of course it is.

Next up, buy yourself a pile of CDR blanks. Yes, you could get CD rewritable blanks, but at about 20 cents a disk for CDR's, rewriting isn't that important; isn't it more important to just keep a few extra backups? It is. Trust me on this.

Most CD burners come with Ahead's Nero or Roxio's Easy CD Creator. But Windows XP itself comes with a very easy tool integrated right into the operating system. Let's say you have a pile of pictures in a folder named something like 100NIKON (or even more descriptive). Just pop a blank CD-ROM in your burner (you did get one, didn't you?). You'll see a window similar to that of Figure A.

FIGURE A

Here's a blank, open window, waiting for files. (click for larger image)

By the way, if the window doesn't open automatically, just navigate to My Computer and double click on the CD burner's drive letter. Mine is G. This window works just like a folder. Drag and drop the files you want to burn into the window, as shwon in Figure B.

FIGURE B

Drag and drop the files you want to back onto the CD burner's window. (click for larger image)

Once you've dragged all the files and folders you want (up to about 700MB) into your burner's window, you'll see files with an interesting little down-arrow icon, as shown in Figure C.

FIGURE C

When files have this icon, they're ready to be burned to CD.

The icon indicates that the file is a temporary file and is ready to be burned to CD. All that's left is to press the pretty little "Write these files to CD" button, shown in Figure D.