Plug It In; Do-It-Yourself PC Upgrades For Photographers Page 2

A network storage server is an external drive that is appropriately named. Connect one to your home wireless network and all of the computers on your network can read and write files on the same drive. They are not inexpensive, but for many people the sheer convenience of sharing files makes them invaluable. They are not difficult to install but whenever a network is involved there is always the potential for complications, so don't buy one unless you're comfortable with the notion of being your own IT department.

External hard drives provide a convenient way to transfer image files from one PC to another.

Step Two: Add A DVD Writer
Someday soon either Blu-ray or HD DVD will become mainstream, but for now DVD is the de facto standard for long-term data storage. DVD writers are very affordable and media is dirt cheap--less than a quarter apiece when purchased in bulk. A single blank DVD will hold about 4.2GB of data (unformatted capacity is 4.7GB but useable capacity is lower). That translates to something on the order of 1800 full resolution images from a 6-megapixel Canon EOS 10D. Double-layer DVDs hold about twice that amount. There has been concern voiced about the long-term durability of DVD media, and the jury is still out. Still, there is every reason to believe that the images you burn to a DVD will last at least until a better system is introduced. Then you can copy them to the new media, in the same manner that you migrated your records to audio cassette tapes and your audio cassettes to CDs.

Delkin's BurnAway DVD writer is the perfect traveling companion for photographers.

Look for a DVD burner that has at least a 16x write speed, even though most media is 8x--someday the media will catch up. Most DVD writers will write and read both DVD+R and DVD-R media. Thankfully, the confusing +R/--R example of non-standardization is mostly behind us. (If you have an older model DVD movie player connected to your TV set you may run into some cross-compatibility issues--check with the manufacturer if in doubt.) Use RW media if you need to erase and rewrite the same disk over and over, as one might do when developing a series of revisions over a long period of time. Of course, DVD writers also read and write all flavors of CD media as well.

Western Digital's Passport series of hard drives are small enough to slip into a briefcase or jacket pocket yet store up to 120GB of data.

The Sony DRX-820UL/T ( is one of the finest desktop external DVD burners available. It's a speedy 16x and can write a full DVD in as little as 6 minutes. It provides complete media compatibility; it's double layer and of course it can handle --R/+R/RW, etc. The cosmetic design will look quite attractive on your desk, and it connects via high-speed USB (USB 2.0) or FireWire (Sony calls it iLink). Best of all, perhaps, it ships with a very powerful software suite that includes Nero 6.0 for Windows and Roxio's Toast authoring software for Mac. Street price is $149.

For portable convenience, look to the Delkin BurnAway DVD writer ( It's more than a reliable DVD writer--it's the perfect way to transfer images from your memory card to a DVD (or CD) whether at home or on the road. It's lithium ion battery powered and comes complete with a functional carrying case. To operate, simply turn it on, drop a DVD into the tray, and pop a memory card into the slot. Press one button and you're on your way--all without being attached to a computer (unless you want to be). It's a great way to share images with friends and relatives when you're away from home. Think of it as an external DVD writer that you can take wherever you go. It also functions as a DVD and MP3 player. It's a lot of product for the price ($329 street).

Sony's external DVD writers complement any office décor.

Got FireWire?
It's easy to add Hi-Speed USB (2.0) and FireWire connectivity to your PC. If you are a notebook user you can buy an interface card that occupies one available PC card slot. The Adaptec DuoConnect CardBus for Notebooks ( adds two USB 2.0 ports and one FireWire port and takes up only one slot. To upgrade a desktop computer you'll need a screwdriver and an unoccupied PCI slot. Yes, you have to remove the cover, and if that makes you skittish don't try it. If you are comfortable working on your PC's innards, Adaptec makes a very reliable PCI version of the DuoConnect. It adds three USB 2.0 and two FireWire connections. Street price for either DuoConnect adapter is around $69.