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Q. Why has the quality and size of my pictures been suddenly reduced? Getty Images

Q. Why has the quality and size of my pictures been suddenly reduced?

Q.  I was using my TV to display pictures from my laptop, and suddenly all of my pictures on my PC and external hard drive were resized and lost quality. Most of my original photos were 1.8MB, but now most of my pics range between 68KB to 205KB. This has affected more than 5000 pictures! Is it possible that the video card is the reason?

A. On their own, display devices (monitors, TVs, etc.) and video cards don’t have any way of “reaching back” through the system to modify the pictures stored on the hard drive.

If the actual file sizes have changed on the hard drive, then something else is modifying them.

Are you using a cloud-based backup? Some services (such as Google Photos) might reduce the size of the photos stored in the cloud, unless you modify the default settings and, in some cases, buy more storage to allow for larger file sizes. You could easily end up with lower-res copies on your PC if you downloaded, synched, or otherwise retrieved the cloud-stored photos back to your PC.

Other cloud-storage services might do the same sort of thing.

Or, you might check the settings for your camera/photo-management/editing apps. They could have some kind of “optimization” process that shrinks your files in the name of saving space. For example, some photo and video apps have settings like “email quality” or “smartphone quality” that can shrink images and videos to make them work better on slower connections and smaller screens.

If your photo files on the hard drive have actually been shrunken, it’s got to be something like the above — some photo-related service or app — that’s responsible.

If the photos have indeed been irrevocably altered, then restoring backups is your only hope. Losing any important file is awful, and potentially losing thousands of them is a nightmare. If you’re not already doing so, I strongly urge you to start making local backups of all your important files, including photos.

Store these backups out of the reach of active software on your PC. That way, no matter what happens — app or hardware malfunction, user error, whatever — you’ll always have good, clean, unmodified copies of your original files.


Editor's note: We feature an abridged Q&A from Fred Langa's LANGALIST, a column available exclusively to paid subscribers of the Windows Secrets newsletter,. What you see here is just a small sampling of what Langa's writing for the newsletter — go here for more information on how to subscribe.

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