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Digital Archives

Personal Digital Archiving Basics

The most important steps in personal digital archiving are to identifyorganize, and store your files. 


1. Identify where your digital files are currently stored

  • Consider all devices, including your laptop, tablet, camera, or mobile phone
  • Include any files stored on the cloud* (Drive, Box, Dropbox, or other services) as well as email attachments

2. Organize the files you want to preserve

  • Remember that not all of your digital content is worth spending time on archiving! De-clutter your digital collection by deleting files you will not need later, old versions, or duplicates
  • Create descriptive folder and filenames, renaming when necessary. Think about what folder structure or file names will help you locate files you need later on. Organizing files into folders by date can be very useful, as is adding plenty of detail in file names. For example, "Europe Vacation 2016" tells you a lot more than "images export." 

3. Store several copies of your files in various locations

  • Maintaining at least two copies of your selected files in different locations will protect against unexpected loss
  • Storage locations should be physically separate: if you keep one copy of your digital archives on your home computer, keep a second copy at your office or on cloud storage*
  • Check your files every two years to ensure that current software can read them
  • If a copy of your archives is stored on physical media (CD/DVD, USB or other hard drive), check it every five years to prevent data loss



*Remember: cloud storage is a convenient solution for one copy of your files, but is not guaranteed to last. Companies stop supporting cloud solutions all the time, so it's important to have another copy of your digital archives stored on one of your own devices.


Digital archiving requires continual maintenance - to ensure that you can access and use your own digital archives well into the future, you will need to re-visit these steps regularly.