Don't Wait Until Your Computer is Dead

I started programming computers in the 1970's. I went on to get a BS degree in Computer Science. Ever since, I have worked in the computer and software industry in various capacities. I come from a large family and I also have many contacts outside of the computer industry. Somehow everyone thinks I am their "computer guy". While I really like to help people, the reality is that I have a very busy schedule and don't have time to deal with every-one's wireless connectivity issue, email error, or dog-slow computer. I really empathize with these people because it's not their fault. Despite all of the efforts of the computer and software manufacturers, personal computers are still not exactly friendly for non-technical people to use and maintain. And then, when a non-technical person gains enough knowledge and know-how to become proficient at using the computer, a plethora of attackers disguised as help or fun are lurking about with dangling bait just waiting for the unsuspecting computer user to make the fatal click. I usually find some way to help those who are most in need, but I don't have enough arms and legs to keep up with the problems.

When a friend, neighbor or co-worker calls with a hint of panic in their voice and tells me about an error message like, "No Operating System found", or "No Boot Disk", or "Error loading boot.ini"..., it is not in my nature to tell them "tough-luck". I try to help. My first question is; "What is on the computer?". Notice that I use the word, "is", rather than "was". I don't want to cause a premature panic even though I know that chances are that the appropriate word should be "was". The answer usually goes something like this; "All of my photos from the last four years, my email, my financial records, letters, music..." The answer seems to start off quick, but as the poor sole is answering that question, they keep thinking of more and more important stuff that is on their computer and nowhere else but their computer. I a talking about the computer that seems to not have any data. My next question is where the panic starts to take hold, "Do you have a recent backup?". Silence is a common answer. I once had someone tell me, "Yes, when I got the computer, a recover disk came with it".

I have become fairly proficient at recovering failing disks and saving most of the data. I have a number of tools and a computer that I use for nothing but disk recovery. However, on many occasions, the disk is not recoverable with software, and my limited ability to fix hardware or mechanical disk problems is inadequate. I have on occasion researched an contacted some of the disk recovery services. These services use special hardware and electronics to recover data from broken hard drives. The recovery process is user labor intensive and therefor expensive. Most of my friends and neighbors are not willing to pay $750 to over $1000 to get back some of their data. Especially when they don't know how much they will actually get back. Then they still have the problem of getting their computer back up and running with a new disk and getting the recovered data transferred to the new system.

The best solution is to backup your data consistently and frequently and store it away from your home or office. If you do this, then when your data is lost or destroyed, you will have your computer back up and running with all of your data with minimal expense and lost time. Notice that I used the word "when" instead of "if". You will lose your data at some time. Don't wait until your computer is dead to think about backing up your important data.

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