Personal Digital Preservation

Keeping your files safe and usable
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7 students enrolled
Instructed by Gary McGath IT & Software / Other
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  • Lectures 14
  • Length 1 hour
  • Skill Level All Levels
  • Languages English
  • Includes Lifetime access
    30 day money back guarantee!
    Available on iOS and Android
    Certificate of Completion
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About This Course

Published 1/2016 English

Course Description

Where will your computer files be in two years or twenty? With a little care, you can give your important data the best chance of staying useful for your future use and your family's. This course covers three general areas: avoiding file loss, recovering unusable files, and keeping your data organized and understandable. The course includes PDF reference materials to supplement the lectures.

You'll learn about:

  • Backup strategies, local and online. The 3-2-1 rule.
  • Saving data from mobile devices and Web services, with specific advice for iOS, Android, and several popular websites.
  • Recovering files that break or that software stops recognizing.
  • Effective ways of naming and organizing files so you know what you have.
  • Avoiding file obsolescence from proprietary formats and ecosystem lock-in.
  • Working with metadata so your files are self-explanatory.

You don't need a lot of computer experience to benefit from this course. If you're concerned about keeping your data for the long run, this course will help you.

What are the requirements?

  • Reasonable familiarity with OS X, WIndows, or Linux should be enough to get started.

What am I going to get from this course?

  • Manage computer files to minimize the risk of losing data and maximize their long-term usefulness.

Who is the target audience?

  • Anyone who's comfortable working with computers and understands the basics of file systems can benefit from this course. System managers and archivists may find it too basic.

What you get with this course?

Not for you? No problem.
30 day money back guarantee.

Forever yours.
Lifetime access.

Learn on the go.
Desktop, iOS and Android.

Get rewarded.
Certificate of completion.


Section 1: Avoiding file loss

Files can die in many ways, from losing either the actual data or the ability to use them. Find out what some of these are, and get an overview of what the course will cover about avoiding data loss, recovering from it, and maximizing your files long-term usefulness.


Backup is central to preservation. You'll learn about options for on- and offsite backup, the difference between cloud services and backup services, how to choose a backup service, and the 3-2-1 rule.


Your data on the Web needs backing up too. Many online services help you to archive your content. Specific information on archiving GMail, Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter archiving.


Backing up mobile devices is harder than backing up desktop computers, and mobile devices are at more risk. This lecture will present ways of getting data to safety from your iOS and Android phones and tablets.


Having off-the-Net copies of your data gives them extra safety, but it's important to use media that won't go bad or go obsolete. You'll learn about what media are best and what mistakes to avoid.

3 questions

Review questions for the first section.

Section 2: File Recovery

There are several reasons files might fail to open. This lecture talks about some of them before getting into the ways to recover.


If your file won't open, there are many things you can try. This lecture presents a series of actions you can take, from simple fixes to disaster recovery.

Questions on file recovery
3 questions
Section 3: Maintaining file usefulness

Learn about the three main aspects of keeping files useful: Being usable, findable, and identifiable.


Find out how to avoid being locked into proprietary formats that may go obsolescent, to use interchange formats or PDF to let other applications use them, and to avoid getting stuck with useless files after a software upgrade.


Learn techniques that support preservation such as using lossless compression while editing, avoiding applications that take control away from you, and keeping files in proprietary formats (if you have to use them) up to date.


Learn about the best ways to keep your files meaningfully named and well-organized.


Good metadata lets you remember and other people learn what your files are about. Learn how to manage metadata effectively, with demonstrations in several different applications.


Email is especially tricky to preserve. Learn how to make sure you really have your mail on your computer, to get attachments to safety, and to avoid "archiving" that isn't.

Questions on maintaining file usefulness
4 questions
Section 4: Wrap-up

A review of the main points of the course, and a reminder that while it isn't necessary to do everything, whatever active maintenance you can do will help give your files a longer lifespan.

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Instructor Biography

Gary McGath, Software Engineer

I'm an experienced software developer with a strong background in Java, library software, and digital preservation. For eight years I was a software engineer for the Harvard Library. I wrote the bulk of the code for JHOVE, a file identification and analysis tool widely used by libraries and archives. My written work includes the e-book Files that Last and the blog Mad File Format Science.

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