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by Janene Mascarella


The holiday season’s in full swing -— ‘tis the season to take pictures. And if you’ve got a digital camera, chances are your kids haven’t stopped saying “cheese” since Halloween. While you’re making a list (and checking it twice) of all the family and friends to whom you’ll send those adorable pictures, there’s one very important thing that might slip your mind: protecting them. Could you really be at risk of having your digital pictures zapped and gone forever? Computer experts say that when it comes to data loss, it’s often not a question of “if” – it’s a question of “when”.

Yikes…where are my memories?
In the event of a hard drive crash or serious virus intrusion, you can lose all the photos and documents you’ve collected for many years,” warns Mark Bronnberg, owner of At Home Computer Services (www.mycomputersource.net), which provides service to home users in Brooklyn. He knows all too well how heartbreaking data loss can be. He recalls a customer calling to say she was unable to boot up her computer and wanted to schedule a service call. “When I arrived at her house, the first thing she told me was that she had kept five years of digital pictures of her kids from birth and would die if she lost them all. Upon inspection of her computer, I found that her hard drive had completely crashed and wouldn't physically turn on any more.” Bronnberg had some bad news: The only way to get it back was to send the hard drive to a company in California that specializes in retrieving data from broken hard drives. It cost $1,300 to get about 80 percent of the pictures back. “My customer was willing to pay any amount of money to get these precious memories back and luckily she was able to retrieve most of them. If she had followed a simple backup plan, her precious memories would have been backed up on a separate hard drive or CD and easily recoverable.”

Who’s got your back up?
If you plan to stuff your computer with years of priceless pictures, you’d better have a back-up plan. Bronnberg says he has heard countless stories of people either losing the printed picture or damaging it somehow, and never keeping the original file. “If only they had copied the file to their hard drive, they could easily reprint the picture. With the correct steps, it can take a total of five minutes to copy the digital picture from your memory card to your computer, which will be saved forever.” There are several ways to back up, but if you’re not too tech-savvy, try this:

—Make a survey of locations of all the important files on your computer. For example, your photos are usually stored in My Documents/My Pictures Folder. Your Word docs are stored in the My Documents Folder. Your music is in My Documents/My Music Folder.

—After you complete the survey and know where all your files are located, place a blank CD or DVD into your CD/DVD burner drive.

—A program will open to assist in creating a project to create a CD or DVD. Some common programs are Nero Burning ROM and EZ CD Creator.

—The program will usually have a wizard that starts up asking you to select the files you want to copy to the CD. You would select all the files you have found during your initial survey.

—The final step would be to press the “BURN” button which will start the CD creation process.

—On completion, you will have a CD or DVD of all the files you’ve chosen to copy to the CD. In the event of a crash, this CD will have all your important data.

One last holiday pix tip:
When you take holiday photos with a digital camera, make sure you copy the files from the memory card to your computer, Bronnberg advises. The memory card can be easily damaged because of its size and physical attributes. The card’s contacts are fully exposed with no protection; if the contacts get touched too many times or get scratched, that memory card becomes unusable and all the photos on it will be lost. Your files are much safer sitting on your computer’s hard drive than on the memory card.

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