- The Washington Times - Monday, May 21, 2007

The other evening I was commiserating with an acquaintance about computer problems. His hope was that some photos apparently “lost” on a computer’s defective hard disk drive might yet be found and restored.

My first thought was that he should get an external hard drive, connect it to his computer and make regular backups of critical files, including photos, from now on.

I’m as much of an offender in this regard as anyone, maybe more so. But despite my lapses, I know that having a backup drive and doing regular backups — generally made easier by software supplied with the unit or purchased separately — is a smart idea.

For well under $200, you can get this kind of protection. The $189 list-priced Maxtor OneTouch III is an external drive that sells for $159 at NewEgg, one of my favorite online electronics stores (www.newegg.com). The Maxtor drive will hold 500 gigabytes of data — and happily. It comes with backup software that will work with a Mac and uses a USB 2.0 interface which should work with most fairly recent (past two years or so) computers in a “fast” mode; it should also work with older USB 1.0 interfaces.

Another external hard disk drive, the Seagate FreeAgent hard disk, is also available in a 500-gigabyte configuration for $25 less than the Maxtor, again from NewEgg. The Seagate drive also uses the USB 2.0 interface but doesn’t include any special backup software.

Along with hard disk backups, burning a DVD-ROM disc or several isn’t a bad idea, either. Most of today’s computers are shipped with DVD-writing drives, and users can find blank media for the proper DVD format, either “R” or “RW,” just about anywhere, including drug and grocery stores in some places. Use software to create a series of backup DVDs, and make more than one set if you can, storing these in different locations.

Should disaster strike, you might be glad for an extra copy somewhere other than ground zero.

It’s not a bad idea, either, to use software to create a digital photo album of one stripe or another. I’m a fan of the products made by FlipAlbum, whose digital output resembles, well, a book whose pages you can turn, or flip, to move through the photo gallery.

The software exists in versions for Windows PCs as well as the Apple Macintosh, and starts at $29.95. Personally, I’d spend a little more and get the intermediate versions of either program, at about $50 for the Mac version and $60 for the Windows edition. These higher-priced programs let you burn albums onto CDs or DVDs, which again makes for easy archiving.

Online storage is another way to help keep treasured memories alive. Here, Apple’s customers who have signed up for the firm’s $99-per-year.Mac service have 1 gigabyte of combined e-mail and online disk storage space; you can store a lot of photos in even 500 megabytes of online storage. The service also works with Apple’s IPhoto software to store images online and share them with others. It’s not a bad deal.

The bottom line is a simple one: Use care in storing your online images, and do the storing in more than one place. A picture is worth a thousand words, but only when the image can be retrieved.

Read Mark Kellner’s Tech blog at www.washingtontimes.com/blogs.

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