External Hard Drives

External hard drives, which plug into your PC via a USB or FireWire port, hold anywhere from 40 to 500 gigabytes. A 200 GB drive, which is fairly common, holds about 40,000 photos. Copying your photos to a hard drive is the easiest way to back up your photos.

Pro: External drives work best for several reasons. You can disconnect the drive from your computer to protect your photos. You can use the drive to move photos to another computer. You can keep the drive's power turned off, which increases its life expectancy.

Con: Hard drives have moving parts and are more fragile than other types of media. A hard drive can fail at any time. A pessimistic life expectancy for hard drives is two to five years. Hard drives are a significant expense, since they cost anywhere from around $100 for an 80 GB model to over $400 for a beefy 500 GB unit. You don't need the fastest or the biggest hard drive to back up your photos, but you do want one that's reliable.

Tip: Unlike write-once CDs or DVDs, the files on a hard drive can be erased or changed. To add an extra level of protection to your hard drive's backup photo files, change the file properties to read only so that the files can't be erased or written over. In Windows, select your photos and then choose File'—^Properties. In the Properties box, turn on the Read Only checkbox. You can protect multiple files or entire folders at a time; just make your selection before you open the

Properties box.

UP TO SPEED Care and Handling for Your Backup CDs and DVDs

If you've ever worried about how long your backup CDs or DVDs will last, it's comforting to know that professional librarians and archivists use them to store their information. The pros have also researched how to take care of optical media. Here are some tips from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR). If you're dying to learn more about disc preservation strategies, check out Care and Handling of CDs and DVDs: A Guide for Librarians and Archivists, by Fred R. Byers (NIST Special Publication 500-252), from which most of this information is drawn:

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