Sep 262010

Last weekend I had a case of Computer! Emergency! Panic! It came to me after a week of regular “first week of school”-panic, and on top of “first live performance in five years”-panic. Really, it was lovely.

So, Saturday morning (more than a week ago) after breakfast I went over to my studio to “just check my e-mail” which usually is code for “plop down in front of the computer and lose myself in the depth of the webs for an hour or two”, and when I tried to turn on my laptop all I got was the grey screen of doom. The second attempt got me as far as the “grey screen with blinking question mark”. Bad sign, not good at all.

That was the beginning of 2 1/2 days of me sitting in front of the machine, trying things, doing research on my husband’s computer, rushing off to get spare parts, and dismantling and re-assmebling my computer. I didn’t sleep properly in days and found that there is indeed one thing in the world that makes me lose my appetite, and that’s a computer emergency.

Now, I am a bit embarrassed that my computer is that important to me, and I have indeed contemplated going analogue again, I’m not sure – for example – if my electronic calendar is really worth the hassle; but it was my husband who got me to ponder this question even further.

Let’s face it, we might think that computer emergencies are the exception, and fortunately they are, but I find that there are enough of them to warrant a plan on how to deal with them. This past hiccup caused me to spend about a week thinking about not much else, and I had to spend quite a bit of money as well.

Granted, not everybody has three hard disk failures in four years (and I won’t get another re-furbished machine, that’s for sure) but I had them. And there are quite a few more of the smaller crises like software updates going wonky, or user error, or mysterious ailments that cause half your calendar to disappear.

So I’m making some rules for computer emergencies for myself. And I’ll print them out and put them somewhere I’ll find them again. Before I write about those, though, there is something really important to remind you (and me) of – you’ve probably heard it before – BACK UP. OFTEN. When my first hard disk crashed I lost about half a year’s worth of family photos, digital music, and some other stuff. This time I was fortunate: the computer broke the morning after my regular Friday backup. I’ve been using ibackup, and that has been the only reason that computer failure didn’t turn me into a small ball of whimper. My new computer comes with time machine, and I really hope that works. So, the rules…

… when I get to my computer and something is wrong the main rule is: remember real life first

  1. Do I have any pressing things to do like feeding my son or being somewhere else?
  2. Have I taken a shower already? Chances are that fiddling with the computer will let me lose my sense of time completely. Yes, fixing the problem might only take twenty minutes but what if it takes two days? Which it usually does.
  3. Do I have something to drink nearby? Have I been to the bathroom? Last Sunday I got so mesmerized by working on my dead computer that I only drank my morning tea and a small glass of wine with lunch. Nothing else.
  4. Is it past six o’clock in the evening? Wait until the morning.
  5. Tell my family that there is a computer emergency and ask them to come and look for me once and hour or so.
  6. Don’t panic. It’s just a device, it’s not my life.

The other thing I did was that this time when I bought a new computer I got an extended warranty. So for the next three years whenever anything goes wrong with my computer I’ll go to the nice computer shop, bat my eyelashes and say, “There is something wrong with my computer, please fix it.” And I actually bought locally because of this for once.

I could have fixed the computer in the end but I would have needed a new hard drive (which I already bought), and on top of that a new keyboard/trackpad/top case-part because I managed to break that while installing the new hard drive. And yes, one should be able to install a new hard disk in a Macbook without opening the whole computer but you can only do that when the guys who installed the last hard disk (after the first one broke) put back everything including the white tab that you use to pull the broken drive out. So I would have ended up spending another 130 € on a four year old laptop with a broken optical drive.

So in the end I got a new shiny computer which I really love and have wanted for quite some time now. But it took me almost a week to restore everything, and there are still about three programs that won’t work. Of course, I bought those years ago, and now with the shiny new computer, of course, comes a shiny new version of the operating system.

Next thing I’ll have to get my audio interface work with the computer. Wish me luck.

  One Response to “What to do when your computer goes boink”

  1. Congratulations on getting the new computer and best of luck making the finances work. My husband has a new laptop here at the house that he says I can use, but switching computers or restoring an old one from a crash is a bit like learning to write with the opposite hand. I’m terrible at writing with my left hand!!

    I lost my iTunes library, and the whole thing is only on the most ancient and unreliable iPod we own, so I’m just in denial for now, until I’m ready to deal with it carefully.

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