How to copy color slides to a computer

Written by ariel phillips
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How to copy color slides to a computer
A few slides and a magnifying device. (slides and loupe image by tim Elliott from

Old pictures can be fascinating to revisit. Lots of great old family, landscape or other types of photographs exist in slide form, and require a lot of effort to look at, not to mention find in the storage closet. With the rise in digital cameras and digital photography, it's no longer practical to keep pictures in slide form. Copying colour slides onto your computer is not only a straightforward operation, but also a worthwhile one. Once the slides have been transferred to your computer, they exist in a digital form, and can be e-mailed, printed, or even burnt onto a disk.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Colour slides
  • Computer
  • Scanner
  • Scanner software
  • Slide holder

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  1. 1

    Go through your slides and choose the ones you want to copy to your computer. Many slide collections contain duplicates or otherwise unnecessary or undesirable slides that you don't need to scan. Removing any slides you don't want to scan will both save you time later and save valuable hard-drive space on your computer.

  2. 2

    Prepare your scanner for use. If you don't have a scanner you can buy or rent one. When choosing a scanner to use for copying colour slides make sure the scanner is of at least medium quality. Most contemporary scanners are able to handle colour slides. To be sure you can check to see if the scanner is designed to scan slides by reading the product information. Canon's 4400F scanner is a reasonably priced choice.

  3. 3

    Make sure all of your scanner's software is installed. You scanner should come with an installation disk that provides easy, straightforward instructions.

  4. 4

    Put the slides you want to scan into the slide holder of the scanner. If the scanner didn't come with a slide holder you may be able to purchase one separately. Slide holders look like old photography contact sheets in which the places where the photos would go are instead holes where you insert the slides.

  5. 5

    Set the scanner's settings. Depending on what you want to use the slides for you can scan them at a very high or low resolution. If you simply want to look at the slides in a digital format, you won't need too large a resolution. If you want to print the slides or use them for other art projects, you will want to scan at a high resolution, which will take up more space on your computer. Also make sure the scanner is set to scan in colour and not black and white.

  6. 6

    Start scanning your colour slides. After one batch of slides has been scanned make sure the scanned images are up to the standard you want. If the images don't look right or you have trouble opening them you may need to troubleshoot the process by going through all the steps again and making sure you did the set-up properly.

  7. 7

    Save the colour slides on your computer. When you scan the slides they should automatically save somewhere on your hard drive. Keeping your scans organised will greatly help with any work you want to do with them later.

Tips and warnings

  • Naming your slides as you scan them will help you find them easier later on. The scanner will give the slides generic numbered names, but you can change them to be more descriptive.
  • If you have a very large number of slides to scan you can take them to a professional who will scan them in bulk for a reasonable rate. This is also a good option if you don't have a reliable scanner.

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