Sep 152009

by Chris Guld of Geeks on Tour:

I sometimes feel like a broken record, telling people to backup their photos.  Just when I figure that *everyone* has the idea and I can rest, I read something like this post in the Picasa Help Group where someone lost 15,000 photos when their computer crashed.  !?#!!??@!!

How can anyone possibly collect that many pictures without at some point wondering, “What would happen if my computer crashed, or it got stolen, or it fell out of the car, or it burned up in a fire or … “

One of the biggest reasons that I recommend Picasa so highly is that it makes backups SO easy.  First, let me make sure we understand each other with the term ‘Backup.’  It means having a copy of your photos somewhere separate from your computer.  These are for emergency purposes.  I recommend using CD-Rs or DVD-Rs.  I buy the discs in bulk, they come 50 to a spindle.  I make a backup every month, of that month’s photos.  Then I put the backup discs on an old spindle and keep them in a cupboard.  I’ve been backing up photos and other important files this way for over 10 years.  I had occasion to look thru some of the older backup discs the other day, and the pictures were in perfect shape.

Here’s a step-by-step of how you might back up Pictures, using Picasa, for a whole year:

  1. Tools, Backup Pictures
  2. Click ‘New Set’ give it a name of 2009
  3. Check the box next to every folder of pictures in 2009 (that’s easy for me because I store all my pictures in folders by month)
  4. Picasa reports that I’ve selected 4,347 files and I’ll need 18 CDs or 3 DVDs.  I choose DVDs ( I use the DVD-R type)
  5. Put a DVD in the drive and click ‘Burn’
  6. Wait until it completes that DVD.  It will spit it out and display a message requesting the second DVD.  Then it repeats for the third.
  7. When it’s all completed, label the disks with a Sharpie marker then take the disks to another computer to test them.  There’s nothing worse than thinking you have good backups and finding out much later (when you need them) that they didn’t process correctly.  When you first put them in the drive, you should be prompted to do a Restore.  You don’t want to restore, you just want to look and see that the pictures are there, so cancel the restore prompt.  What you want to do is ‘Explore’ or ‘Open Folder to View Files.’  If you see that option, just choose it.  If not, you can go to My Computer and right click on the DVD drive, then choose Explore.  You should see a folder called $My Pictures. That’s where all your photos are. (Tutorial Videos:Backup your Photos to CD)

Do it!  Do it now!  Here’s a very short video I made a while back that goes thru the process:

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  40 Responses to “Backup! Backup! Backup!”

  1. I want to do a New and COMPLETE Picasa backup. I clicked on all but noticed that the People section was not opened and thus none of the names under People were clicked. Does this have to be backed up also or does the data just come along? I have set Store Name Tags in Albums.

    Thank you,


    • I think you mean ‘Store Name Tags in Photo‘ If so, that means the fact that a face of joe is in picture xxx, is stored with the picture, and the picture is backed up when you back up your folders. So, no need to back up the People albums. You’re fine.

      • Full backup is still needed because name tags are not added to files for photos added to Picasa before this feature was enabled, so there is a chance that there are name tags what are only present in People albums.
        Exclusions aren’t stored in file either, and although losing these is not an unrecoverable data loss it will be a huge annoyment to exclude tens or hundreds of faces after restore.

        • Well, no, I don’t think that is so. When you turn on the feature to Store Name Tags in Photo, you should be able to look at the Info for any picture with a known face in it and see the Name Tag. See this thread from the Picasa forum:

          • Here are my thoughts to the 3 comments below:
            Thank you!
            Yes, I did mean Photos
            It makes sense to me that if you turn on ‘Store Name Tags in Photo’ that this has to apply to all pictures. If not, you would have to go to every picture and redo the tags.

            Too bad Google/Picasa is leaving support to this product in the hands of the users…I wonder if we will ever see another release?

            Chris Guld: Well, no, I don’t think that is so. When you turn on the feature to Store Name Tags in Photo, you should be able to look at the Info for any picture with a known face in it and see the Name Tag. See this thread from the Picasa forum:

            jbtibor: Full backup is still needed because name tags are not added to files for photos added to Picasa before this feature was enabled, so there is a chance that there are name tags what are only present in People albums.
            Exclusions aren’t stored in file either, and although losing these is not an unrecoverable data loss it will be a huge annoyment to exclude tens or hundreds of faces after restore.

            Chris Guld: think you mean ‘Store Name Tags in Photo‘ If so, that means the fact that a face of joe is in picture xxx, is stored with the picture, and the picture is backed up when you back up your folders. So, no need to back up the People albums. You’re fine.

          • Yes that’s what everyone would expect, except Picasa developers who forgat to include a feature to migrate existing name tags to files.
            So those who were using Picasa before this feature was added have some name tags in .picasa.ini files and People Albums, and some name tags for their newer photos in the photo files as rdf tags.
            It is very easy to verify this:
            Open a .picasa.ini file from a folder what was added before this feature was enabled and you’ll see face tags in it.
            Check last modified date of a file added before this feature was enabled and you’ll find it wasn’t updated.
            Or open the file itself in a text editor and search for rdf. There isn’t any. Do the same for a file what was name tagged after this feature was enabled and you’ll find the face tag with name included in file:

            Quote from the forum you’ve linked:
            ‘It seems that the name tag information is only save to images that have been tagged after the option has been enabled. This is the behavior that one would expect, but it would be nice to have a way of saving the name tags to photos (single or collection) that have been tagged earlier (all my 1000s of photos). I didn’t find a way of doing that.’

  2. Can someone please tell me whether I need multiple picasa db files? I have about 7 of them and they are taking up a huge amount of my hard drive space. I have googled and found lots of info on how to move databases and use databases with multiple computers, but I just want to know if I can delete these db files (which are all approximately the same size). Thanks in advance!!

  3. Picasa doesn’t make backups easy, it makes it more complicated actually because there’s no single location where _all_ data is stored so if one wants a complete backup needs the image files, the .picasa.ini files and Picasa’s internal database.

  4. I also used to use CDs, DVDs, and External Hard drives (NAS drive evetually) for backing up my photos. But I finally bit the bullet and am now paying for a subscription to Dropbox. I use it all the time anyway to sync my work and home pc & iMac together, so I figured for some peace of mind I could sync the 70Gig I have of pics onto their cloud. I have noticed some data corruption previously using CD’s/DVDs/HDD’s, so I’m hoping that the cloud backup plus my NAS drive at home should be a bit more reliable.

  5. The rule of thumb as I have heard it around our IT department and other people I know of who work in IT is that CDR or DVDR media is not good for anything you want to store for over 2-3 years. With the price of external hard drives so low that seems to be the safest option.

  6. Do you backup (check the folders) the people albums, too? I see this doubles the backup size. If I don’t include people albums will it have to rebuild faces again??

  7. I am restoring pictures using backup discs I made with Picasa. Three of the four discs worked perfectly. Unfortunately, one of them seems to have a corrupted file. Once it hits this file in the restore process everything stops and it won’t restore the photos that follow. It won’t allow me to delete the corrupted file either.
    Any suggestions?

  8. Just a quick note, you should use DVD+R in preference to DVD-R disks if you drive supports them. The DVD+R format has additional error correction written to the disks which make them more durable and less likely to coaster. The only thing DVD-R disks are useful for is to copy DVD movies that you are playing back on a really old DVD player that doesn’t support DVD+R as well.

  9. I used to back up all the images on the USB drive too. Somehow, I felt that it was too bad to let the images be lost on account of a USB malfunctioning. I went ahead and bought a pro account at Flickr. Too bad, it did not dawn on me that I could have used Picasa and save the 2 year cost I incurred.

    Does not hurt to add a backup on Picasa too.

    • With Picasa you only get 1 GB for free so unless you use more accounts the 1 GB runs out very fast.
      If you are looking for free storage there’s Dropbox where you get 2 GB and SkyDrive where you get 25 GB (not a typo, twenty-five GB, however there’s a 50/100 MB limit on file size).

      Flickr’s 25 USD per year for unlimited storage, bandwidth _and_ file size is very cheap.
      Look at online backup solutions, there you may find similar prices _and_ backup software too.

      For cloud backups you may also look at Amazon S3, there are backup software what can backup there.

  10. How do I get the back up in Picasa to put pics in my Flash Drive ?

    I know I can copy but it doesn’t seperate as folders so it’s like 5000 pics that are not labeled in anyway.

    • When you use Picasa’s backup command, create a New Set and choose the option to backup to a drive and folder rather than to a CD.

  11. Greetings Geeks,
    I hope you can tell me what I did wrong and if it can be fixed:

    I use Picasa to organize and edit my photos. I backed up my PC regularly to an external HD (using the utility that came with the HD).

    My PC died.

    When I “restored” my photos to my new PC I got the original pics which is great, but I lost all the edits I had made to them in Picasa. BTW, I only copied the original photos (not the Picasa software) when I did the restore (therefore, no .ini files).

    Is there any hope for me?

    Thank you,

    • If I understand you right – you have your photos back in My Pictures and you don’t have the Picasa software installed. All Picasa edits are stored in the picasa.ini file that is located in the same folder as the pictures themselves. That file would be backed up any normal backup procedure. If you install Picasa now, and view your photos using Picasa, you should see the edited version.

  12. Hello, Was told Picasa might be able to help me with a problem. Don’t use Picasa but I am interested now that I know it exists. I backup my digital photos to a USB memory stick. Purely an amateur learning as I go along. When I load my stick the computer doesn’t pick up. I was told I have a corrupt file on it and the computer wont read it. I had been dragging photos and puting files in order when something went wrong. What can I do now? Would appreciate your advice.Anna

  13. […] I don’t Need Backups because I use Picasa This one truly surprises me, but I hear it over and over.  People have heard that Picasa includes Picasa Web Albums and, for some reason they think that it automatically puts all your pictures on the Web Albums.  No, No, No.  Picasa is software on your computer, PIcasa Web Albums is a free online photo-sharing website that is a companion to Picasa.  First of all, even if you do upload your pictures to Picasa Web Albums, I don’t consider that a backup.  Picasa Web Albums is a method to share your pictures with friends and family.  You still want your original safe on your computer and backed up to CD/DVD or external Hard Drive. Secondly, Picasa doesn’t do anything automatically … it’s good, but it’s not magic!  Picasa includes a command to ‘Backup Pictures’ … it’s very easy … USE IT! See past article: Picasa Web Albums Also: Backup!  Backup!  Backup! […]

    • Yes, Don Lind is the best. He knows more than anyone, and he explains in depth. But … realize that the post you refer to is from 2007.

  14. Isn’t there a better way to backup the database? Shouldn’t the picture backup just do that too! =(

  15. Hey,
    Nice tutorial, I like the inclusion of a video. Here’s my issue, I don’t really know what an ISO file is. That’s the type of file Picasa says it is making. And, once I’ve burned the backup CD, it isn’t reappearing as a group of files, just one file, a disc image. I can’t reopen this disc image. It just sits there, unreadable.
    so, what is an ISO. And, is there a way to look at this disc image? And, is this normal?


  16. I saw you post on backing up photos and have a question. Can you do a partial restore from a Picasa backup. For example, I have three computers and three different photo collections. Can I make a backup on computer one and restore part or all of it onto computer three without erasing existing photos on computer three?

  17. Hello,

    I have a backup strategy to backup all my photos already, strategy that include the use of external drive, DVD and even cloud storage. What I would like to know is if you would have some good advice on how to backup the picasa database only regularly : which files, which method to be used, etc. In an situation where a restore/recovery would be necessary, I would like to avoid rescanning the drive the rebuild the database, specially that now with the new tag feature, it take a lot of effort to create such database.



    • Copying the folders gets the basics … all the photos plus the edits stored in the picasa.ini files. When you backup it also gets the album info in C:UsersChrisAppDataLocalGooglePicasa2Albums
      The ‘database’ is stored at C:UsersChrisAppDataLocalGooglePicasa2 but it’s not just a simple matter of copying pasting. Go to the picasa user’s forum ( and search for ‘backup database’ for lots more info.

  18. Trying to back up pictures to a cd. I get a message that Picasa cant properly write the disc. What am I doing wrong? thanks for any help

    • Not sure. I’d try a different disk – sometimes they are bad.
      I’d try rebooting the computer – you’d be surprised all the problems that fixes.

      • When the same err happens on 2 different pcs ….none of your ideas helps.seems like sw bug to me .

  19. Hi Chris,
    Thanks for the ‘Backup’ reminder.
    I run a scrapbooking store and I have been told by one of my suppliers that the Sharpie pen is not recommended for marking on CD’s and DVD’s, due to an ingredient that can actually ‘eat’ through the CDs and destroy information on the disc. It becomes corrupted and ‘missing’ bits. They recommend the Identipen which is safe on the discs.

    Just thought I should pass this on for your perusal.

  20. Hi, Chris. Two questions: is there a reason you back up to DVDs rather than an external drive? Do both work fine?

    Is it fine to backup my photos using the old “copy” a folder to the disc/external drive method? Or is there something special about backing up using the Picassa software? I find it easier to just copy my picture folders at the same time I copy other folder to my external drive… and I am assuming it works fine…

    Thanks for all you do for us bumbling travelers. 🙂

    • Hi Laurie,
      External Hard Drives are great. I use one for nightly backup. I see DVDs as more permanent. I burn them once then never touch again. I have some DVDs of old photos that have long been deleted from my computers and external hard drives. But the CDs/DVDs are still on their spindle up in the cupboard.

      I also leave a set of disks at my Mom’s house. If the motorhome should go up in flames, my computer *and* my external hard drive goes with it. My backup disks (actually these are ‘archival’) wit my precious photos are still at my Mom’s.

      As for simply copying a folder – yes, that’s fine. Both the original photo and Picasa’s .ini record of edits will be there. The one thing you would lose is ‘Albums’ since that data is stored with your User profile. Picasa’s Backup command gets that as well.

      • Chris,
        I tried your back-up suggestion with my almost 1100 Alaska pix.
        Picasa said it would require 3 CD’s. I followed the prompts as it asked me to add subsequent CD’s. However, I did somehow miss the labeling step. After burning all 3 CD’s I put them in another computer to check them. CD #1 and 2 were blank and CD # 3 had an entirely different folder copied rather than my Alaska pix.
        When I try to redo, Picasa thinks I’ve already backed them up so it no longer shows Alaska folder visable. Because I didn’t label, they are not in the drop down box. Help

        • Judy,
          The way to fix the ‘Picasa thinks I’ve already backed them up’ problem is to create a New Set. With a New Set – you’ll be starting from scratch.

      • I thought using picasa WAS a form of backing up my pictures? They’re stored online, right? Even if my computer is destroyed, can’t I go to picasa on a new computer and view/download my pictures?

        PS I haven’t downloaded the program yet. Still looking around for what will work best for me. My main issue is lowering the amount of space pictures take up as I have an older computer without much space. Backing up hadn’t actually occurred to me but now that you mention it……DUH! How could I not?

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