Showing posts with label backup. Show all posts
Showing posts with label backup. Show all posts

Friday, February 28, 2020

How I lived through a computer nightmare

chmusings: my computer
I remember when computers were billed as time savers, a way to create a paperless office, and basically the end all, be all for everyone. What a con!

We all fell for it though as we embraced technology for all it was worth. That was a long time ago. There are now generations of dependent computer users, many of whom cannot even imagine being without one, whether they are in the form of a desktop, laptop, tablet, or phone. The internet is as vital to daily life as the electric grid. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, for example, are the next best thing to chatting with neighbors over a fence or sipping tea on the front porch.

But when it doesn’t work, it can invoke panic and pain as surely as a bad case of the flu. When the computer is down and we lose data, it can have the same effect as a house fire where we lose all our possessions. We rely so much on our computers for business and personal use that we may not even realize how much of our lives revolve around it.

I’ve experienced such a loss, but I was really lucky. 

It occurred following a Windows 10 update, a fate for which I have been victimized before. On the morning after, I turned on my computer as I always do. I got my morning coffee, came back and found what is commonly known as the blue screen of death.

The screen said I could restart or click on ‘advanced,’ with the former highlighted. Neither the keyboard nor mouse worked, so I was stuck. Prior versions of Windows had ways of solving this problem, but I knew of no way to resolve this. As instructed, I hit enter. I got a new screen that said Windows would perform a diagnostic process. It told me the process failed, citing, “critical process died.” It said it would restart my computer. I held my breath, almost sure this was just a glitch and I would see my familiar photo on the lock screen as Windows loaded and all was well. But that didn’t happen. I saw only the same blue screen that told me to restart or go to the advanced setting, which I could not. I turned it off, unplugged the system, hoping that would do the trick. It did not.

I got my laptop and searched google for “critical process died.” Ouch! Most of the entries told me to try the advanced settings, WHICH I COULD NOT DO BECAUSE I HAD NO MOUSE OR KEYBOARD. I tried all kinds of things, but nothing worked. I tore the house apart looking for a thumb drive that had a Windows 10 recovery on it. Finally, I found it. I inserted it—still nothing.

My laptop had a few programs on it, but nothing like what I feared I had lost. I started to think about all that I had done on my computer when the panic set in. I called Microsoft. After waiting a prolonged period of time, I was told that someone would call me “in two days.” I felt completely helpless. Thank goodness I still had my laptop, a tablet, and phone. I was not off the internet grid.

I pay bills online and take care of all the family finances and manage health information. I’ve taken pictures, including those precious family photos, as well as those of my beloved cats who are no longer living. I had quilt patterns and favorite quotes, recipes, and so much more I would really miss having access to, not to mention the computer games I play to keep me sane. There was just so much. The more I thought about it, the more I realized what was gone.

But I am fortunate. I have friends who are young, smart and well-versed computer gurus who offered to help. They were able to restore my operating system and even back up my data. I have no idea what they did, but I am so grateful. They saved me from having to buy a new computer. They brought mine back to life, as if it is a new computer. 

The bottom line is, and we have all heard it before, backup, backup, backup. I try to practice what I preach. In fact, just after I paid the bills this month, I backed up my data. I don’t always do that, but I did this time. I will now make it a habit every month.

I had also backed up my documents and pictures on a thumb drive, though not for the past two years. I figured I lost everything that I had done since then. I was resigned that this stuff was just lost. But I learned that when my friends were able to retrieve the current data as well. Basically, that means I have lost nothing. It is all there.

I had been through this computer nightmare before. The reason I backed up my information two years ago, was because that was the last time a Microsoft update killed my computer, a new one I had just purchased.

At that time, I called Microsoft. Over several different sessions, various technicians walked me through restoration, I remember sometimes, late into the night. I talked to several people at that time, some who knew more than others. Though they all tried to be helpful, some of the information they provided contradicted what others had said. The result was that my system ran, but was never really flawless, as expected. The ultimate answer once things were working was to simply start another user account and copy files from one account to another. We did this several times. It wasn’t a perfect solution because it didn’t fix the problem. It only masked it. As a result, I often times, looked for a file, knowing its location only to find a blank folder. It took a while for me to figure out that if I went to the previous user account, and looked in the same folder, I could find what I was looking for. It was rather nightmarish trying to find things. This problem also gave me multiple copies of picture files which I have been trying to delete, rename, and organize.

So now, my computer is really like a brand new system. It is actually running better now than it was before the crash, either crash.

Even with everything working, things are not quite what they were, so I’ve spent days at the keyboard trying to retrieve organization out of chaos. I have the data, but not the programs to access it. So, the first thing I did was to re-install programs I find necessary—programs that handle finances, word processing, email, picture management, and virus protection, etc. The more I put back into my system, the more I realized the obscure programs I have come to rely upon, that no longer existed. Reinstalling downloaded programs is difficult without serial numbers, keys, or registration numbers. Those should definitely be backed up along with the downloaded programs and internet locations.

It has taken me hours and days, but I have been able to restore all of the necessary programs I use regularly. My files are all in one user account. There are no longer redundancies. In many cases, I’ve been able to restore databases that go back to where I left off. I am even back to having all my photos in a jumbled mess, just like before. I thought I had lost all the work I put into them the last couple years, as I’d begun to organize them. I now have those files so I can continue trying to tame my thousands of photos.

The bottom line is that my next purchase will be an external hard drive. And, I like the idea of also backing up files onto a cloud. Not only is my computer restored, but my computer life is restored as well.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Keeping those names and numbers safe and handy

I'm a little terrified of my computer. 

my computer

It isn't the actual box on my desk that worries me as much as the information that is stored in its memory. Oh, I have the usual backup, but I can't help but wonder if that is enough. 

Last month, my husband John attempted to download the new Windows 10 operating system on his computer. He had a bugger of a time with it, having to spend hours on the phone with tech support. After days of back and forth and long conversations punctuated by longer waiting periods, he finally got his computer up and running. He loved Windows 10 and was thrilled to finally have the headaches behind him. 

It worked flawlessly until one morning when he turned it on. It refused to boot.
my address book 1
He and I tried everything we could think of, including a clean Windows 7 installation, reformatting the hard drive, etc. Nothing worked. Windows tech people told him they could fix it for $99. He hung up on them. 

His computer was strictly personal, which means he lost all his email, photographs, favorite places and bookmarks, software, games, some which he actually paid for, all his passwords, and most of his sanity. He backed up the system, but it didn't work. How many times have we all backed up our computer, with the question in the back of our minds, is this going to fail when I need it the most? Well, he asked that question and sadly, got the answer. Yes, it failed. So, at a time, when we really couldn't afford it, he got a new computer. 

Since then, I've been in better-be-safe-than-sorry mode. With so much information being stored on home computers, how often do we consider the what-ifs? 

I always think of the what-ifs. That is why this week I bought a new address book into which I can write all of the addresses and phone numbers that are stored on my home computer.

my address book 2This back story about John's computer failure isn't the only or even the most important reason I wanted a new address book. Truth is, I just wanted one. I have for some time. John's computer failure was the catalyst that pushed me into acting on it. 

As I set out to buy an address book, I realized how that wasn't as easy these days as it once was. They are not readily available, and they are certainly not cheap. I looked around a bit and finally settled on a book from E-Bay for $10. 
I remember having such a book with all those names and numbers of people and business I knew, close at hand, but I'll be darned if I know whatever happened to it. I haven't seen it in years and I really missed the thing. 

my address book 3I readily admit that I have always enjoyed writing in a new book. I pondered whether I should use a .05 mechanical pencil or my favorite fountain pen. Oh, such difficult decisions! Many years ago John gave me a Cross fountain pen for Christmas. I use it only for special occasions, like Christmas cards or whenever I decide to write in my journal. I had just purchased refills for it and decided that would be my tool of choice. If someone moved or died, I could use white-out or simply cross out the entry. I hated having errors on the pages, so those things used to bother me, but I have grown to like shabby-chic. That is what I think of when I see something look worn, well-used. I expect this book to be just that.

When I was a kid, my favorite time of year was just before the new school year began. There was a kind of exhilaration, first about picking out, and later using clean, blank pages in brand new notebooks, an armful of rainbow color-coded folders, and of course all those brand new pencils and packages of pens. I was especially fond of black ink--don't know why. 

I guess the years haven't changed me much. The trend has carried on into adulthood in the form of stationery and address books. If I had to choose whether to shop for new clothes or new office supplies, the latter would win hands down. The first time I walked into a Staples store, I felt like that was heaven. 

I've spent the better part of today, a gray and rainy day, writing in my new address book while listening to John Lennon songs on Spotify. Today would have been his 75th birthday. Such an interesting connection--the music I listened to as a kid and a brand new address book to write in--the more things change, the more they stay the same.