Backing up and organising screenshots

As I wrote the last post I remembered that I should probably back up my screenshots again. It’s a little IT chore that I try to do at least once a quarter to give me some security for the thousands of screenshots I have spread across nearly a dozen games folders on my computer’s hard drive. As I started writing I looked at my Dungeons & Dragons Online folder to see if I had a screenshot of a particular jump-scare moment, and was initially shocked at how few screenies I had for that venerable game.

Going into game to take an illustrative screenshot is time consuming…

Although I’ve had this computer quite a few years now, I actually rebuilt it only last summer with a new SSD drive, so the game installs aren’t so old. I keep backups of screenshots for all games in an archive on an old hard drive. I store computer parts stacked on a shelf out of the way and can use a USB hard drive caddy to plug any of the spare older drives in to access if needed. That way I can get access to my screenshots of old if I need them.

Sadly I only started keeping an archive about four years ago, and I’ve been playing MMOs for ten years now – so a lot of old screenshots are long-lost. The bulk of my DDO screenshots would have dated from around 2009/2010 when I was playing on the EU service. That’s three computers ago and a lot of windows rebuilds past. I know that I lost several years worth of World of Warcraft screenshots from the early years because that game stores screenshots in the game install folder (WoW is not the only game to commit this games programming crime) and thus they are shared by all users on a computer and easily overwritten.

The oldest WoW pics that I have were all taken on my husband’s PC

The other archival issue I have with screenshots, one that has a big time impact on blog-writing, is the lack of any meta-data by default in Windows. If I could easily tag pictures with key words (e.g. “DDO”, “mirror”, “scare”), it would make finding suitable images among the hundreds or thousands I have per game a lot easier. It’s not something I’ve looked into before, but as I write this I may give it a go, at least for the screenshots I take going forward. Does any readers have a system for this for their screenshots, or any suggestions of software to make it easier?

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6 Responses to Backing up and organising screenshots

  1. Shintar says:

    I regularly go through my various screenshot folders to weed out the bad ones and save the ones that I want to keep in a more permanent location. When I do this I also rename each one to something more descriptive. It’s actually quite time-consuming, especially when I have to do things like look up the name of a pictured NPC that I can’t remember… but it’s very helpful later on when I can just search for the character’s name to see if I have any pictures of them that I could use in a blog post.

  2. Bhagpuss says:

    My archiving is a chaotic as everything else I do. I’m aware that I need to keep multiple copies in case of disaster so I tend to go on copying binges whenever the thought occurs to me (I’ll probably do one as a result of your post). What I tend to do is open all the screenshot folders I can think of on my main PC and copy the whole lot onto each of the installed drives, so I have two sets. Then I copy one of those sets onto a thumb drive, giving me three copies.

    Which would be reasonably tidy if I was consistent about it. In fact, i tend to grab whatever thumb drive has space each time and I also change the internal drives not infrequently, so I end up with a lot of partial copies across any number of drives. Also I always forget or miss some folders (FRAPS is a key omission) so none of the sets are the same through time.

    I started doing that about eight years ago but I’ve been taking screenshots for more than twice that long. I do, however, keep all my old HDDs from the PCs I replace and I have made a fair fist of copying screenshot files over – I once went through all of them in enclosures to do it. Sadly, a lot of the really early ones have disappeared but i do have a selection going back as far as pre-WoW Everquest, including all the ones I took in EQ2 beta in 2004. What happened to my DAOC and AO screenshots from 2001-2, though, I have no idea. I’d love to see those again.

    Finally, there’s the blog. I have used a vast number of screenshots there, including some of the best ones, and all of those are saved in the Cloud on whatever it is Blogger uses. I suppose I should upload the whole lot to the Cloud someday but I suspect I’ll never get around to it.

  3. Well, it’s comforting to know I’m not the only one who takes screenshots way too seriously.

    My system is to move screenshots from their native folders to a dedicated screenshot archive elsewhere on my computer. This is further divided into sub-folders by game, and in some cases further sub-folders still. For example, my SW:TOR shots are organized by class, and WoW shots by expansion. When moving them, I also rename most screenshots to something at least vaguely descriptive (IE “Templar 5” or “Agent and Lana 3”). As Shintar points out, this can get quite time-consuming, but it does save headache in the long run, especially if you want to find a specific shot for a blog post.

    I also back-up my screenshots on an external USB drive every few months.

  4. Pallais says:

    I had a hard drive fail that I used to store many of my screenshots and videos fail on me at the start of the year. I had been negligent in backing it up.Ouch. I haven’t tried a hard drive recovery service yet because of real world issues. Eventually I want to try that to see if anything might be recoverable.

    When I replaced that data drive I built in a local backup option *and* paid for a yearly cloud backup service. The cloud service was cheap enough that having a belt-and-suspenders system gives me enough peace of mind to not worry going forward.

    As far as organizing my screenshots, I’m horrible about it. I really need to get some sort of organizing software to handle that for me. I’d rather import the original images and use something to tag them without having to mess with changing file names or building an intricate folder structure. I figure I should keep the original around and just use something to prune those into a sort of ‘best of’ set of images.

  5. UltrViolet says:

    Late to this party, but I also have thousands of screenshot files with zero organization. If you do find a good tool for tagging and organizing screenshots by game/category/keyword, please share!

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