If you are like most people, you have digital media all over the place. On your phone, your PC, in the cloud, and on DVDs. You also probably have duplicates mixed in with everything else. And moreover, everything is a moving target. You will save a Facebook photo today, share a home video, download something you like from the internet, and many more new additions to your digital media. The world doesn't stop and wait for you.

Introduction

Your media libraries are the foundation of your entire media empire. Right now, we want to get the right media into the right library. We will organize all this stuff later. In a perfect world, all your digital photos are in your "Photos" folder. But it's not a perfect world and you may end up with most of your photos in the "Photos" folder and some left on your phone or somewhere in the cloud. That's OK everybody is in the same boat.

All Media Folder Structure

Typically, you will end up with this folder structure (or something similar) on a hard drive.

You will end up with sub-folders under "Videos" like "Home Videos", "Music Videos" or "Exercise Videos", whatever fits your library. This holds true for the other folders as well. You may have a "Photos" sub-folder called "My Phone" or "My Spouses Phone". Just try hard not to mix photos with videos and so on. As you round up all your digital media, the disk size requirements will become obvious.

Photos

Let's start by getting all your photos into one big, gigantic pile or library. Create a dedicated "Photos" folder on your hard drive (shown in the diagram above).

😎 WordCutter: Tip - No, don't rush out and buy additional storage yet. Wait until you get an idea of how much storage you really need.

Mobile Phones

Let's start with Mobile Phones. You want to copy, yes, copy the photos from your phone (or phones) into your new "Photos" folder. For now, you want to leave the original photos on your phone and put a copy into the "Photos" folder. Later, in the process, we will change this.

Now you have copies of all the photos on your phone on your PC. If you missed a few, they didn't go away, and we will catch them later in the process.

PC's, Laptops, and Tablets

Let's get all the photos from all the computers and get them into the "Photos" folder.

Just like your phone, you need to examine each computer and put their photos into your "Photos" folder. But unlike your phone, now you want to move these photos out of your other computers and into the "Photos" folder. You want to move these to prevent multiple folders with duplicate files.

Moving these photos should be easy using File Explorer over your home network.

PHYSICAL MEDIA (DVD, Floppy, Data Sticks): This is kind of a scavenger hunt for media. You may (or may not) have photos and media out in the garage or in the attic that you want to get into your media library. If you do have some physical media lying around, now is the time to dig it up and get it into your media libraries. Just stay alert to copying and replacing files so you do not lose anything.

CLOUD STORAGE: Check your existing cloud storage and make sure that photos in the cloud are copied into your "Photos" folder. Use the same copying process we have discussed to get the photos without stepping on and replacing photos that you want to keep.

Videos, Movies, TV Shows, Music, Books, and Data

I have grouped all these together because they all need to go through the same process as your photos. Create the folders, copy the media, and collect all your digital media into one central folder structure.

Conclusion

Creating clean libraries is critical as this is the foundation for all your personal digital libraries.

All Media Folder Structure

 

Creating duplicate files is one of the biggest problems in this consolidation process. For example, if you already have a "Photos" folder on your PC, don't copy it into the new folder, move the contents into your new folder, and then get rid of the old folder. You do not want to end up with multiple folders containing duplicate files. Don't get nervous, in the next step we are going to back up these files to protect them from accidental loss.

Photos

As you collect all your photos from all your various sources, I have some recommendations.

  • Don't remove the photos from the folders which you may already have, leave them intact. Move the entire folder into your main "Photos" folder on your desktop. You will reorganize all of this later. Right now you just want to get everything into your main "Photos" folder on your desktop.
  • Don't copy them, move them. Yes, remove them from the miscellaneous devices and put them in your main "Photos" folder on your desktop.
  • Don't start cleaning up the duplicates, mimes, downloads, out of focus, and so on photos. Wait until everything has been moved so you are not repeating your efforts over and over.

Mobile Phones

There are many ways to copy these photos into your "Photos" folder and we are going to use a direct USB cable connection to your PC to copy these files. There are numerous wireless techniques available and if you are comfortable with wireless then go for it. All we care about right now is getting copies into your "Photos" folder.

Connect your phone to your PC with a USB cable. If this is the first time you have done this, your PC will prompt you, telling you that it is adding drivers so your phone can connect to the PC.

Next, your PC will ask you what you want to do with this new connection, and you should select open File Explorer to copy files.

Now you are ready to actually copy the photos from your phone to your PC. You may want to create a sub-folder under the "Photos" folder like "My Phone" or "My SM-950U" or whatever means something to you. This sub-folder is where you want to place your copies.

😎 WordCutter: Tip - Your phone's photos may be all over the place. They are on your phone's internal storage and on your phone's SD card. On top of that, they may not all be in obvious folders like "camera" or DCIM folder. You will need to look and make sure you have them all. Different applications on your phone may have placed photos into their own folders. If it's a mess, try using the File Explorer's search function and look you .jpg or .png extensions.

PC's, Laptops, and Tablets

😎 WordCutter: Tip - There are a couple of things you should pay attention to as you move these files.

When you start moving these files into your "Photos" folder you will start getting a prompt telling you that there already is a copy of the file in the folder and asking you if you want to replace it or skip moving it. The prompt will show you the date and size of the file in question and it's up to you to decide wither to replace it or skip it. Pay attention or you might end up replacing a file that you want to keep with a file that you do not want to keep. When in doubt, do not replace the file in question. Rename one of these files so you can keep both files for now and figure it out later with a "duplicate remover" process.

The other thing you should watch out for is the overwhelming urge to keep copies of these photos on your other computers. You absolutely need to end up with just one copy of each photo in the "Photos" folder and nowhere else. I have learned this lesson the hard way and I would have saved myself a lot of hassle if I had taken my own advice.

Conclusion

Your libraries have been created and all your digital media has been captured. The only loose ends at this point may be paper photos that you want to scan and add to your library. Also, your need to keep moving your ongoing, day-to-day activity added to these libraries.

Whew!

ACTION ITEM: Use File Explorer to find all your pictures

  1. Open "Windows Explorer"
  2. Click on "This PC"
  3. Click on the "Search" box
  4. Type in "kind:=Picture"
  5. Press "enter"

You may be surprised.

ITEM: Storage Map

I created this storage map of my drives and content to keep track of my media. You can do the same with just a pencil and paper. It really helps me remember where everything is located. I have it pinned on the wall near my PCs.

At this point in the process (creating your personal digital library) things start to get complicated.

Not only have you rounded up all of your media but you want to keep everything up to date as you go forward. Adding and deleting photos, videos, music and the rest of it can quickly get out of hand.

For example, I have my library of photos scrolling on our TV when we are not actually watching anything on the TV. I notice some duplicate or just unwanted photos scroll by and decide to delete them right now. Right from the TV. After I delete them, I do not want to go into the file storage structure on my hard drives and again delete these photos from the backup. I want all of this to be done automatically. This storage map comes in handy when I configure all of the automated back-ups and restore processes in Step 15-Backup.

I am showing you this right now as this is the time to start keeping track of your folders.

ITEM: Home Network

All of these folders are in your home network and you are probably accessing them through your home network. If you noticed, I have two PCs which are the key file storage PCs. One of these PCs is named PlexServer so I added PS to the filed names and on the other PC which is named WordCutter, I have added WC to those file names. This helps me keep everything straight as I move files between PCs.

ITEM: Cloud Storage

For myself, cloud storage is a "bulk" backup. I don't try to keep all of my folders synced in the cloud with my local hard drives. I just backup everything periodically to my cloud storage as a "catastrophic failure" backup. It is just too much hassle to sync everything daily. Additionally, I may make a mistake with deleting something on my local drives and not realize it until days or weeks later. In that case, my "bulk" backup on the cloud will have the deleted files available.

This is an important backup consideration. Going back to my example of deleting some photos from my TV scroll. If the deleted photos are automatically deleted from all of my folders on all my local drives and all of my cloud storage, they are totally gone.  Leaving my cloud storage un-synced will keep those deleted photos available if I change my mind later.

CONCLUSION

Keep everything logical, don't try to get too fancy. Put the penguins in the penguin's folder, not in the wildlife folder. This folder structure is the heart of your whole media management system.