Storing, maintaining and preserving your digital archive

This guide covers some approaches to organising your digital archive — an essential step for future-proofing your material. 

Choose multiple storage locations

Making multiple copies of your files and keeping them in different locations provides protection against loss (e.g. if your phone is stolen or your computer crashes). It also means that you can access the files from more than one device. Ideally, you should keep your archives in three different places:

  • On your computer or tablet — this will probably be where you work on your archive (organising and renaming the files, for example). 
  • On an external hard drive or storage device — ideally, you should back up your archive to a dedicated hard drive that isn’t used for anything else. Small storage devices like flash drives and memory cards are inexpensive and portable, but take care as they can be easily lost.
  • On a cloud-based storage system (e.g. Google Drive, Dropbox, Apple iCloud). Because you can only access these files via an internet connection, try not to rely solely on cloud-based storage.

Move your files

Once you have identified where you will store your archive, your files are ready to be moved from one location (such as a laptop) to another (such as your external hard drive or cloud storage). 

Ideally, you should transfer your files from the original device directly to the storage device. For example, if you are using a laptop, you would copy your files onto the hard drive or cloud storage.

If you do need to transfer your files via email, be careful as some email providers “downsample” files, which means they compress them into a lower quality file for easier transfer. Always keep at least one copy of your files in a lossless format (see our formats guide). 

Next steps

Maintain your archive (guide coming soon)

Further Resources

WikiHow, How to Copy Files to an External Hard Drive 

Scott Witmer (University of Michigan Library Blog), Personal Digital Archiving Guide Part 3: Storage

University of Westminster, Managing Your Personal Digital Archive: Storing and Maintaining Your Archive