Organizing Old Photos

Winter Horses

In an earlier post, I described a way to bring order to all the photos on your hard drive. If you missed the article, I recommend you read it before continuing with this post. In this article, I describe how to get all your old photos into the same location so it's easy to find them and back them up for safe-keeping. You should be familiar with navigating your computer to find folders and with copy and paste techniques before following the instructions in this  post.

(Remember, you can use Picasa or other software to organize your photos for you, but they will not move your pictures from their current location.)

Make a Year Folder
Since I recommend using the Pictures folder as the biggest container for your pictures, this is where we will start. And I recommend starting with the most recent old pictures first. In our example, this would be pictures taken in 2010. In other words, work backwards in time.

1. Create a 2010 folder inside your Pictures folder.

Search for Pictures by Year

2. Use the computer's Search or Find command to look for any photos made between January 1, 2010 and December 31, 2010. In most cases, your digital photos will all end with the same four characters
If you add a star (*) in front of those four characters
the computer will find all photos no matter where they live.

If you have a big hard drive this may take a while. If there are lots of pictures, you may want to find just six months' worth at a time (e.g. January 1, 2010 to June 30, 2010).

Once the computer has completed the search, it will display the pictures in a window.

Put the Pictures in the Year Folder

3. From the Edit menu, choose Select All. After the pictures are highlighted (selected), go back to the Edit menu and choose Move.

4. Navigate to (locate) your Pictures folder and open the 2010 folder.

5. Click inside the 2010 folder. From the Edit menu choose Paste. The computer will move all your 2010 pictures into this folder.

At this point you can go back to your Pictures folder and make another year folder (2009). Then repeat the process described above. Or you can continue to work with the 2010 pictures to organize them inside the year folder. That's what we will do now.

Separate the Pictures by Month and Date Folders
At this point, you may not have any idea of the location, event or subject of all these (hundreds) of pictures! So it will be a little difficult to give them descriptive names as I suggested in my earlier article. But you can fairly easily group the pictures by date taken. Here's how.

1. In the year folder, choose to view the photos by "Details" so that you can see the date associated with each photo.

2. Sort the pictures by date. On a Windows or Mac computer just clicking on the word Date at the top of the column usually sorts the pictures in ascending order. Scanning through the list, you can see which pictures were all made on the same date.

3. Create a new folder with the first date, for example 01-01 for January 1st, New Year's Day.

4. Click on the first picture name with that date. Hold down the Shift key and click on the last picture name with that date. All these will be selected (highlighted).

5. From the Edit menu, choose Move.

6. Double click on the 01-01 folder to open it.

7. From the Edit menu, choose Paste. All the appropriate pictures will be moved into their new home.

8. You can open this new folder and view the photos as thumbnails to see what they are about. Then you can add a brief descriptive name after the month and date, if you want to.

9. Repeat these steps for each date in the list.

10. When you are finished organizing the 2010 pictures, burn a CD or DVD back-up of each folder and/or copy the 2010 folder to the external hard drive. You will have to use several CDs or DVDs to back up all the pictures.

Take Your Time
This is a BIG JOB! I recommend that you do it in stages, a little at a time. If you start to become tired, you are more likely to make mistakes in organizing your photos that might be hard to correct. So work at it a little bit at a time.

Eventually, all your photos will be stored in one location on your hard drive, in folders with helpful names, and backed up for safe-keeping. Congratulations!