Most of us have them. Ancient computers that will no longer boot, yet hold something of great value to us. Yep, I’m talking about old pictures, stored away inside a metal cage, all but forgotten. In my case, digital photography started in 2003. As you can imagine, the hard drive used to store all those pictures by an enthusiastic amateur rests in a PC that is well beyond saving.
In fact, a few days ago I counted my computers that only still exist because there’s stuff on them I will one day want to retrieve, and found three of them. It’s not efficient storage. And it’s not very accessible. Worst of all, it could all go away if those hard drives are somehow broken or lost.
In case you’re not scared yet, let me share the most likely scenarios why your old hard drives might be in danger of losing all their data.
- Hard drives use magnetism to store data. In good situations, the data can still be retrieved after 50 years. But not if there’s an EMP blast in your house. Matrix, anyone?
- Mechanical failure is likely to occur sooner. It could happen to any hard drive, at any time. Including when it is not being used and put in a damp storage shed.
- Spring cleaning of the house is the worst enemy. Someone, perhaps you, will decide to throw out the old junk. And after the fact you’ll remember those priceless pictures of your kids, favorite dog, or grandma. Not good.
Fortunately, the problem is easy to fix. In case you’re a bit lazy or not über-technical, let me share with you the simple steps that helped me salvage 11.900 pictures of varying quality in less than an hour.
First, you need to get some equipment. Yay! We’re soon going to open up the old computers and hook up the hard drives to a new and working computer, and for that we’re going to use a USB to IDE/SATA adapter.
It’s a simple tool that is tremendously helpful in our situation. Get it from any store that sells computer accessories, or get something like this on Amazon. If you’re not very technical and don’t know what IDE or SATA is, all you need to know is that this adapter lets you connect an old hard drive (hooking it up to the IDE or SATA interface) to a computer using a USB cable (if you don’t know what that is, give me a call and I’ll drive over and help you…).
What we’ll want to do is follow these steps for each old computer we have:
- Open up the computer chassi.
- Locate the hard drive(s).
- Disconnect existing cables to the hard drive(s). That’s power supply and IDE or SATA interface. Two cables per hard drive.
- If you feel like it, take out the hard drive. Might make you feel more like a skilled engineer.
- Connect the USB to IDE/SATA adapter. Again, power supply and IDE or SATA.
- Connect the power adapter to an electrical outlet. You’ll now hear your hard drive start spinning.
- Connect the USB cable to the new computer where you want to copy the old files.
- Pling! Windows (in my case) finds the hard drive and maps it as a new drive.
- Copy all the files you want. It’s ok to make backup of other files than your pictures if you want.
A word of caution. It’s easy to get stuck for hours, just watching those old pictures, and remembering.
I found great pictures of my family, including some who are no longer with us, that I’m very happy to have saved. There were gardens, forests, vacations, pets, friends, and colleagues. Pictures from all over the world. A real treasure, now safely stored on the cloud (secured with my proprietary encryption algorithms, of course).
If you’re still reading, make sure to rescue your memories.
Let me know if you need help!
Thank you for reading,
Bjorn “The Mayor” Karlsson