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How to protect your photos from Bit Rot

‘I have lost many photographs that I saved few years ago in my old computer. Where and how they got lost, I have no idea. I made every effort to keep the system at safe place and install antivirus. Is there a way I can get back my precious photos? They are my childhood memories!’

Sumona Chatterjee
27th Apr 2018
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You love your memories and photos are the best way to relive them. But for how long can you preserve your precious photos - 2 years, 5 years, 10, 20…or forever? Digital photos are not immortal! You take all precautions, try to protect your files from corruption or virus infection, but what about Bit Rot.?

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Bit Rot is a real phenomenon that damages the bits and bytes of your files stored on hard drives, RAID, or optical media, over a period of time. It actually involves the gradual wearing of a region on a drive making the data on it corrupt, unreadable or finally erased.

Bit Rot is a threat to your valuable photos if you want to protect them for a longer period. Photos lost due to Bit Rot are not recoverable. Enterprises and highly technical users enable Bit Rot protection that detects Bit Rot errors and disk wipe techniques to protect data from loss from HDD, SSD and RAID.

But what if you are a home user or professional photographer?

How to Protect your Photos from Bit Rot?

You have two choices to tackle the issue:

1. Either detect it early and take measures to retrieve the rest of the photos from the drive. But the drawback is till you detect Bit Rot, you have already lost some of the photos on the media.

2. Follow the ways that protect your photos by avoiding Bit Rot completely

Here picking the second option to avoid Bit Rot and any kind of photo loss, we bring the best ways that can protect your photos from Bit Rot.

Ways to Protect your Photos from Bit Rot

Print your photos

Save in Cloud

Save in flash media

Store photos in local media

Archive photos on different media

Periodically save photos as new

Have a sound backup plan

Print your photos

In this digital era, keeping the prints of your precious photos may sound old school of thought. But if photos are printed on quality papers with good ink and kept in controlled conditions (humidity, temperature), they can last over 100 years.

Save in Cloud

Cloud storage is the safe way to store data for longer duration without much bothering yourself of protecting it. Cloud or online backup storage services like Backblaze or Carbonite are boon for videographers/photographers who have to manage large number of photos and videos. But before choosing the Cloud services, check for Bit Rot protection offered. Ensure the convincing answers for the below questions from your Cloud vendor:

 How they resolve Bit errors?

 What protection do they use against Bit Rot on Cloud servers?

 What is the durability guarantee they offer?

Save in flash media

Flash media has proved to withstand the durability test. Unlike HDDs or optical media flash memory storage, flash media are less prone to scratches or other mechanical failures. You can save your photos in them and keep the device safely for as many years you want.

Remember, USB flash drives lifespan depends upon write/erase cycles. If you continue to use it, it will eventually wear out after crossing the write/erase cycles limit. Also, always properly connect and disconnect the USB drive to your computer to avoid bit decay.

Store your photos in local media

Storing photos on local media rather over a network reduces the risk of bit decay. This is because network folder is accessed by multiple users and every time the folder is opened or the photos are transferred, the chances of Bit Rot increases.

However, you may confront a situation of photo loss due to accidental deletion, formatting or the virus infection in the local drive, flash media, SD card, or network location. Use a professional photo recovery software – Stellar Phoenix Photo Recovery to get back lost photos and video. The tool supports photos recovery from all digital cameras, DSLRs, drone, security cameras etc., of all popular brands. It is easy to use and completely safe tool that recovers lost photos even from severely corrupt drives while maintaining their original quality.

Watch the video below to know how to recover lost photos with Stellar Phoenix Photo Recovery.

Archive photos on different media

Archiving helps you to keep Bit Rot at bay. Photos damaged by Bit Rot cannot be recovered, however, if archived photos are damaged, they can be repaired. Whether it’s ZIP, RAR, or any other archive format, you can regularly test it for errors and fix, if any. The photos remain safe in archives for long. Also archiving helps you to remain organized and easily keep track of your varied memories – wedding, family trip, or children birthday party etc.

It is extremely beneficial for professional photographers.

Periodically save photos as new

Old stored image files may wear due to Bit Rot as they may have to go through repeated read and writes. To protect your photos from decay for a longer duration, save them again as new in the drive, preferably at the new place.

Have a sound backup plan

Never depend upon just one drive or media for storing your pictures. At least have two to three copies of your photos in different storage media. For instance, if one copy is saved in Cloud, have a second backup on the hard drive or USB flash stick. Replicate your photo archives at two different places. Having a strong backup plan gives you Bit Rot protection.

Conclusion

Bit decay is inevitable and Bit Rot recovery impossible. Whether hard drives, SSDs, or even Cloud servers, all are prone to Bit Rot phenomenon. Having said that, choosing the best backup plan and picking the most durable storage media to protect your photos is the only solution to avoid photos loss due to Bit Rot.

As it is said, better to be safe than repent later!

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