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Your Photos and Videos Are Rotting Away – Here’s How Fast, and How To Prevent Bit Rot

bit rot.jpg

If you’re like me, you’ve got boxes and drawers filled with video tape, CDs, DVDs, hard drives, and even audio cassette tapes. Some of that stuff might seem indestructible, but it isn’t. Physical media deteriorate over time, and Tech and Life recently highlighted a couple of articles from PCMech that detail just how long you can expect your physical media to last, and what you can do to preserve your files.

Photo by Joelk75.

PCMech covered three types of physical media, and how long you can expect them to last before “bit rot” sets in:

Optical Media = 2-3 years

Storage Only Hard Drive = 5+ years

Flash Storage = indefinite

I’m not sure where these numbers come from (I haven’t had the best of luck with USB thumb drives, for example), but if they are accurate, then the answer to preventing bit rot is to get your data onto flash media. PCMech also offers some other tips for preserving your media, such as putting your data into file archives (like zip or RAR files), as a damaged archive file can sometimes be recovered.

I’d add one tip to this overview: redundancy. Don’t rely on just one type of physical media for your precious files. Make sure you have at least two, if not three, copies of your important files, and make sure that those copies are on at least two types of media. So, for example, if you have your photos on a hard drive, copy them onto a second hard drive, and also copy them to a flash drive.

How do you protect your precious memories from destruction?

How long will your data and photos last on backup media? [Tech and Life]

How Long Will That Media Last? [PCMech]

How To Avoid Bit Rot [ PCMech]