Skip to Content

Keeping Your Memories Safe

My family’s pictures are among some of the most precious things I own – memories of family vacations, beach days, birthdays and everyday silliness. A few years back when my external hard drive crashed and I lost two years worth of my kids pictures, including the first years of my of my daughter’s life, I was devastated!

3 kids

I had been proactive and backed up all my pictures on CDs, thinking this would be foolproof plan. So the first thing I did was check those CD’s to see if I could find the pictures. After searching through hundreds of CD’s (not so organized), I discovered that after 7 years of sitting idle, my CD’s had degraded to the point that they couldn’t be read on any computer, rendering them completely useless. So much for my back up!

Keeping Your Memories Safe

The next thing I tried was to bring my hard drive to my computer technician to see if anything could be done to salvage it. He said that the only way to even possibly retrieve these pictures would be to send it away and the cost would exceed $5000!

Tips on keeping memories safe

Here are a few things I learned during this process.

  • The lifespan of a CD depends on its quality. It can range anywhere from 10-100 years. The lifespan is also determined on how the CD is stored (temperature controlled environment etc..)
  • Your external hard drive will crash at some point. Some sooner than others but it will crash.
  • Files are extremely hard to retrieve off of a hard drive once it has crashed and there is no guarantee you will ever see them again.

Lesson learned! I now double back up every picture on a second hard drive, I back up online and don’t trust CD’s. Nowadays, with digital cameras dominating the market, people are storing more of their precious memories on discs and hard drive rather than printing them. I know that I have been guilty of this for the past 10 years. I have made it a point for the last few months to print at least a few pictures a month and make albums. I urge you to do the same. Please learn from my lesson and save yourself a lot of pain and money.

Nadine is a stay at home mom/professional photographer from Winnipeg who specializes in children and newborn photography. You can see some of her work at She has 3 wonderful children Caleb 9, Amélie 7 and Leia 2 and has been married to her best friend for the past 10 years. Nadine loves photography, baking, reading, crafting, helping people and finding daily ways to teach all these loves to her children and others around her.

Elva Roberts

Tuesday 15th of October 2013

October 14-Thank you, Nadine, for this very important and valuable tip for keeping photos safe for future use. I had no idea that CD's degrade or other computer problems that would make stored pictures virtually useless. I think many people think computer storage is the answer. Thank you for giving us the 'heads up' on this.

Jayne Cameron

Monday 23rd of September 2013

I appreciated the great suggestions because my family memories mean a lot to me and my family.

Janice K

Monday 23rd of September 2013

I just heard of a site called blinkbuggy that is kind of an online scrapbook that you can add photos, quotes and events easy and it organizes them all. That and printing certain photos, making books on shutterfly and backing up to an external hard drive are my strategies. I also always keep two copies of every photo (I don't re-format my memory cards until my laptop has been backed up to the external hard drive). When Christmas photos are still on my camera in June, I know a backup is overdue!

Florence C

Sunday 22nd of September 2013

Thanks for reminding me. I need to go through my pictures and get some printed off. I try to get a few printed off each year off the grandkids. I usually send them to Costco and pick them up. Only cost few dollars.


Saturday 21st of September 2013

I really got a lot out of your post, after losing precious pictures of my sister's wedding a few years ago because of a computer virus we now print pics as soon as possible. I did not know the CDs may not last over the years so I thank you for that info. Once the photos are gone there is no getting them back..:(