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  1. #1
    Star Lounger
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    Data stability on hard drives versus other backup media

    Not a pressing issue, but I'm curious....

    We're told that data is perishable, and that data stored on other media (specifically CDs and DVDs) will eventually deteriorate to the point that it's unreadable.

    What makes data stored on a computer's primary hard drive more stable than data stored on other media........or is it? The question never seems to come up in discussions about storing data for the long haul.

    Am less concerned about text documents than I am about photos. Was looking through photos taken fifteen-plus years ago (stored on my hard drive), and some of them are starting to look grainy, with "off" colors. Obviously, the photos have migrated to several new hard drives over the years. Might deterioration be the result of backing up onto CD/DVD prior to restoring the photos to a new computer? Is data lost with each transfer?

    Getting back to the main question: Compared to data stored on backup media, how stable is data stored on a healthy hard drive? Are solid state and spinning drives equally stable?

    Thankee, gang.

    Brooks

  2. #2
    Silver Lounger
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    Once photos are digitized (scanned in or originals from digital cameras) that's it as far as changes go, unless one or more becomes corrupt in which case it would not appear the same if one could open it at all. More likely to happen are changes in various screen adjustments displaying digital photos (higher contrasts, resolution changes, sharpness, hue...all the typical adjustments there are) and differences in system color management that may have been added by some programs like Photoshop, and not to mention any editing changes one might make either deliberately or unknowingly.

    The main question; data is stable on a healthy hard drive until its not, since we have a hard time pinpointing when this transgression will occur on any one drive, multiple copies of the data on different drives or media are required. From studies and empirical evidence we know that on average a drive will last about 5 or six years but that's a bit like the weather, so far in January here, not one day has been equal to the average temp for that day.
    Sent from Windows ME thru Opera 10.63...just before they crashe

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    Super Moderator RetiredGeek's Avatar
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    Brooks,

    Remember if you are storing your photos in lossy format (.jpg) everytime you save them from a program like Photo Shop or Picassa some information is lost!
    That said, copying them from one HD to another or a USB key or CD no loss of data will occur as long as the media is healthy unless there is a hardware/software failure in the copy chain, which is why you follow F.U.N's advice. HTH
    May the Forces of good computing be with you!

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    WS Lounge VIP mrjimphelps's Avatar
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    The M-Disk is supposed to last for an extremely long time (100 years or more). They are readable on most DVD drives, but you have to have an M-Disk drive in order to write to them.

    http://www.mdisc.com/faq/

    The other side of the coin is: How far into the future will there be drives which can read these disks?

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    Super Moderator RetiredGeek's Avatar
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    Hey Y'all,

    I just bought a USB M-Disk drive & 10 M-Disks for my wife for Christmas. She's a genealogist and was worried about all here gene data. Haven't had a chance to test it out yet though. I'll report back when I do.
    May the Forces of good computing be with you!

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    WS Lounge VIP Browni's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by RetiredGeek View Post
    Hey Y'all,

    I just bought a USB M-Disk drive & 10 M-Disks for my wife for Christmas. She's a genealogist and was worried about all here gene data. Haven't had a chance to test it out yet though. I'll report back when I do.
    Would be nice if your descendants report back here in 100 years time to confirm they last that long

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    Star Lounger
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    Quote Originally Posted by F.U.N. downtown View Post
    More likely to happen are .......differences in system color management that may have been added by some programs like Photoshop, and not to mention any editing changes one might make either deliberately or unknowingly.
    Well, that explains a lot right there. All those old photos were retouched at some point.

    ...data is stable on a healthy hard drive until its not......multiple copies of the data on different drives or media are required.
    Got that covered. So I'm doin' about as much as I can do, I guess. Thanks, F.U.N.

    Quote Originally Posted by RetiredGeek View Post
    Remember if you are storing your photos in lossy format (.jpg) everytime you save them from a program like Photo Shop or Picassa some information is lost!
    Appreciate the reminder, R.G. All those old photos were stored as jpegs. Now I save all my photos as .PNGs, but I didn't know that back then. Thanks!

    Quote Originally Posted by mrjimphelps View Post
    The M-Disk is supposed to last for an extremely long time (100 years or more).
    First I've heard of an M-Disk! At three smackers per disk, they're not cheap (plus, you need to have an M-Disk burner). For archival backups, though, it might be a worthwhile investment. Thanks, Jim.

    RetiredGeek, please give that M-Disk a whirl, and report back!


    Quote Originally Posted by Browni View Post
    Would be nice if your descendants report back here in 100 years time to confirm they last that long
    HA, Browni! A hundred years.....that's an awfully long time, isn't it?

    Sometimes I think, "I've got to digitize the family photos!" Then I think, hang on.......my mother wasn't Marilyn Monroe, and I'm not Tsar Nicholas. A century from now, who will give a rat's ass about our baby pictures?
    Last edited by BrooksNYC; 2014-02-01 at 14:50.

  9. #8
    Bronze Lounger DrWho's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BrooksNYC View Post
    Not a pressing issue, but I'm curious....
    We're told that data is perishable, and that data stored on other media (specifically CDs and DVDs) will eventually deteriorate to the point that it's unreadable.
    What makes data stored on a computer's primary hard drive more stable than data stored on other media........or is it? The question never seems to come up in discussions about storing data for the long haul.
    Am less concerned about text documents than I am about photos. Was looking through photos taken fifteen-plus years ago (stored on my hard drive), and some of them are starting to look grainy, with "off" colors. Obviously, the photos have migrated to several new hard drives over the years. Might deterioration be the result of backing up onto CD/DVD prior to restoring the photos to a new computer? Is data lost with each transfer?
    Getting back to the main question: Compared to data stored on backup media, how stable is data stored on a healthy hard drive? Are solid state and spinning drives equally stable?
    Thankee, gang.
    Brooks
    The most simple answer is NO! Data on any hard drive is never safe. Every hard drive in the world, of the home computer type, either mechanical or solid state, will crash someday. Even the big, expensive commercial drives can crash. Not even IF, but WHEN! It might be a day, a week, a year or a decade, but one day it will crash.
    And everything stored on that drive will be lost.

    I've got Seagate drives that have run every day for years, with no problems, and I've had WD drives that didn't last a month. But brand names aside, a hard drive is the worlds worse place to store valuable data.

    Pictures are stored as a sequence of one's and zero's. Nothing more. So if a picture is degrading it means that there is data loss. Not good!!! A picture stored digitally, should theoretically last forever. Like the holes in a punch card....they never just go away.

    Every hard drive has data correction circuitry built in, so that should never happen, but......

    Now, new CD's and DVD's today are rated at reliable for up to 30 years. Most of us, at least myself, won't live that long.
    Keep them in a cool, dry place and they will outlive most of us.

    Now, what I've done for years, to protect the data on my hard drive, is to refresh the drive after every weekly backup (to some other reliable media.) When I do a C: drive backup, I immediately do a Verify of the backup image and then without ever leaving the backup program I do a C: drive restore. All the little one's and zero's on the drive are re-written in perfect order without any errors, spaces between files or fragmentation. That eliminates data degradation. The data will stay viable as long as the drive lasts. In the past 20 years, I've not lost one data file to degradation or drive crash. Yes, I do have files that are that old.

    I've set up and worked Data Backup schemes for Govt., Corp's. and individuals for the past 30+ years.
    When a comprehensive Data Backup plan is properly implemented, data life is assured.
    Multiple backups to different media is the best plan.

    Good Luck!
    The Doctor
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    Backup! Backup! Backup! GHOST Rocks!

  10. #9
    Star Lounger
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    Hi-ho, Who! Thanks for jumping in.

    Let me phrase my question differently, since it occurs to me that I'm partly wondering how data "sticks" to various surfaces, and how that affects the life of the data.

    Quote Originally Posted by DrWho View Post
    A picture stored digitally, should theoretically last forever. Like the holes in a punch card....they never just go away.
    Except that data written to a CD or DVD will degrade over time, even when the disks are stored, untouched, in a perfect environment.

    What if you stored your data on a brand-new, external hard drive under the same ideal, untouched circumstances? Would the platter of a hard drive retain data longer than a CD or DVD? (This is now a purely theoretical discussion since, like you, I don't plan on being here in thirty years.)

    When I do a C: drive backup, I immediately do a Verify of the backup image and then without ever leaving the backup program I do a C: drive restore. All the little one's and zero's on the drive are re-written in perfect order without any errors, spaces between files or fragmentation.
    How is the restored image different from the data that was on your hard drive when you created the backup? If no new data has been written to the hard drive in between creating the image and restoring the image, aren't you just shuttling the same data -- the same image -- back and forth?

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