Anniversary & A Digital Deluge

This month it is approximately ten years since I first had a PC and the ability to use the internet at home. It is also a year today since I ordered my iMac and iPod Touch. I don’t intend to celebrate in any particular way, but I realised that is about time I dealt with the ever-growing collection of digital data that I’ve accumulated over the years.

In ten years I have never lost any files other than on one CD which got scratched. But I have managed to get myself into a pickle with multiple backups and data dispersed across far too many disks and filing systems. For the past 2 years I have wanted to get my digital ‘library’ in order, but it is always a bit of a struggle.

As primarily a Windows user for many years, I got into a routine of reinstalling my operating system and software every 6-18 months. This led me to use separate data and software partitions on my hard disk, creating a nice clean data storage system. It worked quite well when I lived at home all the time, and I used an external hard disk for backups with most important data duplicated on CD or DVD.

Once I had more than one computer in the same house, things started to get complicated. I set up one computer as a server which allowed the other PC to synchronise user files. Easy, simple enough and reliable.

In 2006 I acquired my laptop, which at first fitted in with my filing system quite well. However, when I moved away to university in 2007 my data became disjointed. Four years later and I haven’t managed to assimilate all my data back to a simple data store. Having a Mac for the last year hasn’t really helped with this problem, although I am gradually importing data to the large 2TB hard disk.

I suppose the problem is best characterised by the number of hard disks I have and how big they are:

  • 80GB IDE x 2

  • 120GB SATA x 2

  • 160GB SATA

  • 250GB SATA

  • 320GB USB x 2

  • 400GB SATA

  • 500GB SATA

  • 640GB SATA x 2

  • 750GB USB

  • 2TB SATA x 2

That adds up to over 8 terabytes of storage. 4 of those drives are primary hard disks in computers (80GB IDE, 250GB SATA, 400GB SATA, 2TB SATA) and the others are either in a desktop PC (3 of them), bare, or in USB enclosures.

I’m sure I will manage to sort everything out somehow, but with the release of Mac OS X Lion recently I have been planning to clone my 2TB internal drive to the 2TB drive in a USB enclosure, just in case something goes wrong. This makes it really tricky to deal with all the data already on the 2TB drive, which I have started to pump out into the remaining free space on all the other drives.

To top things off, I have the same situation in the physical space of my bedroom. Many years of bank statements across several accounts, school paperwork, university notes and exam papers, magazines, CDs, vinyl records, drawers full of cassette tapes clutter up the room that I spend the most time in.

Hopefully I won’t end up having to buy more storage (another 2TB drive would be handy, but I don’t want more drives!) and I can force myself to clear out things I don’t need anymore. As usual however, the internet provides a wealth of distractions to stop me making progress. 10 years of distractions so far.