Storing digital pictures

"Where should I store my digital pictures?" The first answer that comes to mind may seem obvious: on your computer's hard drive. But that's the wrong answer. A computer hard drive is fine for temporary storage, but your favorite pictures should always be saved somewhere other than the hard drive. If that hard drive fails, your pictures could be lost forever.

Fast-changing technology means storage devices and media popular today may be obsolete in just a few years. So, we recommend both the most popular current technology solution and a very traditional way of storing your digital pictures.

Storing digital pictures as photo prints in albums
Are we serious? Store digital pictures as prints in photo albums? Indeed, we are. And as you'll see, the photo album deserves your serious consideration for its long-term storage advantages.


  • Prints won't become technologically obsolete; when properly stored they can last for generations.
  • Prints provide an accessible and enjoyable record of your family history.
  • They can tighten family bonds because albums are available to everybody.
  • Prints can be digitized by scanning.
  • You don't need a computer to view prints.

  • They take up more space and require extra organization.
  • They require special (but readily available) album materials for increasing longevity.
Your first step may be to decide whether to make prints on your home inkjet printer or have a photo service make them for you on traditional photographic paper. In reality, you will likely have both inkjet and traditional photo prints. If you have a choice, the traditional photo print probably will last a bit longer than an inkjet print. But in the right storage conditions, both should last for decades.

With your prints on hand, see our Scrapbooking section to learn how to create and store a special photo album that will amuse and amaze future generations.

Storing digital pictures on CD-ROMs
Today most computers come with a built-in CD-ROM drive and a CD writer, so you can create your own CDs. DVD-ROM drives and writers are becoming more popular. They can read both CDs and DVDs. So for years to come, CDs and DVDs will be a safe means of storage.

But the rapid pace of technology means that technology 10 years into the future may not be compatible with today's CDs and DVDs.

Advantages of CDs:

  • They can be used by almost everybody who owns a computer.
  • They hold hundreds, even thousands, of pictures.
  • They are inexpensive.
  • They last for decades.
Disadvantages of CDs:

  • They are somewhat fragile.
  • They could become obsolete in 10 or 20 years.