The Digital Photo Guy

Backup Tip for Digital Photographers

by on Aug.02, 2010, under Articles

Backing Up is Hard to Do…

By now, most of you have discovered that it’s not IF you have a hard disk failure but WHEN you have an HD failure. Most of you theoretically believe in backups and try to faithfully follow a schedule. The operative words are “theoretically” and “try” because many still haven’t fully bought in.

Those who try are discovering that backing up a couple hundred megabytes is a totally different animal than backing up several gigabytes. And, when you get to several dozen gigabytes, the desire to chuck it all is overwhelming. Well, I have several hundred gigabytes and it’s nearly impossible with current technology.


The above devices are on the bleeding edge of technology. It’s called the bleeding edge because, if you’re not careful, you’ll cut and bleed all over yourself. Normally, I hate being this far out along the edge because there are always numerous “oops” and “oh $h1t” gotchas that prevent the technology from delivering all that it promises. In this case, it delivers everything as promised.

Using a standard USB 2.0 external HD, it was taking about 14 hours to backup my photos including verification. That meant a daily, or even weekly, full volume backup was out of the question. The only viable option was a monthly full volume backup and weekly differential backups. For technical reas0ns, I don’t like differential backups.

Using the Aluratek ExpressCard USB 3.0 adaptor and Keydex USB 3.0 external HD enclosure with a Western Digital 320GB 7200 RPM HD, all from, I was able to reduce my backup time including verification to about 6 hours. Without extensive testing, I believe the gating factor is now the HD. The HD can only go so fast and the USB 3.0 connection is waiting for the HD to catch up.

My laptop has an ExpressCard slot but yours may not so be aware that you may not get the same results. Also, if you buy a different ExpressCard adaptor, be sure it uses the PCIe bus, not the older PCI. Most USB 3.0 devices just started shipping a few months ago so they may be difficult to find and they may not work together. I love it when a plan comes together.

Media Passes Now Available for 2010 Coronado Speed Festival

Click here for the media pass request form for the 2010 Coronado Speed Festival. Here are some photos from last years Coronado Speed Festival. I wasn’t able to attend last year so I gave away the passes in a contest. Here are some of my photos from 2008.


2 Comments for this entry

  • Dean C Woolstencroft

    I use SyncToy for my backup – set to Echo. Copies new or changed files and folders but the unchanged data.

    I just backed up my 60 gigs of photos and Proshow projects etc. in LESS time than it took to write this!

    That was with USB 2.0 external drives.


    • Lee

      Thanks for commenting Dean,
      My issue is the need to do Full Volume backups on a regular basis. What you’re describing is a differential backup. Those are fine for fast backups but can be nightmares to restore since you need the original Full BU plus every Differential since the initial Full BU. A BU that can’t be restored is useless. That’s why I like to perform Full Backups on a regular basis.

      On a Full BU, the gating factor is always hardware. USB 2.0 can, theoretically, hit 60MB per second. In reality, it tops out at about 30-40MB/second and 20-25MB/s is typical. So, the BU you just performed saved the changes made since your last BU which may have only been 10-20MB, a drop in the bucket. If you backup all 60GB, the best the hardware can do is 60GB divided by 40MB/s or about 25 minutes plus another 10-15 minutes for verification (nothing worse than finding you have a bad BU when you try to restore.

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