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Saturday, November 26, 2011

The ideal photo storage solution for the road: Netbook + backup drive

Whenever I have been traveling for several weeks, I was faced with the following problems:

a) Where do I store all my photos, once the memory cards have filled up?
b) How can I do a first review/edit of photos?

I now found a surprisingly capable but yet affordable solution. This is what you need:

- Asus Eee PC 1015PN (should have at least a 250GB hard drive and discrete Nvidida GPU; about $ 300)
       This Netbook is great, as it is very small (only 10 inches wide) but yet sufficiently powerful.
- a rugged external hard drive enclosure like the Acomdata Samurai (about $ 30)
       There is also some nice rugged external hard drives from other vendors, e.g. Lacie.
- 500GB Seagate Momentus XT solid state hybrid drive (about $ 90)
       This hard drive has an additional 8GB of solid state memory, boosting the netbooks performance. But also a cheaper drive can do just fine.
- any CF card reader that attaches to USB 2.0 (if you use CF cards. An SD card reader is already built-in into the Asus 1015PN; $ 10)
- memory upgrade for the netbook to 2GB (e.g. from Crucuial; about $ 20)

TOTAL: $ 450


Feel free to choose alternative products to the ones mentioned above, but make sure that especially the Netbook has equal or more power compared to the one mentioned. In particular the discrete graphics card is important to have and also the CPU should not be anything slower than an Atom N570.

Now, this is what I did to set up my storage solution:

In my case the Asus 1015PN came with a regular 250 GB 2.5” hard drive. I mirrored this drive to the new 500GB Seagate Momentus drive, in order to keep the Windows 7 Starter install that came with the Netbook. For instructions on how to do this, see here: I then swapped the hard drives, placing the 500 GB drive in the Netbook. For instructions on how to open an Asus 1015PN, see here: I partitioned this drive into two 250GB partitions. The first runs the OS, the second will be used for data storage. The old 250GB hard drive I placed in the external enclosure and formatted it. Next, I upgraded the memory of my Netbook to 2GB, using an upgrade kit from Crucial. (NOTE: If you feel uncomfortable altering your netbook, simply buy one that already has 2GB of memory and a sufficiently large hard drive preinstalled) For instructions on how to upgrade the memory, see here: Finally, you simply install your favorite photo editing software. If you already own software like Lightroom or Photoshop, you are usually allowed to make this second install for free (check their licensing rules to be sure). Alternatively, you could use free software like Picasa. Surprisingly, even demanding software like Lightroom or Photoshop runs fairly well on this netbook. Hence reviewing and even some casual editing of photos can be done while still on the road.

And this is it! Now you have 250GB of redundant data storage and the possibility to do first photo review and editing on the road for a total of $ 450.

This is my actual workflow for image storage on the road and the later transfer of the images to my main computer at home:

a) I copy images from my memory cards to two destinations: to the 2nd partition on my netbook and as a backup to the external hard drive. This way, my photos are redundantly stored and protected.
b) I import all photos stored on the netbook’s 2nd partition into Lightroom 3. Now I can review and edit images in this software.
c) when back at home, I export my images from Lightroom as a library that can then easily be imported into my main computer’s photo collection.

I hope this tutorial helps people to find their ideal photo storage solution for the road. I surely found mine.