Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Computer Crashes Past and Present

In some ways, I'm lucky.  It was just a month of computer discombobulation.  On the last Friday of March, I booted up my new laptop, which runs Windows 8, and clicked on the desktop tile.  It kept wanting to reload, and the only way I could get it to stop was to manually turn off the computer.

I could access other tiles, like the Internet and Photo tiles, which gave me access to some files.  But anything that launched from the desktop, like the virus checker or the feature that lets you go back to an earlier time, got caught up in the relaunching of the desktop.

By the time I got a tech support person from HP who could tell me an alternate way to get to the possibility of taking the computer back to an earlier time, it was too late.  I could go back as far as April 3, when I was already having the problem.

So, on Sunday, I launched the Windows Refresh feature.  It's supposed to let you keep your files and photos, but you'll have to reload software.  And to my great surprise, that's exactly what happened.  Resurrection of the computer on Easter Sunday--surely there's a poem there!

The Refresh feature did file my Word documents in a different location, so at first I thought I had lost them.  But I've worked with computers for years, so after 30 seconds of panic, I looked in other places and found the files.

Even if I had lost the files, I had them in other places.  It might have taken a morning to reassemble them all back on the laptop, but they wouldn't have been lost forever. 

I'm happy that the Refresh feature exists; but if we can refresh without losing documents and pictures, why can't we refresh without losing the software and apps?

I downloaded Norton 360 again.  Happily, my spouse bought several extra downloads back in the summer; at the time, I thought he was nuts.  I did try finding Norton support to find if I had to use one of those downloads or if I had some free source since I wasn't really loading to a new device but no luck.  I took the way of least resistance.  Soon, I'll reload the Office Suite, which I have on an old-fashioned CD, so I can have access to it all the time.

I think back to past computer crashes.  Unlike in earlier years, I have access to a multitude of computers, so when one is going haywire, it's much easier to work around the one computer.  But unlike earlier years, I'm relying much more on computers, so the issue of getting the problem solved takes on an urgency.  I've spent a lot of time and energy in the past few weeks trying to restore this laptop, which I've only been using since mid-December.

I've learned an important lesson.  I need to back up the files on this computer on a more regular basis, even though I routinely e-mail documents to myself and save them elsewhere.  But having all the files backed up in one easy place would have made my mind a bit easier in the past month.

We live in amazing times.  We're very close to getting rid of the desk top computer, which we will likely not replace with another desk top.  We can carry all of our files in a tiny little thumb/stick drive.  We can back up several computers into a multi-terabyte external drive that we can easily carry with us--and that external drive can be bought for less than $100.

I suspect that when I look back over my life, I'll see as one of the biggest human developments of my lifetime to be the cheapness of computer power and the fact that we can carry such power in such small devices.  Hopefully those developments will help us deal with whatever is coming our way in this great extinction that we've launched.

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