When a jpeg is tagged using something like MS photo gallery, does the file get updated or does windows store tagging information somewhere separate. The reason I ask is I am backing up photos and what to know the tagging info is backed up.
Photo Gallery specifically uses the IPTC "Keywords" meta tag.
Google Picassa also uses this. IPTC tags are an extension to the data that your digital camera uses to store meta information inside the photo file (like date, exposure, etc.).
So if you are using either of these tools or any of the other tools that make use of EXIF and IPTC (such as the excellent GeoSetter), the data will automatically be backed up if you back up the file.
However, a word of warning. Watch out for image editing utilities that do not understand this data. This used to be a common problem on the iPhone. They may loose the meta-data all together.
For reference, there is an alternative method for storing image meta data called "XMP", originally created by Adobe. With XMP, I believe that the data can either exist within the image file or be held in a matching external file with a .xmp extension.
It depends on the program and the file format. A few common examples include the following:
In the case of picture files in Windows 7, adding metadata in Explorer will indeed modify the file and write the data directly to it (and of course update the timestamp). It only lets you tag formats that support a metadata field, but as Julian explained, some programs may not be able to read them, and older files of the formats may not take them well (e.g., a