How Can I Preserve My Digital Memories (Photos, Movies, Music)

How Can I Preserve My Digital Memories (Photos, Movies, Music)

Think about the growing data space demands we have at our own homes. Precious memories are now stored digitally. We have smart devices and cameras taking videos which are commonly now all high definition (HD) resulting in very large data files. They are in different file formats. We have also larger and larger megapixel photos being taken by cameras and smart phones. We purchase digital copies of movies now instead of optical discs (DVDs). Our music is now all digital as well, no more discs (CDs). This results in huge amounts of data that now needs to be stored at your home. Most people have not given any thought to how valuable this data is and what would happen if it was lost.

I have personally been contacted by many concerned people who have lost all of their irreplaceable pictures. Recently someone took many pictures at their daughter’s wedding and left all of the pictures on the camera’s memory card. They took that memory card into Walmart to get some prints made directly off the memory card. A few months later they went to access the card again from their computer and the card could not be read. They had not made any copies of all the electronic photo files… all was gone. We sent the card to a data recovery business and unfortunately nothing was recoverable. They were devastated!


Hard Drive Data Recovery – Part 2 of 2

Hard Drive Data Recovery – Part 2 of 2

This blog article is a part 2 for hard drive data recovery where your hard drive will no longer boot into Windows. See part 1 here.

If the situation is serious, you may need to use a data recovery service. They are expensive, however if recovering the data is uber important, you may have no choice. It is best to not attempt any form of data recovery yourself and you increase the chance of causing more damage or losing more data. You increase the likelihood of being able to recover your data if you don’t do anything.

If the loss of the data isn’t super critical, you could try some of the software solutions below on your own.

One free piece of software you should have in your toolkit for just such a situation is Parted Magic. This particular piece of software you need to burn the image you download (an ISO file) to a CD and then you would boot your computer from that. This is very helpful to have in those situations where your computer can’t boot into Windows. Also it is always good to shutdown your computer if you are really concerned about recovering a file as it minimizes the chance that anything overwrites it. So using something like Parted Magic to boot into an alternate operating system to recover your files is more ideal.

Burning ISO files to an optical disc (CD/DVD) is quite easy. One nice free program you can use is CDBurnerXP. It is very simple to use for burning files or entire images (ISO files) to a disc.

Parted Magic has it’s own file manager view and you can copy files from the corrupted hard drive to another drive. Never copy files to the same drive that is having problems as you might overwrite what you are trying to recover.

Another idea is to take the bad drive and connect it to another computer. If the drive does spin up and shows up in the drive manager, but you cannot see any of the files, then you could look at some commercial programs. One program is R-Studio which has 3 flavours all under $100 and is generally successful at recovering files. It supports a large number of file systems (including Windows, Linux, and BSD variants).


Hard Drive Data Recovery – Part 1 of 2

Hard Drive Data Recovery – Part 1 of 2

When you store files on your computer, they generally go onto a hard disk drive. When you (accidentally) delete a file in Windows, the data is generally still there. It simply “hides” it by removing the first character in the file name. The space that this file occupied is now fair game for other files to be saved overtop.

That is why it is critical to STOP EVERYTHING YOU ARE DOING on your computer if you suddenly realize you mistakenly deleted a file. There is a higher probability of recovering that file if you don’t allow your computer to overwrite the space being occupied by the (now) deleted file.

Finding free programs that can perform data recovery is fairly difficult. You need to be careful what you download. Many programs use the word free but really they are simply talking about the download of the file. They allow you to scan your drive, you get all excited, and then when you go to recover the files you realize you need to purchase a license for the software (though usually they aren’t that expensive).

One program that I have found that is free and does work is Pandora Recovery. It is a Windows only program. Unfortunately as this is a program that you need to install on your Windows computer, it does take space and does increase the likelihood of overwritting portions of the files you are trying to recover. Unless you have installed this program before the problem occured.

Going one step further towards disaster would be where your computer simply won’t boot into Windows. Perhaps you hear a loud clicking sound or your hard drive doesn’t even spin up at all. This is something everyone dreads.

Read next’s weeks blog article to discover how to try and recover files from a hard drive that won’t boot into Windows.


Merging Vacation Photos From Multiple Cameras

Merging Vacation Photos From Multiple Cameras

I like to travel with my family to different locations around the world. To remember these vacations, we have our own cameras. The advent of digital cameras has made taking many pictures very easy as you don’t have to worry about wasting film. To gain different perspectives and because different things are important to different people, we each usually have our own digital camera that we take pictures with. Cameras are now fairly inexpensive and most are small enough to fit in your pocket.

For those of you who have gone on vacation with family or friends and there are is more than one camera, it results in a dilemma. When you want to show off your digital photo album you have different folders of pictures taken at different times. Alas, there is a solution!

When a digital camera takes a picture, it stores the exact date and time that the picture was taken in a “hidden” section of the picture file called EXIF data.

It is very important at the beginning of your trip to ensure everyone who has a camera has set their date and time to be exactly the same. Make this part of your routine. Take into consideration if you are in a different timezone as well. This is important so you aren’t offset by hour(s) from the other cameras.

When you get back home and have offloaded the pictures from your camera (ensure you make BACKUPS!), you can copy all of the pictures from the different cameras into a single folder. (Check to make sure your file names don’t conflict though chances are very slim that they would.)

If you look at this folder now, all of your pictures will be sorted by file name… which isn’t chronologically. In the past my wife would spends hours renaming files to place them in proper sequence.

Now for some magic… 🙂

A friend of mine recommended an amazing program called “Bulk Rename Utility” – see

This free Windows based program allows you to view the embedded EXIF data/time information on when a picture was taken, sort all of the pictures in that folder by that date/time, and rename them all such that they are in order (e.g. Trip-0001.jpg, Trip-0002.jpg…).

The program is intimidating at first when you try to use it, however after you spend some time with it to understand how it works, it takes less than 1 minute to select a folder and rename thousands of pictures.

As always, I recommend you are working on a COPY of your files that you are renaming in case you make a mistake. Also always make a backup of your precious pictures. And now that you are back home, remember to change your date/time on your camera if you changed it due to timezones.

What nifty programs do you use?


Transferring Files to Your New Computer

Transferring Files to Your New Computer

Have you ever tried to transfer your old files from your old computer to CDs or DVDs after you’ve purchased a new computer? Even though that process does work, there are more efficient ways to transfer your files. One of the best ways to transfer your files is using an external hard drive. Hard drives come in various sizes, from 100 GB to 2 terabytes (TB). Purchase a hard drive with the largest capacity so that all of your files, pictures, music, and videos can fit nicely onto one hard drive. Most often than not, your hard drive will interface with your computer using SATA, eSATA, USB 2.0, or FireWire*. USB is the most common and easiest connection method. USB ports are also generally on most laptops and computers. Ensure that your old and new computers are able to connect to your external hard drive.

USB flash drives are also great devices for transferring files. They are small, inexpensive drives that you can take anywhere. They range in storage size from 1 GB to 64 GB. Most USB flash drives work best with a high-speed USB 2.0 port. If you are transferring a large amount of files, USB flash drives can be significantly slower than an external Hard Drive.

Double check all of your document folders when you transfer your files and keep your old computer for a few days just in case you missed an important file or folder.

After you’ve completed transferring your files, you may no longer need your old computer. Be careful not to simply throw out your computer. There are some parts of your computer that need to be taken to a hazardous waste facility, recycling depot, or given to charity.

Ensure that all of your personal data is completely removed before you throw it out. Your numbers, passwords, and user names will still be stored on your hard drive. It’s important that you destroy this data to prevent identity theft from occurring. Use software that will erase your hard drive or take it to a professional who will destroy it while you watch. Read my prior blog post “Copy Machines Are a Serious Security Risk” for suggestions on software to use. Another option is to take it out and store it in a safe somewhere (or destroy it with a sledge hammer or drill)

Decide if your computer can be donated. If not, simply contact your local electronics recycler or waste facility. Most will recycle your computer for free and some will charge you a small fee. Above all, recycling your computer is the best option.


How to Speed Up Your Computer

How to Speed Up Your Computer

You may have a computer that is, to put it simply, slow. There are some easy, cost-effective ways to restore and upgrade your computer without purchasing a new one. The following tricks will help you save ample time and money.

Check your computer for viruses as they can significantly slow down the speed of your computer. Free anti-virus software, such as AVG, Avast,  ClamWin, Avira, TrendMicro, and Nod32 remove viruses automatically and offers virus scanning with free/trial updates.

When you save and delete things from your hard drive, data gets scattered across your hard drive in small pieces, instead of chunks. Your hard drive may need to look in a number of different places before it retrieves one file, which slows it down. Defragmenting your drive will speed up your computer. Look under ‘System Tools’ in your ‘Accessories’ folder and click ‘Defragment.’ It may take awhile depending on the size of your hard drive.

There may be programs running on your computer that you don’t use. These programs inevitably slow down your computer. On Windows if you click CTRL-ALT-DEL for task manager you can see exactly what’s running on your computer. Process Scanner and Uniblue are more user-friendly programs that will help you determine what programs you do need and how to delete them. Once you rid your computer of these programs, your computer should operate more efficiently.

A great program that defrags, speeds up, and examines programs running is Advanced SystemCare. This has helped solve many computer issues and speed things up.

Wiping everything off your computer and starting from scratch is another viable option. Sometimes this can be better than resolving individual problems. Remove all your important files and record the names of programs you need and use. Purchasing an external hard drive is also a good idea. If you have a recovery CD, you can simply select “Restore”.

Upgrading your system can also speed up your computer. You can add more RAM to your computer which is a cost-effective way to upgrade your computer. You may also want to consider your video card if you’re having difficulty playing games.

Upgrading your CPU may be the next step, but if you need a new processor you should probably consider buying a new computer instead.

If you are going purchase a new computer, read this article regarding transferring files.