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Photography Question 
Erica T. MacDonald

Backing Up My Computer

So I am overwhelmed with my computer right now. I am not a techie at all so I don't understand how to do many things around backup. My computer local disk is maxed out, my 500GB external HD is maxed out and now my 1TB external HD is saying that it is maxed out. I have no idea how all of these are maxed out, unless there are crazy duplicates. I don't know where I should go from here especially since I know I need to wipe out my computer. I am scared I will lose some pictures. Any suggestions?

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3/16/2010 10:56:33 PM

Carlton Ward
BetterPhoto Member Since: 12/13/2005
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  Hello Erica,
You should go get another 1 TB hard drive and make sure you have all your photos either backed up to a 2nd drive or have backup DVDs burned of all your photos. Be careful not to do anything to try and clear space until you know that you have your images duplicated on another drive or on disks.
As long as you have all your images on 2 drives or 1 drive with CD/DVD backups, you may start looking at re-organizing your folders to create space or defrag the computer & drives.
You need to keep some open space on every drive (recommended to keep 10% of capacity open) so that the drive doesn't get choked up or become slow as it needs a little overhead space to operate efficiently. I don't think you really need to keep 100GB free for a 1TB hard drive but you should still try not to go too much over the 900MB mark if possible.
I keep 2 hard drives that both have the same folders/photos on them in case 1 drive fails, I am covered. I currently have (2) 1TB drives that are approaching 800GB level so I am about to order 2 more drives. I am a MAC user and like the Iomega 1TB mini-max Firewire hard drives as that are stackable and also provide additional firewire & USB ports on the back of them.
Its really kinda hard to know what's going on without actually sitting in front of your computer but if you have a firm grasp of how all your photos are organized, you should be able to tell if you have "crazy duplicates" or if you have just used that much space.
I just bought a Canon 5D Mark II and the file sizes are huge, so I am eating more disk space that ever before. Luckily, Hard drives are pretty inexpensive (the Iomega 1TB I use are about $100 each). I either go through all my files and start deleting a bunch of throw-away images or add another HD.
My 21MB raw files change into 120MB when I save them as uncompressed TIFF flies. If I save 3 or 4 different edits of an image, I will eat a lot of space very quickly. I am having to delete more images now to keep from using so much drive space.
Let me know if this helps or reply back with more specifics so we know what you are having troubles with.

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3/17/2010 3:02:37 AM

Frank E. Trinkle
BetterPhoto Member Since: 2/18/2010
  Are you using a windows PC or a Mac? Depending on which you're using, I may be able to point you to some possibilities that are eating up your space beyond just files that you stored yourself.

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3/17/2010 3:32:40 AM

Randy A. Myers
BetterPhoto Member Since: 8/20/2002
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  I suggest you take a course so you have a better understanding of what is going on. You will always be overwhelmed with file management until you get a grasp on how it all works. I only suggest this since you claim you are not a "techie". It takes a lot of files to fill up a 1TB disk so it sounds like a file management problem to me.

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3/17/2010 7:38:09 AM

David Rodriguez   Erica,

Become a member of linkedin (, once there, become a member of the Nikon Photo Group (all this free of charge). This and many other questions are answered extensively. It includes what other members are doing and the experiences they've had. I posed a similar question and it is answered at the following link:

You don't need to be a techie, but it is important that you understand how digital files are stored so you don't loose them.

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3/23/2010 4:45:24 AM

Phillip A. Flusche
BetterPhoto Member Since: 9/17/2003
  I suggest you run some basic windows file routines. Open your My Desktop. Right click on the C drive. Click on properties. In the next window click the tab for Disk Cleanup. Then click OK after it analylizes.

Then also right click on the Trash Bin Icon and select empty. This might open up some room. When you delete files they just go to the Trash Bin and don't really go away. It can become very large.

Also some photo editing programs save the cache files created during editing. My old computer would get clogged up because I had the cache file limit set up way to high. I had to go back and manually dump ove 40 gigs of cache files. Saving recent cache files makes later editing go a little faster. But they can be very arge and really eat up HD space.

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3/23/2010 5:15:03 AM

Kathleen K. Parker
BetterPhoto Member Since: 11/30/2000
  Hi Erica,

I do not store my photos on my computer. I have several hard drives--external---and a zillion DVDs of images as second or third backups of photos I really care about. I do have to say that one of my external hard drives zonked out, but before it did entirely, I grabbed and saved to a new hard drive as many important files as I could. By the way, it was the Iomega that failed. I have Seagate Free Agent, Seagate Passport, and a Western Digital.

I would definitely move to external hd or/and copy the photos to DVDs if you can. Then I would get a techy guy over to work on the stuffed hard drive, keeping my gotta have programs installed if he can do that.

Since my rather new Iomega croaked, I realize now I have to save in at least two places and do this periodically. Also, keep your external hard drives away from dusty places. I think that might have been the killer of the Iomega. Hope it works out well for you, Erica.


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3/23/2010 6:29:27 AM

Erica T. MacDonald   Great, thank you everyone. My computer is a HP using Windows Vista.

I hate to do everything manually, does anyone have a good automated software?



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3/23/2010 6:48:17 AM

Bunny Snow
BetterPhoto Member Since: 11/16/2004
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  I'm an expert only in that I've been in the same position as you, despite my husband being a DBA (who doesn't have time for me).

I took the advice of the BP community and bought external hard drives for downloading my images, so that both the DNG and the raw file aren't both on my C-drive. This helped enormously.

I also used the Windows search engine to locate all the PSD files on my computer because they take up a lot of space and some can be turned into files more space effective.

In addition, I no longer use the largest setting on my camera because that makes for large images which take lots of space. Doing this automatically without pre-thought means getting into trouble, for me. Most of my images are destined for personal web space, anyway.

When I do download them onto the computer, I look at each image first and get rid of the no-brainers --soft focus, burned out highlights, shadows which are too black. Then, only the raw are copied to a pre-named file folder on my external hard drive. This frees up the computer's internal hard drive.

Sometimes working manually protects more than automated software, which cannot think and make the decisions that only you can make.

I also am brain dead when it comes to computers and my husband knows computers but doesn't feel photoshop or my new cameras are important --he's happy with the poor quality images he randomly captures and downloads straight to the web and considers me extreme.

But, I'm learning the hard way to work manually.

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3/23/2010 7:08:18 AM

Frank E. Trinkle
BetterPhoto Member Since: 2/18/2010

If you want some automation and a program that will find all the extraneous stuff that doesn't need to be on your computer, as well as finding any other problems, I strongly suggest System Mechanic from IOLO software ( You can download a free trial that is not hobbled and see if it will help.

Temp files may be clogging your system, as well as cache files. Another common culprit is backup files that your computer may be set to store (and they are BIG). System Mechanic will find much of the problems with space, and if you still have a problem after using it, post here and we'll walk you through the backup deletions.

Let us know how it works out. Cheers

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3/23/2010 1:33:46 PM

Sherry King   Erica,

As someone else suggested, I strongly recommend a computer class. You need to understand how your files are stored and how to do basic file management. Are you using a photo management software program? I have a Mac and am using Aperture (great program), but I also use TimeMachine to do backups. Photoshop's Bridge (I believe) can also help you with photo file management.

You don't need to be a computer expert, but you do need to know how to manage your files. While external drives are cheap, just adding a drive is only a temporary solution. You'll be out of space again soon if you simply add a drive and continue as things are.

Good luck.

PS. Frank is correct regarding the temp and cache files. If you know where to look, these can be cleaned periodically and the cache cranked back on you browser(s). Again, a computer class will help.

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3/23/2010 6:55:03 PM

Carlton Ward
BetterPhoto Member Since: 12/13/2005
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  I also became a MAC user 2 years ago and it is much simpler to use & easier to manage than PC's IMO...

I just received a new 1TB drive and am backing up 600GB of photos now :)
I am going to clean out my older 500GB and use it for Time Machine Backups :)


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3/23/2010 7:01:40 PM

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