Digital uncluttering: my backup and clean up plan

I organized my files, weeded out blurry photos, and thought about how I want to improve my workflow for input, processing, and output.

Here’s what I want from my digital filing system:

Easy year-end backups: I’d like to be able to copy a folder onto a DVD and a separate drive, secure in the knowledge that if I really needed to get back to something, I could look it up.

Offline search: I want to be able to search the data even without the physical DVD or disk, so I don’t have to guess what year something happened or pop lots of DVDs into my drive.

Face tagging: I want to quickly retrieve all pictures with a specified combination of people. It would be awesome to get statistics off that, too.

Remove duplicates: I don’t want to wade through duplicate pictures when classifying my files, so I used VisiPics to find and delete images that were identical or of lower resolution.

Review by type: I want to review all of my presentations, drawings, blog posts, or 4×6-printable favourite photos regardless of their year. I want to be able to do this offline, too.

Search by topic: I want to find all of my resources related to a topic.

Map: I want to build a map what I know and what I want to learn. This map might contain hyperlinks to more details.

Quick visual review: I’d love to be able to quickly flip through or view slideshows of my visual book summaries, sketchnotes, and photo highlights. This is a good way to trigger memory. Maybe an “On this Day” reminder, too?

Hmm, planning…

Right now, I back up my data onto a drive weekly, and I use Dropbox for network backups too. I save my sketchnotes and summaries into a folder, and I keep small versions into another folder so that I can easily review them. I use Evernote so that I can search my hand-written notes and images. I use Picasa for images and face recognition, and Bibble 5 for tags. I don’t have offline search of backup DVDs yet, but I haven’t needed it. Besides, I can always search through my blog posts and notes.

Getting there…

  • I’ve given up on optical media for my backups. After having too many non-readable backups I’m using exclusively solid state for my backups. Originally I used a series of 32GBs USB keys but I’ve now move to a 240GB SSD…

  • I’d like to see a QS presentation on your evernote use :)

  • It sounds like you would be better served by using a Mac, rather than all the scattered third-party solutions.

    As for backups, hard drives are cheap. While I do occasionally burn a DVD of most-critical files, I make the assumption it will be consumed by bit-rot.

    I take a hard drive clone/copy (using SuperDuper!) and rotate it weekly with another hard drive in a safety deposit box. No point to having backups if you don’t have one off-site.

    So DVDs plus full drive clone/copy plus Apple’s Time Machine for automated hands-off hourly incremental backups spanning a year.

    Larger data sets are stored on external hard drives, with manually mirrored offline copies onto other hard drives. All hard drives are spun up once a month to prevent shelf-seizure.

    • Ooh, that’s a good point. I should trust optical media less, and set up an off-site safety deposit box too.

      I can’t get the form factor I want on a Mac (I like this convertible tablet / PC thing), but maybe someday!

  • maxic

    For duplicate removal you can try Image Comparer and Audio Comparer – they are available at
    Looks like the most advanced ones for Windows.