Skip to Main Content Mansfield Library Research Guides

Personal Digital Archiving

This guide will provide information about how to organize and preserve digital files for long term access.

What is Digital Preservation?

Digital preservation is the active management of digital files for long term usability and authenticity. Digital files require active management because their life expectancy without intervention can be as short as five years.

The Basics of Digital Archiving

There are five basic steps to digital file management and preservation:

  1. Know what you have
    • Check your social media accounts when thinking about what digital files you wish to preserve
    • Think about all the devices (laptop, tablet, phone, etc.) you use to create digital content
    • Don't forget those files that might be stored in the cloud, on network drives, or received via email
  2. Organize your digital content
    • Do not try and save everything, just like with paper records, not all digital files are worth the time and resources to save
    • Make sure file and folder names are descriptive and that folders are organized in a way that helps you remember where your files are
  3. Save files in preservation formats
    • The original file format may not be the best preservation strategy for that file type be sure to save your files in a preservation recommended format
  4. Back-up your files
    • Have at least two copies of your files it two separate types of storage to help guard against hardware and software failures. Update these back-ups at least once a year if it is not being done automatically on a schedule.
  5. Check-up on your files
    • The digital world constantly changes so it is imperative to periodically check on your backed-up files and update any files older than two years to new formats as needed at least annually.

How to start Digital Archiving

Start planning for digital archiving when you create your files. Make sure the file names describe the content of the files and are organized in a folder structure that makes sense to you. If you already have digital content, do a survey of all of your digital files first to determine those files you wish to keep long term and those files that can now be deleted or at least deleted after you have finished working with them.