Your computer is a sneaky beast. It acts as if the two of you are best friends – that it’ll always be there for you. Don’t be fooled.
It is waiting with a snarky smile until you have an important e-mail to send or a crucial project for work or school. Then, when you need your friend the computer, it crashes.
I promise, if you mess with computers long enough, it’ll happen to you, no matter how faithfully you maintain the beast.
That’s why it’s important to prepare for disaster in advance. Think of today’s column as a true crash course. We’ll talk about what to do on that sad day when your computer crashes.
The Web is full of advice about how to cope with a crash. We’re going to stick with basics today.
Let’s start with some advance preparation. Frequent readers can recite this along with me, but it’s too important to ignore. Install and use software that guards against viruses, spyware and other malware. Use a UPS – an uninterruptable power supply – to guard against voltage surges. Protect your information by making frequent back-up copies, using either an online service or an external hard disk.
The hard disk is the root of all evil when it comes to computers. Failures of the processor chip or the components on the computer’s main circuit board are rare. But the hard disk is a Frankenstein of technology. It’s part electronic and part mechanical – with a motor that spins internal disks around at breakneck speed.
If you’re lucky, you can use various tools, including Windows’ built-in Recovery Console, to fix things. If you’re luckier still, you may be able to use one of Windows’ restore points to roll things back to a time when your computer hummed along with no problems.
It’s also important to learn how to start your computer in Safe Mode – a method that sometimes works when the problem is a bad driver (a tiny program that communicates with devices such as printers) or a conflict caused by programs that don’t get along. You can use the Windows Help button to learn about each of these methods now, while your computer is working – just enter those terms (Safe Mode, Restore Point and Recovery Console).
But there are times when the hard disk is mortally wounded, way beyond that sort of help. That means you are faced with installing a new hard disk, reinstalling Windows and then all your programs and finally restoring the data from your back-up.
But what about times when you need a working computer right now?
One nifty way around that problem is a tiny device called Back in a Flash. Like an external hard disk, it automatically makes back-ups of your data. Unlike an external hard disk, it can get you back to computing instantly, even when your main hard disk is beyond repair.
Besides containing your back-up data, it has its own operating system and its own programs for e-mail, writing and editing, Web browsing and a few other things. In a disaster, you boot your computer from it and finish important tasks immediately before replacing a dead hard disk.
You’ll pay $30 to $250 for that convenience. Read about it here: www.backinaflash.com.
Another solution takes advantage of the fact that many of us have two, three or more computers. I keep copies of my important projects along with duplicates of important e-mail messages, family photos and other crucial information on a second computer.
Most of my tips require advance preparation. Don’t wait until your computer – with a sneaky smile – decides to show you who is boss.
firstname.lastname@example.org Bill Husted writes for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.