Computers / Tips and Solutions

How to Back up all Your Family Photos to One Drive

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Spring is here, and if you haven’t done your yearly cleaning yet, we can help you out. Read through our article below on how to get started compiling all your data. What we didn’t cover last year though, were physical documents such as pictures, contracts, love letters, and so on. For most users, a smartphone is enough. Place your document on a table with ample lighting and take a top-down picture. From there, you can crop and edit your files either right on your phone or transfer them to a computer. Alternatively, you can try out the mobile scanning apps in the app stores. But what happens when you have a ton of things to scan? Surely, the process above can get tedious, so we recommend getting a document scanner such as the Fujitsu ScanSnap iX500 Wireless Desktop Scanner. To see what the ScanSnap can do for you, check out our article, Make Scanning a Snap with Fujitsu ScanSnap.

Fujitsu ScanSnap Wireless Desktop Scanner

Springtime is a chance to clean your house and its contents thoroughly, but it's easy to forget about cleaning your data. Picture each device you and your family own as a messy drawer, cabinet, wardrobe, closet, or room... that's locked. Now, if you're already trembling with anticipation, fear not. We'll help you get your life back on track with these tips about devices, storage, and you.

The first step to cleaning up all your data is collecting all your devices that contain said data. So, yes, that includes everything from your car's dash cam to your smartphone. If it has data in it that you need or would like to store for backup, it counts. Like most average consumers, you're probably now looking at a pile of gadgets consisting of countless flash drives and memory cards of different formats, cameras, phones, tablets, laptops, and even desktop computers. While it's a large pot to sort through, we'll simplify matters by first filtering these devices into three categories: Apple, Android, and neither. The best part about the smart phone ecosystem and "smart" devices nowadays is that almost everything and anything is connected, thereby saving you a ton of time and grievances.

Apple iCloud: Pretty Handy

If you are an Apple fan and have an iPhone, MacBook, or iMac, you're in luck because chances are that you already have and use iCloud. For those who don't know about it, iCloud, when you’re signed in, collects and stores all your photos, music, video, calendar, documents, etc., securely on the cloud, allowing you to access your files wherever you have an Internet connection. It's handy and does a great job of collecting all your loose files here and there. Just make sure you're signed in to your main account and then sync your files and folders as necessary.

On the other end of the spectrum, you Android users will also have an easy time collecting your data as long as you're signed in to your main account. For photos, there's the Google Photos app that compiles all your photos and automatically creates albums for you. The great thing about Android devices is that there's a Google app for almost every type of data you have: documents, spreadsheets, presentations, forms, drawings, and if not, there's Google Drive, which is a file storage and synchronization service. In it, you'll be able to access your previously stored documents, as well as upload new files even if they're not a picture, word, or PDF files.

Both methods involve storing your data on the cloud, but you should know that these are not the only two options. There are plenty of other cloud-based storage services such as Box, Microsoft OneDrive, Dropbox, and more. Each service offers the same core function, which is to act as a treasure chest for all your data; however, pricing and storage capacity will vary. While cloud storage may not appeal to some, there are a few functions that you just won't have with a flash drive or external hard drive, and that's online editing and file versioning. Online editing lets you edit your files online and sync them across devices. File versioning automatically saves a previous copy of a file so that after you edit it, an original copy will be retained. It's not a new concept, since you can do this manually, but having it done automatically makes our lives easier.

Wireless Devices

Now that we've got our "smarter" devices squared away, let's split the rest of the remaining devices into two groups: wired and wireless. First, let's cover wireless devices, since these will be the quickest and easiest ones to deal with. But wait—what if you're an Apple or Android user who doesn't trust your information and documents on a third-party server? What do you do with your data then? Don't worry—we'll cover your options farther down in the "wired" section. For now, let's continue and tackle our wireless devices.

“Wireless devices” is a broad category, but also easy to deal with because many manufacturers aim for simplicity. Let's say you have a Wi-Fi-enabled camera connected to your home network. At the minimum, you'll be able to offload pictures directly onto your iOS or Android smartphone or tablet. Some may even upload your photos to an online web service. Otherwise, it could show up as an accessible folder in your list of network attached devices, allowing you to drag and drop photos as you please. There's no clear-cut method as to how you collect your data here, and it will mainly depend on said device. It may require some research or tinkering, but it's not rocket science.

Wired Devices

So, your data is not stored on the cloud or your device does not have wireless capabilities. The key to your problems is good old wired connectivity and memory cards. Take the smartphone back as an example. Once it's connected via USB to a computer, you'll have a choice of multiple options of how it's recognized. The correct one would be to "transfer files," and this goes for non-smartphone devices, as well. After doing that, your device will show up as a single folder containing all the data in the device, such as photos, documents, music, even core system files, and more. Be sure to move only files with which you're familiar, otherwise you could end up breaking an app or whatnot. A tip is that photos are generally stored in the "Camera" folder located in the "DCIM" folder. Everything else, such as music and downloaded files, are much easier to find. Simply offload your data onto your computer and then to wherever you back it up, and you're set.

On the rare occasion that you don't have a USB cable lying around and happen to have a device with a memory card, you're still in good shape if your computer accepts it. Depending on what format your memory card is, you may or may not need an adapter for it. Many laptops have an SD memory card reader and can handle SD, SDHC, and SDXC cards; however, some devices use microSD cards and that's when something like the SanDisk Micro SD to SD Adapter comes in handy. With the power of adapters, you'll have access to your devices in no time and will be able to transfer your data onto your computer for safekeeping. Everything else, such as flash drives and external hard drives, are self-explanatory. Simply plug them in as usual and you'll be able to collect your files from there.

SanDisk Micro SD to SD Adapter

After collecting all your data from the devices scattered throughout the far corners of your residence, you'll need a safe place to store it all. Many users will have it stored on their main computer; however, this is not safe at all and not recommended. Storage experts suggest you keep three backups of your data. The first will be on your main system, the second should be an external storage device, and the third can be a cloud service or another external storage device located off-site. This guarantees that in case anything does happen to your home, you'll still have a backup elsewhere.

Storage Options

So, in what exactly do you store your data? We'll cover options from a beginner level to an advanced user. For starters, a simple USB flash drive will do the trick. Flash drives such as the SanDisk 256GB Ultra USB 3.0 Flash Drive provide plenty of storage and are very affordable. You can even use memory cards, if you wish. Chances are, though, that once you start including photos and videos, you'll run out of room quickly. Therefore, they're probably better off for word documents, spreadsheets, and files that don't take up as much space. Luckily, that's where external storage drives come in. External storage drives come in a variety of flavors: hard drive or solid state, wireless or wired, portable or not. Whatever your choice is, with the large storage capacity in these storage solutions, you'll have an easy time filing all your data. Finally, for the advanced user or those who wish for the utmost protection for their data: hard drive arrays, Network Attached Storage (NAS), and additional internal drives for RAID. We won't be getting into these, but now that you've collected, sorted, and backed up all your data, you can let out a sigh of relief as your spring data cleaning is finished—for now.

WD 1TB External Hard Drive

19 Comments

Flickr is another great way to back up your photos. It's easy to keep them, share in Flickr, and to share others (via email address). The is no limit on the size of a photo like Google. Instead there is a limit of 1 terrabyte of space which is very generous.

If you are using Google Photos to automatically backup photos from your Android device, there's no size limit nor even a maximum total limit, as long as you choose Upload Size: High Quality. That gives you "free unlimited storage." I you choose "Original Size" then your photo backups count against your storage quota. You find this in Google Photos>Settings>Back up & sync.

A NAS server is a great option if used in conjunction with backup software such as Acronis True Image.  Backup jobs then run a predefined schedule and no manual intervention is necessary.  Also consider the physical location of where your photos are stored.  Your data may be protected from a hard disk failure but not a disaster such as fire.  Not wanting to pay for cloud storage I have chosen RAID 1 storage on my workstation and backups to a NAS located offsite (a camper in the backyard and away from the house).  Camper NAS is encrypted and password protected so I feel it is secure.  I have also considered locating the NAS at my office or storing it at a relatives house.  The primary drawback is I wouldn't always have physical access if I need it.

Hi there!

Yes Dan, the most efficient way to backup securely is the NAS.

90 000 pictures in about 250Go are in my PC, in a second HD and in the NAS, encrypted with a dedicated software.

I have recently purchased a WD MyCloud drive for photos and videos stored on my Mac.  I have transferred the Photos libraries successfully to the MyCloud but all of the albums are gone.  The photos are present in a a folder called Masters and they are arranged by date/year.  Is there any way to transfer the original data files without losing the Albums?

In my opinion using Apple's Time Machine as a back-up solution is far better. Your drive will work fine as a Time Machine drive. It backs up your file many times a day, and you can restore from that if you'd loose your computer or if it goes bad. I will restore EVERYTHING just the way it was at the last back-up, including your "wall paper"! Has saved my behind more than once!

If you are using the Photos App that is included with an Apple computer, it could be an issue if you went inside the Photos Library.photoslibrary file and moved the Masters folder. The file structure inside Photos Library.photoslibrary must not be touched. Usually Apple does a good job at hiding what's inside so it can't be touched, but sometimes when it's on a network drive it will look just like a folder instead of an album, especially when looked at by a non Mac computer.  If you send us an email, we could help trouble shoot what might be going on and what could be done to fix it.  AskComputers@bhphoto.com

In backing up my photographs to an external hard drive, should I use data compression or not? I have not been compressing because I'm concerned I'll lose some of the data in my raw files. However, by not compressing I'm also using up available space on my 1T drive pretty fast. Suggestions?

Don't use data compression as hard drives are relatively cheap. I store my photos, video, audio (some original master tape transfers) and other precious items such as mail logs from Outlook on a 4Tb hard drive in one of my machines. I have another 4 TB drive that has an identical copy of the data as a point in time.that I mount in a removable disk enclosure when doing backups. I do full backups every few months and incrementally add photos to the offline drive more often. I repaced a pair of 2 TB drives with a pair of 4 TB drives last month. 

Call me old fashioned, but I don't trust my personal treasure to someone elses server. Also, the transfer time for that amount of data is unreasonable for 6 Mbps upload speed. I do share videos on the iCloud but I have to lower the bit rate so low that I treat it as a display copy only. My 9 year old granddaughter post about 5 to 1 more media to the iCloud than I do. I don't care about syncing files across different machines. At home, all the devices can play from the machine that has the files. When I'm away... I'm away.

yes John. Don.t trust your tresure to some cloud. Reason? read the agreement and you will sign for using  your private tresure in public or commercial purpose. Storedge in external hard drive is best. greetings, peter

Compressed files are even harder to recover if anything occurs. Generally, I wouldn’t bother as large storage is easily affordable nowadays. If you seriously can’t afford more or larger drives, then yes it might be your only option.

Don't use data compression because it won't do much toward compressing your photos that isn't already done by making JPGs. Your RAW image files also won't gain much by compressing, but as others said, there's the chance of them being unrecoverable if the drive fails. It will also make accessing the iles noticably slower.

As for cloud backup, that's one additional solution, but not the best solution. Backup to a second hard drive first, then also backup to the cloud if you like. If you can't do an offsite backup, then a cloud backup is a workable solution,but make sure you do that local backup too.

A significant problem with picture backup is duplication. It's pretty easy to get duplicate file sets, and because of the idiosyncrasies of copying to and from various devices, the dates can be changed, so you can't always tell if it is the same file.

A really helpful adjunct to your article would be some recommendations for both Windows and Apple software that can reliably detect duplicates.

Victor brings up an excellent point regarding duplicate files.

Additionally and specifically regarding photos, an overview of naming conventions would be beneficial.

Duplicate pictures and file names are a couple of my biggest issues.  We're always sharing files (pictures) with each other here and often using NFC or bluetooth which retains the original file name. To make that worse, we have multiple phones that all save with the same file prefix, so while the pictures might not be duplicates, the file names sure are.  I currently save the files from each device into different folders.

I'd like to know if there was some tool that could scan the different folders and pick out duplicate pictures.  I guess I could write a program to perform a compare, but gotta think something already exists.

I was doing some image storage housekeeping a few months ago and found a bunch of thumbnail images alongside full resolution images with the same name. I looked around the interwebs and found this nice app called Visipics (http://www.visipics.info/index.php?title=Main_Page) that would find and even suggest which file to keep based on a set of criteria. Saved a ton of time. This might not fix the duplicate file naming problem Doug was talking about, which I share his pain as there are multiple iPhones taking photos with the same prefix in my family and backups are a little harder then needed. Enjoy.

Hey guys, just off the top of my head I'd recommend trying out "VisiPics".

Hi Victor -

The VISIPICS suggestion looks like  a good one.  Also check out Photos Duplicate Cleaner for Mac and Duplicate Cleaner for Windows.

Photos Duplicate Cleaner (I have Mac) is a huge time-saver. It quickly finds duplicates but doesn't try to decide for you which ones to keep or delete.

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