Backup for Photographers

  • Why backup
    • Hard disks will fail
    • System files can become corrupted
    • Working files can be deleted or corrupted
    • Viruses can hit (worst case: Ransomware)
  • What to backup
    • Create boot disk (or USB)
    • Create system image
    • Three levels of backup
      • Local backup
      • Backup to Disk
      • Remote backup
  • How to backup
    • Create boot disk
    • Create system image
    • Create local backups
    • Create remote backups to disk or Cloud
    • Backup while travelling


Analogue backup: Warehouses in Otaru, Hokkaido, Japan, during the Otaru Lantern Festival (and in heavy snow)


Why Backup

Often people only become convinced of the necessity for backup when they lose their hard drive and their computer stops working.  They may have lost all their data.  All hard drives fail.  Some may last for a long time, some may not.

Apart from the hard disk dying, system files may become corrupted so your PC doesn’t work any more and images or working files can become corrupted or be accidentally deleted.

Your computer might get a virus that could render it inoperable.  A good anti-virus program safeguards against that but it won’t catch everything.  In the worst case it might be a ransomware Trojan that encrypts all your files and demands money to recover them which then may still not happen.  Potentially, this could include connected backup files and other computers on your home network.

Macs are less susceptible to viruses than Windows PCs but can still get them so anti-virus software may be appropriate there too.


What to Backup

If you have not already done so, you should create a boot disk for your computer on a CD, DVD or USB stick.  Then if your operating system dies, you can most probably still start your computer by booting up from the boot disk.

You should save a system image for your PC.   This includes all the programs on your computer and all the hidden system files.  Then if you get a virus, your operating system becomes corrupt or you need a new C Drive, you can restore everything the way it was.

  • One partial alternative is to turn on System Restore.  This lets you undo recent changes to your computer’s image.  It saves to your C Drive and you have to restrict the disk space it uses. This means you may not be able to go back far enough to correct a problem.
  • Another partial alternative is to Reset your PC.  This reinstalls Windows but keeps your files (provided they are in standard Windows locations).  However,You have to reinstall all your software.  This is also a possible option if your computer performance slows right down

Of course, you should also backup your data files.  For a photographer that will include all your images, RAW, TIFF, PSD or jpeg.  In fact you should have three backup copies of your files because the hard disks you backup on may fail too.

  • Your first level backup might be directly attached to your computer as a hard disk or as a bunch of disks in a box that operate together (called a DAS or a NAS depending on direct or network access).
  • Your second level backup might be to hard drives not usually connected to your computer.
  • Your third level backup might be to hard drives stored at work or at a friend or relation’s house, or it might be to the cloud. If your house burns down you still have your images.

Some computers use a RAID which is a group of disks that operate together for greater speed, data duplication or both.  Note that a RAID is only one level of backup because the RAID can fail.


How to Backup

  • How to create a boot disk (or recovery drive):
  • How to save a system image
    • For Windows
    • For Mac
    • Note: At least for Windows, you can’t restore the system image to upgrade your system to different hardware (i.e. to a different kind of hard disk or from a hard disk to an SSD).  For that you need Acronis or another backup utility with this capability.
    • Another option is to clone your system disk to a spare one. Then, if you get a virus, you swap the spare disk in.  You can do it on the fly with Acronis; with other programs you would need to start your computer off a boot disk first.
    • Partial alternatives:
  • How to create local backups
    • Confusingly, Windows has two options for file backup
    • There are free backup programs that are likely to be better than the ones Windows provides.
    • If you are using a Norton antivirus product such as Norton 360 or Norton Security Premium, that will include a backup utility that is better than the one that comes with Windows.
    • Acronis provides a full-featured backup option with many other useful tools. The stand-alone version is likely to be better value than the subscription.  It is the market leader but there are also many other alternatives.
    • For Mac


How to create remote backups

  • You can create local backups to disk as above and take the disk to another location. The problem with this is that your backups are likely to be out of date.
  • Backing up to the cloud has become affordable and viable. Since photographers have lots of images, a cloud backup that allows unlimited backup is best.  You also need an ISP such as iiNet that allows unlimited uploads and downloads.  Initial upload is slow (months if you have many terabytes of data) but after that it works unnoticed.  Downloads are faster but may still take considerable time for large amounts of data.  So you still need local backups due to speed of recovery and because no backup is 100% secure.  There are three main options:
    • BackBlaze for about $A70 per year
      • Carbonite costs more, is slow and I don’t see any reason to prefer it to BackBlaze.
    • CrashPlan for Business for  about $A160 per year.
      • BackBlaze only stores deleted files and previous versions of files for 30 days whereas CrashPlan stores them indefinitely.
    • IDrive offers 2TB storage for about $A90 per year or 5TB storage for about $A130 per year (Discounts for first year including one from a hidden link).
      • Limited storage but multiple computers and devices for a household rather than just one computer as for BackBlaze and CrashPlan, so may be an option for families. Stores previous file versions for 30 days only.
    • For more information see the Blog article Cloud Backup for Photographers.


Backup while travelling

You should really have three copies of your images while travelling.  At least one should be stored separately, in a coat pocket for example, just in case.

  • A laptop and portable hard drives are an obvious option. Samsung T3 SSDs are very small, pocketable portable hard drives.  If using a tablet, it will need to have sufficient USB ports for importing and saving or backing up images.
  • A more compact option is a portable storage device. The Sanho Hyperdrive UDMA3, for example, allows you to synch with another hard drive for additional backup.
    • Another cheaper option is the RAVPower FileHub Plus where you can use your phone to backup an SD card to a portable hard drive.
  • If you are going for an extended walk in the wilderness where there is no electricity, you may have no alternative but to take multiple CF or SD cards for storage and backup. However, if you’re not travelling too light there may be additional options such as Anker solar panels and batteries.

Back from Binna Burra

From Monday 24th July to Friday 28th July, a group of seven of us from the Canberra Photographic Society journeyed to Binna Burra, Lamington National Park, Southern Queensland:  Ulrike and Hugh, Alan, Luminita, Greg and Murray and Jools.


Binna Burra, Canberra Photographic Society, Landscape, Photography, Travel

Gold Coast and Hinze Dam from Beechmont Rd by Greg Wei.

On our way to Binna Burra and the wilderness of Lamington National Park, we caught a glimpse of the distant Surface Paradise, spare and bizarre, like a distant giant petrified forest.


Binna Burra, Canberra Photographic Society, Landscape, Photography, Travel

View from Alcheringa, Monday evening by Murray Foote.

We stayed at the wonderful accommodation of Alcheringa, a house and associated cottage easy walking distance form the Binna Burra Lodge but not part of that complex.


Binna Burra, Canberra Photographic Society, Landscape, Photography, Travel

View from Alcheringa, early Thursday morning by Greg Wei.


Binna Burra, Canberra Photographic Society, Landscape, Photography, Travel

View from near Alcheringa, early Friday morning, by Luminita Quraishi.


Binna Burra, Canberra Photographic Society, Landscape, Photography, Travel

Tree ferns and tree stump, Daves Creek Circuit by Alan Pomeroy.

On our first full day, we set off on the Dave’s Creek Circuit.  This is a 12km round trip but we made the mistake of walking to the car park, which added about another kilometre to the journey.  This passed though rainforest, eucalyptus forest and open heathland.  We all found that our fitness levels were not as good as we might have hoped, especially Hugh, whose bad back played up on him on the return journey.


Binna Burra, Canberra Photographic Society, Landscape, Photography, Travel

Curious red flower (Drosera rotundifolia) beside track near Molongolee Cave, Daves Creek Circuit by Luminita Quraishi.


Binna Burra, Canberra Photographic Society, Landscape, Photography, Travel

Xanthorrhea flower stalk and hakea branches, Daves Creek Circuit by Murray Foote.


Binna Burra, Canberra Photographic Society, Landscape, Photography, Travel

Natural Bridge by Greg Wei.

After the exertions of the first full day, we decided on a quiet day for the second.  Ulrike and Hugh just relaxed at Alcheringa.  The rest of us went for a short walk on the Tallawallal Circuit (no images to show you here) and then for an afternoon drive to Natural Bridge at the edge of Springwood National Park.  We experienced subdued late afternoon light, which was fortunate for photographing the waterfall.


Binna Burra, Canberra Photographic Society, Landscape, Photography, Travel

Natural Bridge and River by Murray Foote.


Binna Burra, Canberra Photographic Society, Landscape, Photography, Travel

Huge tree left from river flood by Alan Pomeroy.

Binna Burra, Canberra Photographic Society, Landscape, Photography, Travel

On the Coomera Track by Luminita Quraishi.

On our last full day, Ulrike and Hugh went for a drive to Natural Bridge and Springwood National Park.  The rest of us undertook the 17.5km Coomera Circuit, with rainforest and many waterfalls along the Coomera River.  This was to be our most productive day.


Binna Burra, Canberra Photographic Society, Landscape, Photography, Travel

Bahnamboola Falls, Coomera Circuit by Greg Wei.


Binna Burra, Canberra Photographic Society, Landscape, Photography, Travel

Bahnamboola Falls, Coomera Circuit by Alan Pomeroy.


Binna Burra, Canberra Photographic Society, Landscape, Photography, Travel

Below Bahnamboola Falls, Coomera Circuit by Luminita Quraishi.


Binna Burra, Canberra Photographic Society, Landscape, Photography, Travel

Bahnamboola Falls, Coomera Circuit by Luminita Quraishi.


Binna Burra, Canberra Photographic Society, Landscape, Photography, Travel

At Moolgoolong Cascades by Greg Wei.


Binna Burra, Canberra Photographic Society, Landscape, Photography, Travel

Below Moolgoolong Cascades by Alan Pomeroy.


Binna Burra, Canberra Photographic Society, Landscape, Photography, Travel

Forest on the return track by Murray Foote.


Binna Burra, Canberra Photographic Society, Landscape, Photography, Travel

Paragliders, North Tambourine, by Murray Foote.

On the last day we had to leave by 10am.  Ulrike and Hugh were driving their own car.  The rest of us were driving back to the airport in a hire car.  We had some extra time so we took some back roads and were fortunate enough to see these paragliders who had just taken off.


Getting Lightroom to fly


(Pipeline, Hawaii, 2015).



Previews enhance Lightroom’s performance.  They can also help free disk space and restore missing files. We will discuss:

  • What are previews?
  • Speeding processing with smart previews
  • Optimising performance in Lightroom and Photoshop
  • Saving disk space by trimming your Lightroom catalogue
  • Missing and excluded images
  • Regenerating missing images


What are Previews?

Lightroom creates a variety of previews to speed up display and processing of images.

  • Standard previews let you quickly see the image full screen in the Library module.
  • 1:1 previews let you zoom into 100% in the Library module, for example to compare the sharpness of one image against another to determine what to delete or what to retain.  This doesn’t apply to viewing images in the Develop module or zooming in one-to-one in the Develop module because there you are accessing the actual RAW file.
  • Smart previews speed viewing images in the Develop module but don’t apply to zooming in 1:1 where you are directly looking at the RAW file.  Their original use was to still allow most processing of images stored on a disconnected drive and we will discuss them separately.


You can see the settings defined for your previews in the Edit/Catalog Settings/File Handling dialogue.

  • Standard previews default to your monitor resolution.
  • The setting “Preview Quality:  High” relates to thumbnails.
  • You can set to discard your 1:1 previews after a day, a week, a month or never.


Previews - Import File Handling 2

You can define previews when you import files, by specifying a value for “Build Previews” under File Handling in the top right corner of the Import dialogue. Here 1:1 previews are selected, as well as to build smart previews (covered below).

For Lightroom CC Classic (and probably Lightroom CC), under Build Previews you can also select Embedded & SidecarThis allows you to import the embedded jpeg files from your camera.For Nikon and Canon these are full-size, for Fuji, Olympus and Sony they are reduced size.  This may speed the import process but Lightroom will replace them with standard previews as you make changes to your files.


Alternatively, you can select files in Lightroom and use the command Library/Previews/Build Standard Previews or Library/Previews/Build 1:1 Previews.

If you don’t have a problem with disk space you might as well retain 1:1 previews indefinitely and create them while importing files. This slows down import but makes Lightroom run faster in the Library module, especially when zooming in to 1:1 to check sharpness.  If you don’t define 1:1 previews, Lightroom will create them on the fly which may have a significant impact on performance.


Speeding processing with smart previews

Normal previews and  1:1 previews speed operations in the Library Module; smart previews speed processing in the Develop module.  They are actually miniature RAW files and save in a folder under your catalogue taking about 2% to 5% of the space of the photos themselves. They were introduced some years ago as a means to let you keep processing while disconnected from your data when travelling.  However, they are just as useful to greatly improve response time in normal editing.

First you need to generate the smart previews, which you can do on import, or by the command Library/ Previews/ Build Smart Previews (see second and third screen shots from the top of this article).


In current versions of Lightroom (from CC2015.7 and 6.7), you can select a checkbox to use smart previews instead of originals for image editing.  (Edit/ Preferences/Performance).

Changes transfer instantly to the original RAW files, and stay there even if you discard the smart previews.  The only limitation is for sharpening and noise reduction; custom sharpening done on a smart preview will not transfer well to the original file.  However, if you zoom to 1:1, Lightroom is showing you the original file so it is safe to use smart previews with custom sharpening, as long as you do that at 1:1.

If you are using an earlier version of Lightroom, you need to trick it that your folder is offline.  If you close Lightroom, rename the folder say by adding ” xxx” at the end, then reopen Lightroom, you are working with your smart previews.  To transfer the changes to your RAW files, you will need to close Lightroom and rename the folder back.

You might retain smart previews indefinitely if you’re not short of disk space.  Still, you only use smart previews when you’re processing in Develop module so you may not need to keep them for long.  Unlike the 1:1 previews, discarding smart previews works OK.

Optimising performance in Lightroom and Photoshop

The specification of your PC is one of the main factors affecting the performance of Lightroom and Photoshop.  I wrote an article about that a while ago.  A new generation of chipsets and motherboards has come out but everything else should be pretty much unchanged:

Adobe also provides useful guides to optimising performance in Lightroom and Photoshop:

Saving disk space by trimming your Lightroom Catalogue

One of the ways you can improve the performance of Lightroom is to use an SSD as the hard disk for your catalogue.  Since the storage capacity may be small, the size of your Lightroom Catalogue may become a problem.   For example, when I put my catalogue on my new 500GB hard drive (an M.2 SSD), I found I was left with less than 10% free space, too little for reliable performance.  So I had to find a way to reduce it.

There are four elements associated with the catalogue

  • The Catalogue itself. Mine was 3.6GB.  I have seen people advocate clearing Develop versions in Lightroom but that seems to me a waste of time.  You lose functionality and only save a couple of gigabytes, which does not solve the problem.
  • Catalogue backups.  I had 22.7GB here and you can save some space by deleting old backups but this wasn’t enough to solve this problem.
  • The Cache. Many versions ago, Lightroom benefited from a huge cache but this is no longer required.  The default is 1GB and you can have more than that but 10GB will be plenty for most people.  Stored cache files may build up to a few GB and you can clear them with Edit/ Preferences/ File Handling/ [Purge Cache].
  • The Previews. This is where all the files were, 391.3GB in my case.  Reducing this is not as easy as one might think.

Catalogue backups offer some scope for space saving by changing the drive where you store the backups.  You can’t set this from inside Lightroom but you can change it in the dialogue that appears when Lightroom is about to make a backup.  It also makes sense from a security point of view to have the backups on a separate drive to the catalogue.

Previews is where all the action is though for saving space.  We saw above that you can discard 1:1 previews after a day, a week, a month or never.   I had mine set to Never but you’re supposed to be able to remove them with the command Library/Previews/Discard 1:1 Previews.  I decided to remove all 1:1 previews for images rated at less than 3 stars (85% of my images) but it only reduced the stored previews by 0.4%.  I then read on an Adobe performance guide that this only works where the standard preview size (2560px in my case) is less than half the resolution of images from your camera (4193px for the Nikon D3s).  So I reduced the standard preview size to a low number, reopened Lightroom and tried again.  That was better but not much.  I only reduced the stored previews by 5%.

So that left only one option – to delete the Previews file and start again.  In other words, I deleted the folder Lightroom Catalog Previews.lrdata under the folder for the Lightroom catalogue.

Whoompa!  Previews to zero!  Lightroom still works!

My next step was to create new 1:1 previews using the Lightroom command Library/Previews/Build 1:1 Previews (see previous image).  I decided to create them for all my images with 3 stars or more, plus current working folders.  That took a long time.  More than a day and a half for 23,000 images.  After that I had a previews folder 141.4GB in size, 64% smaller than it was.  That solved my disk space problem.  Lightroom also seemed to create standard previews for all images automatically, which I wasn’t expecting.

Missing and excluded images

Do you have missing images or images unintentionally excluded from your catalogue?

On the left-hand side on the library module, right click on a folder and select “Synchronise folder…” .


The Synchronise Folder dialogue appears.  It may show you have photos in that directory that have not been imported into Lightroom, or photos in the catalogue that are missing on your hard drive.

If [Import New Photos] shows images in that folder that are not in Lightroom, you can click [Synchronize] to import them and see what they are.  After the import, you can select them all under “Previous Import” at top left of the Library Module and then click on their folder (left pane in Lightroom) to compare the new selected images with the ones already there.  They may be images you want to have in your catalogue or they may be images you meant to delete from the disk but instead just removed from Lightroom.

Missing photos may simply have been moved in Windows Explorer (so Lightroom doesn’t know where they are).  If you have some, you can click [Show Missing Photos] to see what they are.  You can then click on the little exclamation mark that appears at the top right corner of an image to locate them.  Alternatively, the missing images may have been deleted or lost.

However, before you remove any previews, especially 1:1 previews, you should check that you don’t really need them.  As we shall soon see, you may soon be able to use the previews to recreate missing images.

Regenerating missing images

A few years ago, I had three hard drives fail within a week, two in my main data drive (a RAID array) and one in my Drobo backup (essentially another RAID array). When the smoke cleared (metaphorically), I realised I had holes in my backups.  Whole directories of files now showed in my Lightroom catalogue as missing.  Fortunately, I left them there and did not delete the previews.  Quite recently, I realised I could regenerate those missing images which were still in my catalogue, using Jeffery Friedel’s Preview Extraction Tool.  Because they were 1:1 previews I was able to recover them as full-sized jpegs, good enough to print from.


You can have to copy the regenerated images to a different location, but you can copy them all into a single folder or preserve a whole folder structure.  You can also retain image metadata and Lightroom’s metadata including star ratings and colour labels.



  • To increase Lightroom performance by running it on a small fast SSD, you may need to reduce the size of your Previews file
  • You may be able to recover deleted or lost images by regenerating files from the 1:1 previews
  • Standard and 1:1 previews speed Library module operations; smart previews speed Develop module operations


Cloud Backup for Photographers

Updated November 2017 after the withdrawal of CrashPlan for Home.


(Cloud over Iceland farmhouse)


This post gives detailed information on the options for backing up to the cloud. For an overview of the various options of backup and the reasons for using them, see my summary post Backup for Photographers.


Why cloud backup?

You should have an off-site backup as well as local ones. This can be taking hard drives to store in someone else’s house, but those backups are not likely to be very up to date. Cloud backup is now easy and affordable so is often a better alternative. You do need an unlimited data plan with your ISP though, such as iiNet provides in Canberra.


Why you still need local backup

It’s very slow to transfer large amounts of data to the cloud. Getting back a few files should not be a problem but retrieval of large amounts of files is also slow, though not as slow as the upload.

Also, as with any media choice, local or Cloud, there is some risk your file may be missing or corrupt when you come to recover it. Cloud companies have also been known to fold in the past (though hopefully not the ones we will mention).


Cloud storage vs cloud backup

Cloud backup is not to be confused with cloud storage. Companies like Dropbox offer cloud storage and you can copy files in and extract them or share them, but there is no interface for file backup. There are many options for free cloud storage but most of them don’t offer much space. The largest I have found is Mega (founded by the infamous Kim DotCom) which offers 50GB free.

The cheapest cloud storage for larger amounts appears to be Amazon Glacier or Backblaze B2 which cost 0.5 US cents per Gigabyte per month. That corresponds to $A8 per annum for 100GB, $40pa for 1TB and $200pa for 5TB. Glacier costs from 0.3 US cents per GB for a slow download (wait 5 to 12 hours before anything happens) to 3.6 cents/GB for a download with little delay. Backblaze B2 costs 2 cents/GB for a download with little delay.

Cloud backup options

For backup to the cloud you need backup software as well as a cloud storage repository. These are usually integrated but can come separately. There are many alternatives out there. Here are a few that I see as the most likely options.

If you have small amounts of data to back up – up to around 1TB, the cheapest option is Cloudberry. This is an interface for backing up to the cloud but does not include storage. There is a free version of Cloudberry, or one with encryption for a one-time cost of $A40. Then you need to add storage from Amazon Glacier or BackBlaze B2 at the costs outlined just above, or any number of more expensive alternatives. This may be a cheap option but is not an easy one. You need to negotiate the complexities of setting up both Cloudberry and the storage choice.

If you are already using Acronis suscription model for your local backups, extending to Cloud backups may be a viable option (It’s not available with the cheaper perpetual license). Acronis is fast, easy to use and extremely configurable. Additional cost per annum of backup to the Cloud is $A3 (50GB), $A14 (250GB), $A30 (500GB) and $A60 (1TB). Beyond that, other options are more cost-effective.

What used to be Lightroom CC is now Lightroom CC Classic. There is now a new cloud only program confusingly called Lightroom CC. This offers expensive web storage of images, at $US120pa for up to 1TB, $US240pa for up to 2TB or $US500pa for up to 5TB.  So this is not an option for cloud backup and since you have to commit to annual plans, noy an option for temporary storage while travelling.

The two most likely candidates are BackBlaze and CrashPlan for Business, both of which offer unlimited storage. I have eliminated IDrive, SpiderOakOne and SugarSynch (too expensive and too little storage) and SOS (too expensive). I also eliminated Carbonite which offers similar functionality to BackBlaze but costs more. The main difference between BackBlaze and CrashPlan for Business is in data retention. BackBlaze deketes deleted files and previous versions of files after 30 days whereas CrashPlan holds onto the indefinitely, according to your settings. BacvkBlaze costs $US50 per year whereas CrashPlan for Business costs $120.

CrashPlan had a product CrashPlan for Home that offered superiorfunctionality to BackBlaze at around the same cost but this was discontinued in mid 2017.


Why Unlimited Storage

Photographers are likely to have large amounts of files and unlimited storage is likely to work out cheaper, especially when including future requirements.

Also, you could be backing up specific directories locally using multiple backups with different criteria. This creates the possibility you may forget to define some backups for new projects so you end up with holes in your safety net. Having an unlimited Cloud backup means you can back up everything and solves that problem.



Backblaze is cheap and simple. Basically you just set it going and it backs everything up. On the main screen you simply have options for [Backup Now], [Restore Options] and [Settings]. There is also a Help button at top right.


All you really have to do is click [Settings…] to select which drives to backup and let it do its thing. However, you might want to specify a drive other than C:\ as temporary data drive because Backblaze temporarily stores copies of large files there while uploading.


On the Performance tab you can let Backblaze automatically adjust the upload overhead, or adjust it manually in various ways. Here, I have unchecked [Automatic Throttle]. You can use the slider to increase backup times but if you take it too far, you may slow down your whole home network. You can also increase the number of backup threads and you should do it slowly, one day per increment, and observe results.

On the Schedule tab, scheduled upload is usually continuous but you can make it daily or on demand.
Backblaze does not back up system files and has a number of folders and file types it excludes by default. You can specify additional folders to exclude but you can’t do it the other way and define folders or files to include.
Restoring files is more complex than backing them up. You login to the web site to request the restored files. Then you can download your files as a zip file. Next you have to work out what to do with them. They come inside the zip archive in a folder structure corresponding to the directory structure. You have to manually work out where to copy them to from there – and you need enough space to have two sets of those files until you’re finished.

Alternatively, you can ask BackBlaze to send you a hard disk (up to 4TB; US178). You can get a full refund on the hard drive if you return it within 30 days and pay return postage only. After you make the request, it takes them 2 to 4 days per terabyte for them to post it plus 3 to 4 days in the post. So probably: 4 to 6 days for 500GB; 5 to 8 days for 1TB and 14 to 24 days for 5TB.

I read a review that said that if you tweak the Settings/ performance values, BackBlaze should run about the same speed as CrashPlan. If this is the case, and based on my download test for Crashplan (though my PC and network speed may be quite different from yours), direct download may be quicker than a disk for up to somewhere between 1TB and 2TB download. However, without tweaking those settings, my current download test is running 25 times slower than my last CrashPlan download test. In any case, a disk may be more practical if you’re short of disk space. If you do go for a disk, you can still be recovering your most important directories while waiting for it. Bear in mind that your whole download choice has to complete before you can access and copy any files.

Backblaze is cheap and simple but there are a few drawbacks that Crashplan does not have.

  • That restore process is a handicap for me though the hard disk option could be useful for large data restores.
    • You have to copy the files manually from the zip file to your final destination
    • You can’t access any files until the zip file has finished downloading
    • Restore seems extremely slow with default settings.
  • BackBlaze does not support backing up files from a NAS (i.e. a box of disks on your home network).
  • It allows backing up from external drives but deletes the files if the external disk is not connected for a month.
  • Though it claims continuous backups, it may take two or more hours to notice a new or changed file.
  • It lacks a History screen to allow you to accurately determine backup durations and speeds.
  • It allows only 6 versions of files and removes versions after 30 days.



So that brings us to CrashPlan for Business, superior but much more expensive. You can see on the main screen that I have a backup running. It shows details of how that is progressing. You can also see the folders or directories involved in that backup.

How did I do that? Very simple. First time I opened the screen, there were no files defined. I clicked on [Change…] to define some files and away it went, backing up to the default location of CrashPlan Australia (i.e. the Cloud).

This is the Settings Tab for the backup.

  • Default is for backup to run always, but you can make it on specific days and between specific times
  • Verify selection is set by default to 3am every morning. This assumes your PC is left on and set never to sleep (Control Panel/ Power Options). Otherwise, you should change the time to when your computer will be on.
    • Increase the number of days before verifying to 30 during your initial upload will help it run faster.
  • [Frequency and versions]: See the next screen and comments….
  • [Filename exclusions] allows you to exclude file types as in BackBlaze. There is nothing specified by default here but your system files are excluded from backup anyway.
  • Leave [Advanced settings] alone. They’ll only decrease functionality.
  • [Enable] backup sets lets you define backup sets which are for different destinations. Apart from the Cloud, this can be other locations on your computer’s drives, other computers in your home network or friends’ computers.

On the Backup Frequency and Versioning Settings subscreen, the first slider sets the frequency of backups, varying from every minute, to every 15 minutes (the default), to every week.

The next four sliders determine how many versions of files to keep and how much to whittle them down as they age, ranging from keeping all versions to jettisoning them after a week.

The last slider is how often you remove deleted files. The default setting is never and alternatives range from every day to every year.

CrashPlan determines whether the computer is in use according to keyboard/ mouse activity. On the General Tab of the settings screen, you can define how long before CrashPlan thinks the computer is inactive, and what percent of CPU to use if you’re away and if you’re using it. You can see it defaults to 80%/ 20%. You could conceivably change that to 90%/ 10% if performance were an issue. Alternatively, you might try 100%/ 90% and then wind the in use setting back if the PC slows. Setting CPU% to zero though is not what you would think; it actually tells CrashPlan to use whatever it wants. Its default upload speeds are good, so there may not be any need to modify anything here.

You can define other computers to backup files to you (as we will see later). The [Configure…] button allows you to change their destination. (The default destination is a subdirectory of C:\ProgramData\).


Setup tips

What to back up? Not system files because they keep changing endlessly, so even though CrashPlan excludes many file types automatically, not your whole C Drive. On your C Drive, perhaps just your Users directory plus any directories you have created for your files. Most user settings are stored under C:\Users but one I can think of that isn’t is:

  • Printer profiles: C:\Windows\System32\spool\drivers\color

Also exclude Lightroom previews and cache files from the backup. Lightroom rebuilds them anyway and it slows the backup. You may have the Lightroom catalogue stored somewhere else but by default on Windows 10 and for Lightroom CC these are located at:

  • Lightroom previews cache: C:\Users\username\Pictures\Lightroom\Lightroom Catalog Previews.lrdata
  • Smart previews cache: C:\Users\username\Pictures\Lightroom\Lightroom Catalog Smart Previews.lrdata
  • Adobe Camera Raw cache: C:\Users\username\AppData\Roaming\Adobe\CameraRaw\Database

When setting a huge initial backup, you can define it in sections with your most important directories and folders first.


Restoring files

Restoring files is easy. You can select drives, folders or files and then restore them to their original location or another place such as the default of Desktop. It’s just going to take a long while if you have a huge mass of files, but you can restore your most important files first.

Here are some locations of important settings in C:\Users:

  • Lightroom User Print Presets: C:\Users\[user name]\AppData\Roaming\Adobe\Lightroom\Print Templates\User Templates
  • Lightroom User Export Presets: C:\Users\[user name]\AppData\Roaming\Adobe\Lightroom\Export Presets\User Presets
  • Lightroom User Develop Presets: C:\Users\[user name]\AppData\Roaming\Adobe\Lightroom\Develop Presets\User Presets
  • Photoshop Actions (if you’ve saved them): C:\Users\[user name]\AppData\Roaming\Adobe\Adobe Photoshop 2017\Presets\Actions
  • Photoshop Actions (otherwise): C:\Users\[user name]\AppData\Roaming\Adobe\Adobe Photoshop 2017\Adobe Photoshop 2017 Settings\Actions Palette.psp



The history screen is very useful. It tells you when your tasks started and finished, and the speed that they run at.


Help and support

There is no Help button to click in the interface but there are help screens available online. Just search for the screen or the issue. Alternatively, here is the support site. You can send emails and there is a Chat Line. Both are quick and informative; only catch is that office hours are 12 midnight to 8am Canberra time.


Capabilities no longer offered

You used to be able to use even the free version of CrashPlan for Home to backup to a disk on another person’s computer. There also used to be a family version of CrashPlan for Home that allowed you do back up multiple devices, including a laptop while travelling. Unfortunately, these are no longer offered.


Backup and Restore Times

Upload to the Cloud depends mainly on your network speed (which can vary) and also on the specification of your PC and what else you are running or doing on it. So the speed I get on my PC may or may not be relevant to what you get on yours and a test I make at one time may give different results at another. Here is a link to test your upload and download speed.

I made a test to see how long it would take to backup a 54.1GB upload with speedup setting implemented (as below). That took 12 hours 37 minutes, corresponding to 23 hours for 100GB, 10 days for 1TB and 14 weeks for 5TB. Download is usually faster so I set a restore going. That took 5 hours 20 minutes, corresponding to 10 hours for 100GB, 4 days for 1TB and 6 weeks for 5TB.


Speeding up the backup

There are a number of things you can do to speed up the backup, especially for a large initial backup.

  • I have already mentioned leaving the computer on and setting sleep to never (Control Panel/ Power options)
  • In Settings/ General, increase CPU% to 90% both for when user is away and for when user is present.
    • Then reduce CPU% for when user is present if it noticeably slows computer down.
  • In Settings/ Backup/ Frequency and versions: [Configure…], reduce backup frequency from default every 15 minutes to say every 8 hours
    • This reduces the time the CrashPlan spends checking for new versions.
    • You could also verify selection of your backup less often.
  • You can return CPU % and Frequency settings to default values (or whatever you prefer) when your initial backup is finished.
    • However, CPU % when user is present should be at least 10%. If you reduce it to 0%, CrashPlan actually takes that to mean “Do whatever you want!”.
  • If you have two different backup programs operating simultaneously and you notice performance issues, it may help to schedule them to run at different times.


Managing Memory

CrashPlan recommends allocating 1GB of RAM for each 1TB of files stored in the Cloud. Default is 1GB. (Actually, it’s really 600MB per TB storage but they allow for expansion).

So far I haven’t encountered any performance problems, though I have only uploaded 380GB of a potential 5.7TB and my computer has 32GB of RAM. CrashPlan is in any case designed to run quietly in the background and not compete for resources. Presumably though, people with old slow PCs and lots of data to backup are more likely to encounter issues.

If you do encounter problems, here are a couple of further things that could help:

  • The most resource-intensive activity is file verification scans. Normal backup gets file change information from the operating system and it doesn’t need to scan. So make sure the verification scan only operates when you are not using the computer (Settings/ Backup/ Verify Selection)
  • You could set your backups to only run overnight (Settings/ Backup/ Backup will run…)
  • You could reduce the amount of data you store on the cloud. For example, you could create “3+” subfolders and move images with 3 or more stars to them in Lightroom, then back up only images in those folders.
  • You could have different backup sets for older files and current files with different settings. Different backup sets are usually for different destinations but you could have two for backing up to the cloud.
    • On the Settings/ Backup tab, you can set different [Frequency and Versions] settings for each backup set, but if you have two sets backing up to the cloud, only the settings from the highest priority set will apply. So that’s of no use here.
    • However, you can set Backup times and Verify times for two sets backing up to the cloud and they will apply.
      • So one set with your old files that change very infrequently would seldom backup while the set with your current files would backup often.
      • At the extreme, you could set your old backup set to back up for one minute on Sundays (i.e. not at all) and verify it very infrequently.
      • When you finish a project and want to transfer files from the current to the old backup set, define that folder in the new backup set, click Verify [Now] for that set, and delete them from the current backup set.
  • If necessary, you can also pause all backups for a specified period by right-clicking on the CrashPlan Tray at the right of you Menu Bar and choosing [Sleep…]


Recovering from a Ransomware Attack

Cloud backup can be a valuable way to protect against ransomware attacks. Typically you introduce the ransomware to your PC through clicking on an email attachment or a link. All your files may become encrypted and a message appear on your computer demanding a ransom. We have recently seen the explosion of the WannaCry ransomware. According to Wikipedia, over 230,000 computers in over 150 countries were infected within the first day.

Norton now protects against WannaCry and other known ransomware. Acronis also does this by preventing malicious changes to your Master Boot Record and to your backup files. Probably nothing can be 100% successful against new ransomware algorithms. It is also important to have your operating system up to date.

If you get hit by something like WannaCry, you’re probably going to need to reimage your PC. If it has spread to your home network, you may need to reimage all the PCs on your home network that were turned on since the attack began. Then you need to restore files from backup.
If you have an online local backup, your backups are probably encrypted too (not merely the files they contain). Offline backups to hard disks may be OK but are are more likely to be out of date than your Cloud backup.

The standard approach to Cloud backup with CrashPlan is that you back up data files (images, video, music, Word files, Excel files etc.) and not system files. So when you restore files from the Cloud after reimaging, the danger is not reintroducing the ransomware Trojan, it is reinstalling encrypted files. If you find this happens, you just need to restore files from a date earlier than when the attack started. CrashPlan will show you the files you have available to restore at a certain date in a directory structure, including the file names. So if you see encrypted file names, you need to go to an earlier backup and if you don’t, they should be all right. The same applies to BackBlaze but you can only go back 30 days, which might not be enough.

If the ransomware attack means you have lost your CrashPlan password and you have the standard security level, then CrashPlan support can help you reset it and you can access your backups. This also applies to BackBlaze. However, if you are using the higher Crashplan security archive key or custom key settings, you will need to know that password or you won’t get your files back. In any case, it may be as well to have your passwords on a USB stick, a disconnected hard drive or a piece of paper.



Options for families

BackBlaze and CrashPlan for Business don’t have a Family Plan; you just have to buy more single licenses.

Another alternative may be IDrive, a well-featured program including file synch, file sharing and also free offline backup with unlimited computers for $A93pa, but for only up to 1TB of data, which is probably not very much, especially including future expansion.

Cloudberry plus storage on Amazon Glacier or BackBlaze B2 would be cheaper up to about 4TB but the hassle factor would be much greater and the functionality more limited. If you happen to have a subscription to Microsoft Office 365 Home ($A120pa), that comes with 1TB Cloud storage in OneDrive per computer for up to 5 computers. Cloudberry supports OneDrive so I presume you could connect from Cloudberry to your Office 365 OneDrive online storage.


(Sunset near Flinders Ranges, South Australia)


Photographers inevitably end up with lots of images and backups are essential. You should have at least two (preferably three) and one should be off-site.

These days it makes a lot of sense for your off-site backup to be the cloud. Your initial backup will be very slow but this is not a problem because it will run in background and you should have two local backups before you start this process anyway.

I have covered some other options above but for most people, Cloud backup will be a choice between BackBlaze and CrashPlan, both of which offer unlimited storage space. Backblaze will suit people who want a very simple choice, don’t mind slow performance if they don’t tweak the settings, and don’t mind a complex restore process. CrashPlan is a better system with unlimited versioning, but is much more expensive.


Links to more information

Free free to comment, and to offer or to request information….

News from the Ether Feb 17

Some recent articles that may be of interest…


Excursion to Binna Burra

The Canberra Photographic  Society is planning an excursion to Binna Burra, in Lamington National Park in Queensland, for three full days and four nights, arriving Monday 24th July and leaving in the morning of Friday 28th July.

This is a rainforest destination with Gondwanaland flora, wildlife, creeks and waterfalls and some great vistas.  There are lots of walks available ranging from short ones to long ones.  Here’s a PDF map of the walks.   Here’s a summary of the walks from the BinnaBurra Lodge site and here’s some more detailed information from Queensland National Parks.  Binna Burra means “where the Antarctic Beech trees grow” in the local Aboriginal language and the Lodge opened in 1933.


Waterfall near Binna Burra, Infrared Colour Film, 10 Jan 1981.


The main reason for the timing is that rainfall is low at this period.  It is also fairly cool, with mean temperatures ranging from 10°C to 23°C.  This also means there are no ticks or leeches.

The excursion is for financial members of the Canberra Photographic Society only (and their spouses).

There is a variety of accommodation available.

  • There are rooms in the lodge.  Casuarina rooms can be double or twin share and have shared bathroom facilities.  Acacia rooms can be queen, double or twin share and have ensuites and mountain or rainforest views.
  • There are sky lodges which are 1, 2 or 3 room apartments with king beds or twin share.  They are more modern and a better standard of accommodation and have impressive views.
    • The Photographic Society of Queensland recently booked a stay at Binna Burra and particularly wanted to be able to take advantage of the evening view from the Sky Lodges.
    • There is also the possibility of an extra person on a sofa bed in rooms and sky lodges.
  • Then there is camping.  You can have powered or unpowered sites or a Safari Tent for from 2 to 6 people which is provided with beds, vinyl floors, a fire pit and lighting but no power.  You can also hire linen for the safari tent.

There is also the possibility of hiring a conference room for a few hours to have a showing and discussion of photographs.

Camping costs are straightforward.  $28 per night for an unpowered site, $35 for powered and $105 for a safari tent, irrespective of the number of persons.

Room costs are more nebulous because we can book as a group and get a group discount and may all pay the same rate.  When I can tell them how many will be turning up, they will offer us some options and rates.  Ostensibly, a Casuarina room with two persons and breakfast and dinner included costs $130 per person per night, an Acacia room with two persons $185 and a 3-room sky lodge with 6 people $147.  It depends how many people we have and what we may receive as a group discount.  See update below.

There are two main ways to get there.  You can drive or you can fly.

  • Ride sharing might be a possibility for the drive option though it’s too long to do in one hit – probably around 12 hours.
  • Perhaps the most likely option is flying, to Brisbane or Gold Coast airports and Binna Burra Lodge will pick people up from those airports.  Canberra to Brisbane direct takes 1 hr 40 to 50 each way and costs from $321 return.   Canberra to Gold Coast takes 1 hr 30 to 40 each way if direct flights are available on that day and costs from $311 return.
    • Binna Burra Lodge will pick people up from either airport for a cost per person each way of between $175 (1 person) and $44 (4 persons), $49 (5 persons) or $41 (6 persons).
  • Going by train is a third option for pensioners, who can go free (though $10 for first class and maybe $100 for a sleeper).  Perhaps combined with a rental car.
    • The Lodge also picks people up from Nerang Station but the logistics of getting there from Canberra may be more trouble than it’s worth.  (Perhaps they’ll pick up from Brisbane Station too).

So the cost per person probably works out to between $900 and $1,230 for rooms and flying, less whatever discount we get.  (Of course, camping could be much cheaper).

In order to get the group discount, we need to have a group.  So please indicate if you are interested.  People can join later but may or may not get the group discount and the fewer who initially commit the less the discount will be.  Also, group rooms may be together which may not be possible for people joining later.


To reserve a place you will need to record the following details in a comment below or send me an email at .  Places are still available.  See update below.

  1. Name (singles) or Names (couples)
  2. Definite commitment or expression of interest
  3. Preference and availability for dates, whether that affects commitment and whether you prefer to include weekend dates
  4. Whether you prefer a room or intend to be camping and any preferences you have in either respect.

Even if you send an email, please record your name(s) in a comment below.  This will facilitate group discussions later on.

Update (28 March)

A group of us are going and most of us are staying in a four-bedroom house near the Binna Burra Lodge, Alcheringa.  This appears to offer more spacious and better quality accommodation than the sky lodges and at better value.

Currently we still have space for up to an additional two singles or a couple.  Cost will be $105 per person per night for one single or $200 for two singles or a couple.

A need from deep within


Readers of this blog will know by now that Sebastian Salgado is one of my inspirations and a few months ago, while browsing in a local bookstore, I picked up a book called From my Land to the Planet written by him in collaboration with Isabella Francq that covers his life and his photography. It is the quote on the front of the book, visible in the picture above, that really resonated with me and prompted me to buy it.

I suspect, that this quote will speak to many of the blog’s readers. What started for me with the desire to finally replace my old film point and shoot and  buy my first DSLR some nine years ago, has turned into something I could barely have foreseen then. Like Salgado, I too love holding my camera and looking for images, feeding an insatiable hunger to take more and more photographs. And like many of us, I now own far too many cameras, lenses and particularly camera bags.

We are always on the look out for more pictures. We wake up when it is still night to head out to capture first light. We are late for dinner, because there is more evening light to capture. There are days I come home when the light is about to fade and I have to race to get one of my cameras to record another amazing sunset from my balcony. It is not the view that continues to astonish me, but the never-ending variety of colours in the sunset skies and the million ways of capturing this city.

It is more than merely recording the moment. It is somehow trying to capture that moment in time in the way that I saw it, trying to convey what took my breath away. Sometimes I succeed, more often I fail, but I’m slowly getting better at it and it never stops me to try again or to take more pictures. It’s been quite a journey so far and there is still a long road ahead. I’m not even sure where that road is leading, but I’m happy to be on it.

The quote on the front of the book is from the final paragraph in the book, after he has described his journey into and through photography – how it nearly destroyed him and how it resurrected him. But it is only part of the final paragraph, which also reads:

“My photography is not a form of activism, it is not even a profession. It is my life. (…) My photography is all of this and I cannot claim that the decisions that make me choose to go here or there are rational. It is a need that comes from deep inside me.”

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but I would argue that is not always the case. Sometimes we need words like this to express why we do what we do.