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(ARA) — Anyone older than 25 probably recalls the days when “preserving a memory” meant finding a way to store your photo prints and keep track of all the negatives. Preserving prints is now passé, thanks to the arrival of the digital camera and a myriad of ways to store digital images.

Americans are shooting digital snapshots with wild abandon, leading to hundreds of souvenir photos stored on our digital cameras. In fact, most people likely have thousands of untouched photos with bewildering file names stashed in folders on their PC’s hard drive.

Storing digital images has its own set of unique challenges. Getting them all in one place, sorting out when and where images were taken, making sense of the arbitrary numeric names your digital camera assigns to an image can become a time-consuming task. Not to mention the question: What do you do when your hard drive crashes and all those images are gone?

Here are some helpful hints for organizing your digital images into a virtual art gallery:

* Don’t leave them on the camera. Not only will you run out of room for new images, but you also run the risk of losing all of them if the camera is damaged or lost. It is best to move images off your digital camera as soon as possible.

* Use your PC to organize and enhance your digital images on their way to their permanent storage place. Windows Photo Gallery, new on Windows Vista, makes it easy to import, store and organize photos.

* Take the time to rename the images as you download them from your camera. You’ll want to note the date they were taken and tag them with a name that will tell you what they are. “We’ve taken this task a step further by allowing users to name their photos all at once and later easily retrieve them through the search function found in our new Windows Vista operating system,” says Craig Cincotta, senior product manager for Windows Vista at Microsoft Corp.

* Invest in a good editing or photo management program, such as Windows Photo Gallery, which is included in Windows Vista. If you take and store many digital images, programs such as these can save hours of organization time. Windows Photo Gallery, for example, provides speedy transfer capabilities, automatically prompts you to tag the images with a meaningful name, allows you to search and sort images easily, and provides a number of editing and enhancing options.

* While many people store their images on the hard drive of their home computer, this has its dangers. If the hard drive crashes, it may be difficult or impossible to retrieve your prized images. Consider saving your images to a DVD, CD or USB drive. Any of these options will provide further peace of mind. Always remember to make a backup copy of any particularly valued images.

* Although online services allow you to store your images, some services will start deleting your photos if your account is inactive for some time or you never purchase prints through them.

To learn more about Windows Photo Gallery, visit

Courtesy of ARA Content