A couple weeks ago, my very active and beloved toddler decided to throw my main photo storage hard drive into the toilet. 😱😱😱😱😱😱😱 To make matters worse, it sat there (in the TOILET!!!!) undiscovered while we went out to dinner with my family. After fishing it out, thinking several choice words, and quickly drying it off as much as I could, I put it in a bag of rice and prayed that no lasting damage had been done.
For you see, this hard drive had around 50,000 pictures on it. It had the 15,000 pictures that I scanned of my siblings and I’s childhood as well as my parents’ childhood. This digital back up had taken me 6 months to scan in one by one a few years ago. It had pictures of my great-grandparents dating back to the 40’s on there! Then it had all of my husband and I’s pictures from the past 10 years (around 35,000). It had my wedding photos, my son’s birth photos, graduation photos, etc. Not to mention the fact that I had poured months of my life into organizing it and making it accessible for members of my family to enjoy.
Needless to say, I was praying pretty hard that everything would be alright.
My stomach was in a knot for days. I tried to remember what was most important and that it’s not my son’s fault. I tried to remember how grateful I was that I had put certain groups of photos in multiple locations! I felt quite a bit of anxiety over not knowing what was going to happen, or what to do in this situation.
Here are three lessons that I learned from this experience that I hope can help you:
1. Don’t freak out until you need to freak out. And even then, try to keep things in perspective.
I am proud of myself for actually keeping my cool after my boy threw the hard drive in the toilet! I can’t always say this about myself. Too often I find myself stressing out about things that just don’t matter. I’ll get on my son’s case for doing something completely predictable for his age, only to feel horrible about it later. Anyone else do this??
When it comes down to it, moments like this play an important role in our lives. It is usually in these difficult days that we can find hidden strength and grow. Our capacities for love can deepen, our ability to hold our tongue is tested, and our patience either strengthens or breaks. How awful I would have felt if I had yelled at my son, only to realize that weeks later I could recover everything in full. That wouldn’t have been a great memory to add to my life’s story.
Some would say, but it was your entire photo collection… I think that’s worth freaking out over. Maybe so. But I think I place more value in my son seeing his mom react well to a moment of crisis. Maybe it was the shock of not being able to register what had just happened, but I’m going to count it as a good moment anyway! 😉
2. Be patient and let your device dry before plugging it in.
When phones, hard drives, and other devices get submerged in water, they need time to dry out completely. The best thing for you to do when one of these gets drenched is to dry it off as much as possible and put it in a bag with rice or something else to soak up the water. You don’t want to put it in a bag with something that will have crumbs or particles that can get inside, so be careful what you choose. Then put it in a safe place where it won’t be touched by anyone or anything. Make sure it is in room temperatures (not too hot or cold). And finally…. Just…. Wait. And then wait some more.
Don’t plug your device in too soon! After about a day, I plugged my hard drive into the computer to access the damage. I’m pretty sure that this was the reason for some of the files on my hard drive being corrupted. When you plug in your device when it hasn’t dried completely, you run the risk of it frying and you losing everything. I waited a week or so before I plugged it in again, and ended up needing to take it to the Geek Squad to have them help me figure out what to do next.
3. Diversify your photo storage.
I always recommend backing up your photos in at least 3 different places/ways. God bless the Geek Squad who did some crazy wizard surgery on my toilet hard drive. But even with their help, some files were corrupted and ultimately would have been lost had I not had groups of my most important pictures stored in other places. Make sure that you have a variety of storage mediums. For example, you may want to have one version of your photos stored in the cloud, one printed, and one digitally stored (on a computer or hard drive).
Since this event, I have even redone how I store my photos. I now store my photos in 5 different ways. Some may think that’s paranoid, but to that I say – You go through something like this and then try not to be paranoid! This isn’t the best answer for everyone, but it works well for me because I don’t really have to do much work to update or sustain it. Here are the five ways I store my photo collection:
- On my computer – this is the main place I edit and update the collection
- On a backup of my computer – Time Machine updates my MacBook Pro on a hard drive. No extra work for me, just extra reassurance.
- On a new “not-toilet” hard drive – Every couple weeks or so I plug this bad boy in and update it with what I have on the computer.
- On Google Photos – this happens automatically from an app on my phone. I bring in other pictures into here as necessary if they come from somewhere else.
- In printed memory books I’ve made
I am going to look into some other options for how to streamline this more, but for now this works for me. What are ways that you back-up your photo collection? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!