My Weekend Project

Setting up to create my own digital archiveI bought a new computer this summer.  I immediately copied all of my digital files from my old computer to my new one and to an external hard drive.

Now I had three copies of my digital content on three different devices. Because if something happens to one of those media, I’ve got two others that have all my files saved (and safe).  Great, right?


The hard drive on my old computer was failing, which is why I got a new one.  My digital files on that drive aren’t exactly safe even though they are saved for the time being.  Copies of my files on my new computer and my external hard drive are relatively safe (crossing fingers that those media don’t fail).  And not to mention, I had two copies of ALL of my digital files, of which I had a general idea about what they were. But I certainly didn’t care about all of them.

This wasn’t a great start to creating my own digital archive. I know exactly the advice and steps to follow, so why wasn’t I doing it?

Because, I was being lazy.  I am by no means as vigilant about archiving and backing up my personal files as some of my colleagues here at the Library. I’ve never experienced personal data loss (knock on wood) and I’ve never had enough digital files I’ve truly cared to save long-term.

Until now….

I started taking digital photos when I bought a camera about seven years ago. I first purchased digital music files around the same time. I wrote tons of papers for grad school. I completed my Federal and State taxes electronically. I created or saved all of these digital files on my old computer.

My digital photos and documents hold personal value, and my music files, most of which I’ve purchased, are valuable literally. I truly care about saving and preserving these materials. Time to create that archive.

Comparing what I’ve done so far with NDIIPP personal digital archiving guidance, I’m not in bad shape.  I’ll admit I’m just barely performing the steps of this guidance. I could (and probably should) be more cognizant of the file formats and software programs used to access my files, for example. But this is the level of effort I choose to devote to save my digital information of personal value. Hopefully it’s enough for right now and for a few years down the road.

Given I don’t have a large amount of digital content as compared to other people I know, I should be able to finish my archive this weekend.

So, let’s see where I stand against the guidance.

  1. Identify where you have digital content of personal value – CHECK. (Although I have a few flash drives from grad school and I have no idea what’s on them.)
  2. Decide which of that content are important and which digital files should be saved – CHECK (I think, for the most part.)
  3. Organize the digital files with meaning file names and a logical directory structure – NOPE (I haven’t even starting thinking about this step yet.)
  4. Make at least two copies of the organized digital files and store them in different locations – CHECK. (I keep my external hard drive at my family’s house, who live in the area. +1 for me – I’ve got step 4 down!)


  1. Abbie Grotke
    October 19, 2012 at 2:50 pm

    Continuing your thread of “true confessions of digital preservationists at home” …

    I realize that I still have applications on my current computer that are from my very first operating system – they make it so easy to just keep copying over everything from one old computer to the new. I’d love it if others have tips about weeding out some of that old software/program that were for prior operating systems as you move from computer to computer.

    Now wondering if all of that old tax software still works. I know I PDF’d everything so have my documents, but should I delete the software from long ago?

  2. Sharad Shah
    October 19, 2012 at 3:04 pm

    Interestingly, I bought a scanner (Acer back in 1997) before I bought a digital camera (HP brick in 1999). I felt sooo cool–except it ate double-A batteries. Memory seemed extremely important, but I could only take maybe 50 pictures at a whopping 1.3 or 2.4 megapixels. Basically, it was more expensive than using film (but I could delete bad pictures!).

    Consequently, I have digital images dating back to the late 90s. They’ve gone through several computer hard drives (5, I think). Watching the last 3 computers die a slow death made me realize what you’re going through now–back those suckers up, because they’ll last longer (hopefully) than any computer exposed to me. So, I bought two passports (500 G and 1 TB). I have all of my music, digital images, home movies, and documents stored on them. Challenge is keeping them up-to-date, so I back one up about once every month and the big one about once every six-months to a year.

    I agree that keeping that backup somewhere “off site” is smart, but it also hinders your ability to update your backup files.

    Two issues:
    1) Human laziness=not backed up enough
    2) Human greed=passports and all data possibly stolen.

    The latter happened to a relative when he was working on his thesis (good times), and some techies and I acknowledged the values of getting one of those online storage accounts (Norton has one). Like Dropbox, the online back-up can be accessed anywhere. It’s a nice option to have.

  3. Susan
    October 19, 2012 at 3:51 pm

    Oh, thanks for this true confession. I always feel so guilty when I impress upon the institutions I work with the importance of back-up and digital preservation. And I cross my fingers that they never find out about my digital home life.

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