Don’t lose your digital photos to disc-rot or a hard drive crash. Choose the best archival storage options.
Posted November 21, 2017. Updated November 25, 2018.
It is a terrible feeling to go looking for that prized photo you took three years ago, only to discover the data on the DVD or CD is gone. The same can be said for a hard drive crash and the resulting loss of irretrievable files. I’ve heard too many sad stories from both friends and strangers that have lost important photos.
If you want your photos to be around 5, 10, 20 or more years from now, you need to back up your photos on the best drives and media. The best current approach to archiving your photos is to use both external hard drives and removable optical media (CD-R, DVD, and Blu-Ray discs).
The ideal plan is to have all of your photos backed up three times, on at least two external hard drives and on archival quality optical discs. You want one backup at an off site location in the event of a local disaster like a fire, flood, tornado, or hurricane.
In terms of an off site backup location, some people will swap storage space with a family member or friend. They each keep a set of their most important photos at the other person’s home. Or you can have back up hard drives in a safe deposit box. Or one set of photos at home and another set at an office.
After reading a number of web sites and wading through dozens of pages of government optical media tests and recommendations, here are my suggestions.
Recommended List of External Hard Drives:
G Technology G-Drives
Recommended CD List:
MAM-A Gold Archive
Recommended DVD List:
MAM-A Gold Archive
Verbatim UtraLife Gold
Recommended Blu-Ray Dics
External Hard Drive Information
Seagate and G Technology make some of the most reliable external hard drives. Both are on the top recommend list at PC Magazine. Any hard drive can fail, even from one of the most reliable manufacturers, which is the reason so many pros use the 3-2-1 Backup Plan. Archive your photos to one external drive and have the other drives mirror the first drive. (While you are at it, think about having another external drive that mirrors your internal hard drives.)
I personally have had very good results with Seagate external hard drives. There are other popular brand names I have tried that didn’t hold up so well. That also matches the experiences of other photographers I have talked to.
I especially like Seagate Backup Plus Hub drives because I can move them back and forth between Windows and Apple computers without any problems or the need for special software. Each drive also has two USB ports so you can daisy chain the drives without taking up all kinds of USB ports on your computer. So Seagate is my current brand of choice for large external hard drives at home plus portable Seagate drives on the road. If I need to download photos while traveling they end up on my laptop and two portable drives. When I get home the photos are all transferred to the desktop drives (see the photo at the top of this article).
Optical Disc Information
MAM-A Gold discs are the best choice for both DVDs and CDs. MAM-A discs are made in the U.S. You can learn more about MAM-A here.
Taiyo Yuden is my second choice for DVDs and CDs and they are the only company making CD-R and DVD discs in Japan. They are higher in quality and much higher in consistency than the discs that are made in Taiwan, Mexico, and other countries. Taiyo Yuden makes discs for Maxell, Sony, Imation, and other companies, but not all of the discs sold by these companies come from Taiyo Yuden. Just read the label. If the label says “Made in Japan” (and if it isn’t a counterfeit product), it was made by Taiyo Yuden.
My preferred source for Taiyo Yuden DVDs is supermediastore.com and I prefer the DVD+R discs. There are fake Taiyo Yuden discs out there and SuperMediaStore guarantees their Taiyo Yuden discs as the real deal.
Verbatim DataLifePlus comes in third place. Read the labels carefully and make sure you are getting the discs with the Super AZO dyes.
For Blu-RAy discs my preferred choice is Verbatim DataLifePlus.
In short, for long term storage of your precious images, use one of the choices listed.
This is one in a series of articles that will guide you to the best of all things photographic. The rest of the series is here: Buyer’s Guide: Recommendations For The Best Photography Equipment, Software, Books, Magazines, DVDs, Online Photo Labs and More.