Digital Help: Q&A Digital Photography

Digital Help is designed to aid you in getting the most from your digital photography, printing, scanning, and image creation. Each month, David Brooks provides solutions to problems you might encounter with matters such as color calibration and management, digital printer and scanner settings, and working with digital photographic images with many different kinds of cameras and software. All questions sent to him will be answered with the most appropriate information he can access and provide. However, not all questions and answers will appear in this department. Readers can send questions to David Brooks directly via e-mail to: or, or by US Mail to: David Brooks, PO Box 2830, Lompoc, CA 93438.

Help Us Out...
To aid us in making “Digital Help” as helpful as possible, please be specific in your query and include components, including software, that you use. David says, “Make me guess the problem and I might guess wrong.”—Editor

Western Digital Hard Drives
Q. I bought a Quad G5 that had a second drive bay in which I installed a 250GB WD drive and then I bought a kit to install three drives in front of the fan assembly. The four drives failed over a period of two years. I would get intermittent signs of overheating (temperature monitoring of processors and drive was possible on the Quad G5) and the main drive also failed. I also purchased an external WD backup drive (My Book Essential) which never did a full backup. I contacted WD and they replaced the drive as it was unreadable.
I have found Seagate drives to be more reliable. Currently I have three installed in two NexStar dual-drive docks in use with my MacBook Pro that I have been using for 1.5 years now. Note: I can’t reinstall OS X 10.5 on my Quad G5 since I loaned someone my install disc and got it back with scratches, plus it is no longer available from Apple.
Joe Swistok
via e-mail

A. Sorry to hear you had so many problems with Western Digital hard drives. It would have been good to know some models were problematic, and that could have been part of the record to advise people.
As you can imagine I have a lot of systems running, including a Mac Pro and four Mac minis. I use external backup drives with them, mostly acquired from OWC ( But I do not store image files on them except temporarily in the process of editing. All of my photo image files are archived on Gold/Gold CDs. I would use M-Disc DVDs, but I was already committed to CDs, so I stayed with them, instead of switching to M-Disc.
The only bad drive problem I have had was due to an external power supply, not the drive itself. Personally, from the feedback I have gotten from technicians, I have avoided putting more than temporary information on hard drives except the OS and application files on a main drive. I have tried to encourage others to take a similar strategy, but almost everyone is interested in convenience until they learn the hard way.

Who Gets the Advantage From a System Upgrade?
Q. When do you determine that it’s time to upgrade your operating system? I have been running Snow Leopard for a while; it is no longer being supported, no security updates, etc. I run Photoshop CS5, Photo Mechanic, an Epson Stylus Photo R2000, and Spyder3 to utilize calibrating my Eizo ColorEdge CG223W. Everything works well, so I would rather not rock the boat.
John Lewis
Chico, CA

A. To a certain extent, system upgrades are a ploy to get you to spend more money with the company. Personally, most of my Mac systems remain on OS X 10.6.9 and that is so I can continue to run applications that many users are still running. The essential components like Safari and iTunes are still updated by Apple.
Everyone cannot make the same reasons work for them if they need newer systems to run later applications. However, keeping up with the times has another price now, and that is more and more software is only available from the Cloud, following Adobe’s move to renting rather than selling software. But then you have to ask if the Cloud is reliable, and recent events put that into question as the Adobe Cloud was offline for the better part of a week.

If You Upgrade, Hang Onto the Old Gear
Q. I have been meaning to write to you regarding the problem many of your readers seem to have with legacy equipment not being able to be used on newer computers with newer operating systems. Used computers have little resale value and are either discarded (hopefully not before doing low-level formats on hard drives) or handed off to a child or other relative. My suggestion to people acquiring new computers is to simply keep the old one around since the legacy hardware and software work on the computer, and save the grief and money that buying replacement devices entails.
Currently I continue to keep and use my older XP computer since I have four old scanners attached which I use occasionally, as well as some old software that would not work on my newer Windows 7 computer. Continued use is facilitated by my small home network with network drive attached. Only if the scanners or any other such device were a high usage item, or if the newer device was technically much more advanced, would I bother to upgrade the device(s) to work on my newer computer.
John Chapman
via e-mail

A. Thanks for your timely and practical suggestions about hanging onto older PC hardware systems so access to older peripherals and accessories can be maintained. I do the same in a different way using the Apple system and virtual OS utilities like Parallels, which allows me to maintain and use older Windows systems like XP and 7.

New 4K Computer Displays
Q. As you know, Ultra HD monitors are beginning to appear on the market. Most of the early computer monitors are not what you realistically would want for photography, but at least one is starting at a fairly affordable price point—the Dell UP2414Q. With the display port, this monitor does give a 60Hz refresh rate. Many of the early models will only give 30Hz at the maximum resolution unless two video cards are used and even then a driver may not yet be available for NVIDIA cards (few of which have display port connections anyway). This one as you will note is only 30Hz with an HDMI cable. I know you said you were no longer reviewing products, but I am interested in your opinion on the future of such monitors anyway. Can they be a boon for photographers or do you see potential concerns?
via e-mail

A. Looking at the specs, the only difference I see between this and the U2413 at half the price is a lot more resolution. Unless one’s eyesight is much better than normal 20/20, I do not see that it is much of an advantage to still photography editing. However, if you’re editing video, then getting more image detail on screen at one time is worthwhile. In other words, just a waste of money for most of my readers practically. But how many do just that, waste money for bragging rights?

I am pleased to announce the latest 4.3 Edition to my eBook DIGITAL DARKROOM RESOURCE CD. The CD now contains 33 chapters totaling 399 pages in Adobe Acrobat .PDF format, providing easy-to-read text and large high-quality illustration. The CD is available for $20 plus $5 shipping and handling (US Mail if available). Ordering is as simple as sending a check or money order for $25 made out to me, David B. Brooks, and mailed to PO Box 2830, Lompoc, CA 93438.