Update Aug 13, 2012: as of Picasa 3.9, it is no longer necessary to backup Picasa albums separately using the technique discussed here. They are stored in the same folders as your photos, so you can simply copy all your photo folders to a new machine and you’re all set.
I’ve been very happily managing my photos with Picasa since version 2. Many machines ago, I began storing photos along with all my other portable data in a directory separate from the normal Windows user folder to make it easy to back up and move files between machines with an external hard drive. So far so good.
The problem is how to back up and/or move Picasa albums to a new machine, as these are not stored with your photo files like Picasa edits and captions are. Picasa 3 now offers a way to export the entire photo database; however, it is very slow and results in a very large file (multi-GB) when you have 10 years’ worth of digital photos. It’s not practical to export the entire database to make a weekly backup, so I was delighted to find this technique on a forum which allows you to move just your album data:
I’ve done it many times and it works. This way, you can continue to use an incremental backup solution for photo files and backup the tiny amount of data in C:\Users\username\AppData\Local\Google\Picasa2Albums\ to save your albums. The only catch is that when you rebuild the Picasa database as instructed in the link above, the photos referenced in the album must be in the same directory location as they were when the album was created.
In order to ensure that my photos stay in the same directory structure even when Microsoft changes the location of the Users folder between, say, XP and Vista, I keep all my photos in a directory outside the Windows user directory (I use C:\@My\Photos). When I get a new machine, all I have to do is:
- Copy the whole C:\@My directory to the new machine
- Install Picasa
- Copy the Picasa2Albums directory into place under the Users folder (C:\Users\David\AppData\Local\Google\Picasa2Albums\ in Vista)
- Rebuild the Picasa database as instructed above using the Shift+Ctrl+Alt combination.
Of course, this technique may not be supported forever, and hopefully won’t be needed as Google continues to improve Picasa. But for now, it allows me to backup my albums on a regular basis and know that I’ll be able to move my photos, albums and all, to a new machine when needed.