Everybody says that backups are important, but not everybody has lived through the crisis of losing photos. If you haven’t experienced this yet, it may seem like something that only happens to other people. So this poll aims to show what percentage of photographers out there have actually lost their photos one way or another.

I’ve got four answers in this poll. Choose No if you’ve never lost your photos. Choose Yes if you have lost some or all of your photos, but you were able to restore a great majority of them with a backup. Choose Lost the Backups Too if you did keep backups, but they were also lost. And choose Didn’t Have One if you lost your photos and you didn’t have a backup. I’m sure there are various situations that blur the line on these answers, but choose the one that best fits.

FOLLOW THIS SERIES OF ARTICLES!
TOC — PHOTO BACKUP GUIDE
BACK — EXTERNAL HARD DRIVE
NEXT — RAID TOWER

Also, go ahead and tell us your horror stories in the comments (it is Halloween after all). Or share your story of how your backups saved your photo collection.

{democracy:57}

And don’t forget to check out the results from the last poll, “How Big is Your Photo Collection?” It appears that nearly half of you (44%) are still under 100GB, about 16% are in the 100GB to 200GB range, and another 12% in the 200GB to 300GB range.

18 responses


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I needed my back-up already twice this year. I had two computers dying on me within two months or so. Didn’t bother about that at all, since I always have two back-ups on external drives. No loss at all luckily.

October 31, 2008 3:17 am

I’ve never had my HDDs fail. I’ve got 6 computers, 4 PC desktops (one 2+ years old and others 1+ years old) and 2 laptops (one is 4+ years old and the other is a 1+ year old Mac Book Pro :D ), and they’ve never failed.

Even my 6 year old Pentium 133Mhz computer (with 32MB of RAM!!!) never lost data in its 6 years of life (it ended its life with a motherboard failure).

I’ve been lucky, but I’ve seen friends computers fail, and fail in BIG ways. I have a backup of all my important data, and I’m sure that when my HDDs eventually fail, I’ll have most of my data safe.

Brian, thanks for this series of posts on backing up data. Very useful!

October 31, 2008 5:37 am

Funny you should ask… I was re-organizing my portfolio and doing some touch-ups on my photos from Palestine when I couldn’t find a particular photo. I know I never consciously deleted it. It was one of my favorites. But it had just disappeared from my Aperture library. So I had to hook up the drive with the originals and re-import that single photo.

October 31, 2008 6:45 am

In 2005 my (then 13-month old) daughter was diagnosed with a brain tumor. That year was HUGE with pictures – prior to diagnosis, during diagnosis, radiation treatments, post-treatment. All kinds of things. Pictures suddenly went from being something fun to take, to having true and deep meaning.

Later that year, my laptop drive crashed. I tried every which way to recover it. Ultimately, I sent it out for recovery by a company called Gillware. Gillware took my sob-story and helped me amazingly to get most of the drive recovered. Great price, great company.

(And, no- I’m not affiliated with them in anyway – they just saved me… HUGELY!)

October 31, 2008 7:54 am

Touch wood, I haven’t needed my backups yet, but I have seen so many friends and small business lose stuff because of poor backup strategies (ie: none) that I am completely OCD about them.

I think its a corollary to Murphy’s law, the better your backup strategy, the less likely you will need it!

October 31, 2008 8:19 am

I voted “no” because I haven’t needed my backups *yet*. I know it’s just a matter of time, though.
Thanks for this series on backups. I’ve been following it, and re-reading Neil’s stuff on workflow. I know it’s all an important component of getting more serious about my photography. Unfortunately, it all eats into that most precious commodity: time.

October 31, 2008 8:20 am

I’ve had to restore a file here and there due to overzealous (or accidental) delete key incidents but so far not due to failure. But, funny you should mention this now because my backup internal drive in my desktop (I use my laptop 95% of the time) has suddenly decided that being connected to the power plug will keep the computer from even getting to the boot-up process. I know the data is there but its a question of whether it’s the hard drive or something to do with the power supply. Either way, I’m currently running with NO backup (and that’s the real horror) because I don’t have enough space on any one of my other drives to make a second right now.

Nothing like living on the edge!

October 31, 2008 1:02 pm

I had my hard drive crash while I was away for a week. Got back to having nothing. I had backed up my photos to CD just before leaving, but it turns out I had misplaced the CDs. Still haven’t found them yet, but I hope to one day.

October 31, 2008 1:33 pm

I haven’t needed my backup for my photos (yet). I did format my PC a couple fo years agi without paying too much attention, formatting the wrong drive. I found a program (although there’re loads of them) which can recover lost data, it worked perfectly although the filenames were altered to file001, file002 etc.

@ Susheel Chandradhas: a 6 year old 133MHz PC? Wow! I remember having a 200MHz MMX, which was bought in 1996 I believe. By 2002 most PC already reached the GHz I thought. What a history of PC in such a short time… :-)

October 31, 2008 1:49 pm

This summer I had an iBook in the Montana mountains–took it because of erratic electrical power and extreme need for a modem since I had to rely on a flaky dial-up connection. I downloaded raw photos each day to the iBook and to each of two WD Passport drives. All was well for 12 of our 14 days; then a huge power surge burnt out the surge protector (and fried the fridge and the coffeemaker). The iBook lost or muddled most of its data files but the modem and email still worked. I still can’t convince it to open even a JPEG but the WD drives put all the picture files on my iMac at home and still serve as photo backups. But I guess I need a new laptop fairly soon.

November 1, 2008 9:16 pm

@libeco: That computer crashed big time in 2003 (motherboard died) but it ran linux and win95 just fine. I’d bought it in 1995… So actually 7-8 years.

The hard disc??? 700MB. A whopper at it’s time.

November 2, 2008 2:51 pm

My external backup drive (Western Digital MyBook) crashed last year as I was setting up a duplicate drive. WeFixMacs in Palo Alto was able to recover my photographs (RAW files, some JPEGs, no DNGs). Since then I’ve been religious in creating DVD backups (stored offsite) and running two drive backups – one for current work with the other a mirror in case one goes out.

I also don’t recommend only using an online site for backup. At the same time my drive crash, Sony ImageStation (my online backup at the time) decided it was closing.

November 3, 2008 1:01 pm

I had a HDD crash once because my power supply was too wimpy to run two internal HDDs, a CD player and a DVD burner. I was very glad that I had my backups, but was fortunately able to recover the files from the “lost and found” directory in my Linux file system.

November 3, 2008 2:30 pm




I tend to hoard things — I don’t even delete the lenscap photos, or the photo i took of my foot.

Last year while getting some data reorganised (removing a large duplicate folder) so it was more backupable, I deleted some data (as you do). I later found that they weren’t quite duplicate folders.

As a result I can say that the only time I’ve eer needed a backup was because of trying to make it in the first place.

A 1TB external drive now serves well.

November 12, 2008 6:20 am

I do independent filmmaking, and the same applies with that. Your heart will skip a beat when you think you’ve lost something. I have an external for added storage, but I still NEED an external to backup that.

December 24, 2008 11:32 am

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