This won't be a freebie. You'll have to spend upwards of $100. I don't know any way to make this free.
Al Fasoldt's reviews and commentaries, continuously available online since 1983


Make 'safe' copies of your important photos

Dec. 20, 2009

By Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2009, Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2009, The Post-Standard

   This is the time of year when your mind is filled with thoughts of holiday cheer -- or maybe holiday bills. But the last thing you're likely to think of is making copies of your photos.
   Most people don't like to be reminded of the need to make "safety" copies -- copies that are insurance against the disaster of losing their original files. It's as if, for most computer users, the very word that describes this -- it starts with "B" and has two syllables -- is a forbidden concept.
   So my gift to you is an easy-to-follow explanation of how to make copies of what are surely the most important files on your computer -- your family photos. I won't use the forbidden word, and I promise to keep everything simple.
   A warning ahead of time: This won't be a freebie. You'll have to spend upwards of $100. I don't know any way to make this free.
   Start by purchasing an external hard drive. External drives connect to a cable that plugs into your computer. They connect by USB, just like your mouse does.
   You can get a USB external hard drive from Best Buy or any other big electronics store. Get the highest-capacity drive you can find for under $100. (Don't buy a "thumb drive" -- it won't have enough capacity. Make sure you're getting an actual hard drive.)
   Connect the external drive your computer, following all the instructions that came with the drive.
   For the next part, I have to make an assumption. I'm guessing that your photos are all kept inside one big folder called either "Pictures" or "My Pictures." To keep things simple, I'll call that folder "Pictures."
   Locate that folder on your computer -- not in the photo software you might be using, but on your computer itself -- then make sure you know how to get to the PARENT of that folder. You basically back out of the "Pictures" folder to get to the parent folder. (If you can't find a way to back out of the folder, try this: While you are in the Pictures folder, press the Backspace key if you're using Windows, or hold down the Command, or Apple, key on a Mac while pressing the Up Arrow key.)
   In the parent folder of your "Pictures" folder, click and HOLD the icon of the "Pictures" folder. (In other words, click on it and hold the button down.) Still holding the button down, drag the "Pictures" folder to the icon for your new external hard drive. Then let go of it. (This is called "drag and drop.")
   Let's pause to explain what you're doing here. Dragging the "Pictures" folder and dropping it onto the hard drive icon tells your computer to copy the folder and everything in it to the external hard drive.
   Cool, right? When you take more pictures and need to make sure you have copies of those, just drag and drop again. This time your computer will ask if it's OK to copy things that already exist on the external drive. Just click the "Yes" or "OK" button, whichever you see.
   That's all you have to do. And you didn't encounter that forbidden word even once.