Your family photos may disappear in just a few years.
Frightening, isn’t it?
According to Carnegie Mellon, the lifespan of a computer
hard drive is just over three years. Computer hard drives
wouldn’t have statistics like MTBF – Mean Time
Before Failure – if failure and loss of data
weren’t an everyday occurrence.” That's
why it's really important to back up your photos on CDs or
How to burn a CD on a computer using Windows XP
Insert a blank,
writeable CD into the CD recorder.
Open the Windows utility
Click the files or
folders you want to copy to the CD. To select more than
one file, hold down the CTRL key while you click the
files you want. Then, under File and Folder Tasks,
click Copy this file, Copy this folder, or
Copy the selected items.
If the files are located in My Pictures, under Picture
Tasks, click Copy to CD or Copy all items to
CD, and then skip to step 5.
In the Copy Items
dialog box, click the CD recording drive, and then click
In My Computer,
double-click the CD recording drive. Windows displays a
temporary area where the files are held before they are
copied to the CD. Verify that the files and folders that
you intend to copy to the CD appear under Files Ready
to be Written to the CD.
Under CD Writing
Tasks, click Write these files to CD. Windows
displays the CD Writing Wizard.
Follow the instructions in
To open My Computer,
click Start, and then click My Computer.
Do not copy more files
to the CD than it will hold. Standard CDs hold up to 650
megabytes (MB). High-capacity CDs hold up to 850 MB.
Be sure that you have
enough disk space on your hard disk to store the
temporary files that are created during the CD writing
process. For a standard CD, Windows reserves up to 700
MB of the available free space. For a high-capacity CD,
Windows reserves up to 1 gigabyte (GB) of the available
After you copy files or
folders to the CD, it is useful to view the CD to
confirm that the files are copied.
CDs and DVDs can be longer-lived, but only if you choose
wisely and follow some simple rules.
don’t pinch pennies when you buy CDs for important
storage. That means you should buy Compact Disks whose
top layer is coated with gold rather than any less stable
metal. The bottom of the disk, where the data heads work, is
actually pretty well protected. It’s the label side that is
The biggest no-no is writing on the label with a
Sharpie or other solvent-based pen. Use only special CD pens
with a water-based ink.
The way you store your CDs can also make a difference.
Standing them upright, rather than lying flat, extends the
average life. Avoiding extreme heat or humidity is
If your CD burning drive has variable speeds, recording at a
lower speed reduces wobble, which can lead to problems in
can have the same problems, with the additional concern that
there is no single standard format.
It would almost be funny, if it weren’t so frightening.
We’ve made prints from glass plates going back before the
War Between the States, but we’re likely to lose most of the
digital pictures being taken in the 21st century!
Negatives and prints may fade a little, but binary data
files have this annoying tendency to disappear!
Here’s a simple plan to keep family photos safe:
Copy them all onto the
best quality CDs available
Make extra copies and
“give” them to your children or other relatives each
Christmas. That not only gives the kids something they
will enjoy, it gives you a place to recover his photos
if the house burns down.
When new technology
emerges, copy all those CDs to that new media.
And perhaps the best archive of all? Print all the important
pictures and throw them in a shoebox!
Will our gold CDs really
last 300 years?
We hope so, but won’t be
around to guarantee it.