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How to save your photos from an old computer


Globally, we take More than 1 trillion photos a year, according to Rise Above Research, where the average American takes about 1,000 photos a year. Although most of these photos are rarely seen again, they can still hold special memories.

I recently told my cousin about a candid photo of our parents awkwardly taken in the middle of the action, standing in front of my Christmas tree, unaware that their picture was taken. As soon as I described it, my cousin wanted to see it, and so did I—realizing it had been years since I laid eyes on him. I assumed it was in one of a dozen photo albums in the living room, but I quickly realized that this photo, along with hundreds more from my daughter’s childhood, was on one of my two retired laptops.

I’m willing to bet you have memories like this too, photos stashed on old hard drives, or a laptop you haven’t used in years gathering dust in the back of your closet. Like me, you probably took these pictures before you had a smartphone. I will painstakingly download every photo from my digital camera to my laptop.

I assumed the only way to move those images was to manually drag them to a USB drive – a project I started with a lot but never finished – even during the pandemic. It’s as tedious as downloading songs from a CD to your iPod.

Turns out you’re not alone. “Using a flash drive is the most popular and simplest method, but it is also time consuming,” says Nicci Trovinger, Director of Product Marketing for Windows at Microsoft.

My situation is not unique. “This is a common problem, especially for millennials who own multiple laptops,” says Jessica Carell, co-founder of AnySoftwareTools, a tech website that offers computer tips and how-to tutorials. “Many of us don’t realize that there is valuable data stored in old laptops.”

Fortunately, there are easier ways to get those old photos back — and save them so you can share them with friends and family today. Here are some of them

Problem: My older laptop is too old to have built-in access to the cloud.

The solution: If your laptop is internet enabled, you can upload files from your laptop to an image storage platform like Dropbox or Shutterfly.

“Usually the most convenient way to sync files from your laptop is with a platform like OneDrive or Dropbox, because these services provide an app that you can download to your computer,” says Shaun Fortner, cloud engineer at IT services company Theorem. These applications allow for faster loading speeds, because you can group images into folders and move more than one file at a time.

Problem: The operating system on your laptop is too old to support the image storage app or service you want to use.

The solution: You may need to manually download and install the latest software updates for your old laptop first.

Fortner says that even if it’s been a few years since you updated your operating system, there’s a good chance you’ll be able to update your operating system to support the Photos app. Even if you didn’t update to the latest OS version on your old PC, all you might need are the security updates and patches required to install the service.

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