Archive the year

Archive the year

Summary: PowerBooks are great for storing music and photos, but do you really need every piece of music you've ever ripped? Archiving some of your media is a great way to get better performance out of your Mac.


One great thing about the Mac is the excellent iLife suite of applications. iTunes is a top top notch music player, ripper and online store. iPhoto is an excellent vault for the thousands of digital photos that I shoot each year. The problem is that both music and photos can fill up your hard drive pretty fast. In fact, I've argued before that PowerBook hard drives are the only things that seem to be immune to Moore's Law. As my music and photo libraries get larger I find myself constantly running out of hard drive space.

Part of the problem is that I tend to be a data pack rat - I don't like to archive things. It also doesn't help that I rip songs at higher resolution and that my photos keeps get larger (I just just can't bring myself to shoot at anything other than the highest resolution!). This all changed recently when my drive was getting too full and my appetite for storage outstripped the available options. That's when I changed from a data pack rat to a data archivist.

Archiving is your friend. You really don't need every MP3 file you've ever owned on your HDD. Many people also carry a complete duplicate of their music library on their iPod. Ditto for photos. You probably won't be looking at your photos from four years ago any time soon, except for maybe a couple of special occasions.

With the end of the year almost upon us, take this time to archive some of your data. Grab some blank DVDs and burn off all your iPhotos and just keep the ones from 2005. Same with your iTunes. Granted music can be a little harder as most people listen to a lot of their old tunes. A great way to archive your music is to look at your iTunes music library and sort it by "Last Played." Take a long hard look at all the music with no "last played" date - most of it can probably be archived too.

One important tip: burn two copies of everything. Store one copy at home and keep one in off-site storage. A safe deposit box is your best bet, but a desk drawer at your office or in a safe place at a relative's house is almost as good.

The end of the year is a great time to evaluate all the stuff you've picked up over the past year. Use the time to archive some of it and remember that your machine runs best with about 20 percent of the hard drive devoted to free space. When was the last time your PowerBook had that?

Topic: Legal

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  • Better strategy

    While you certainly should be archiving your data, it should be
    more for fear of loss than for saving space.

    Instead, just buy an external hard drive. Disc space is getting
    cheaper and cheaper, so get a nice 200-400Gb hard drive, and
    keep your music and photos there.

    Sure, you still need to be picky with what goes on your laptop,
    but at home it'll give you access to everything. And that's the
    joy of iTunes for me, shuffling through my 150 Gb of music and
    finding obscure tracks I haven't heard for years.
    tic swayback
    • Hard Drives vs. Optical Media

      Great point tic,

      Hard drives have the advantage of being much faster (duh!) than optical media with a much higher storage capacity. Although you have to be careful here too... HDDs can (arguably) fail sooner than optical media (see previous comment about optical media).

      My personal life expectancy for a HDD is around 3-5 years and I start getting antsy around year 3, whereas optical media can last from 50-100 years.

      Either way, caution should be exercised. Use two brands of optical media if you go that route, and use a RAID level 1 if using HDDs.

      You should also keep an off-site backup for the most protection.

      Good comment!
      Jason D. O'Grady
      • Both have their purposes

        I use both. I have around 150 Gb of music files (all paid for or sent
        to me as promotional items in my previous gig), and there's no way
        it would all fit on my home computer and certainly not my laptop.
        So I use an external hard drive for storage of the music and

        But I've also got the whole thing backed up on DVD.
        tic swayback
  • Use Two Brands of DVDs for Archives

    To guard against a possible defect in one batch of DVDs, you
    should use two different brands for your archives. These should be
    stored in physically different places. Also, the archives should be
    recopied periodically to make sure that they are stored on currently
    readable technology. Anybody have old backup tapes that they
    don't have a reader for?
    Steve Saklad
    • Amen to that brother!

      Having been burned before by bad media, I will second steve's comments.

      I only use Verbatim Datalife Plus DVD-Rs as they seem to have good reliability and I've never burned a coaster. Here's a decent DVD-R reliability table:

      But Steve also suggests two different brands, which I haven't considered.

      Also, heed his comment about an off-site backup and get into the habit of taking backups to work or a relatives house - just in case.

      - Jason
      Jason D. O'Grady
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