Computer calamity

Once again I need to start a post with an apology for not writing in a while. This time I have the best excuse yet – my laptop had a major meltdown at the start of March. Think completely non-functional, all data, programs & settings wiped. Total computer devastation. For an idea of the magnitude of the crash, I refer you to this Tweet from the Lego Academics.

After I’d gotten over the initial shock, I got to work straight away securing my data and double-checking all my back-ups. Then I tried to fix the problem. I made some progress and got the laptop up and running, only for it to last a day or so before crashing again. This happened two or three times. By this point a couple of weeks had elapsed since the original crash and I was getting majorly behind in my work. I had to resort to borrowing my Dad’s computer to write my talk for the RGS Postgraduate Midterm Conference and do other essential online things, like internet banking.

Needless to say I was getting pretty stressed by this point. So after the conference I gave it one last ditch attempt to fix the laptop by performing a total system reset. This is where you wipe the computer and refresh to the settings and software that it left the factory with. Once again the laptop seemed to stabilise, giving me a flicker of hope that was cruelly followed by yet another crash.

This was my darkest hour. Like many people these days, I need my laptop not just for my PhD but also for email, banking, keeping up with the news, entertainment and contacting my friends. I’d now been without it for three weeks and was realising how much longer everything takes when you can’t just look stuff up on Google.

Something had to be done. I faced a stark choice:

  1. Write off the laptop and find the cash to go buy a new computer.
  2. Send it off to be fixed professionally and accept even more no-computer time.

I was dead against buying a new laptop for two reasons: I felt that the problem was software-based (& so nothing wrong with the actual computer itself); and a new laptop of the spec I need for my PhD work costs c. £1000. The money motivation in particular persuaded me to hand my computer in to a local tech shop to see what they could do for me.

It was fortunate that the timing of this decision coincided with me going away for a scuba diving holiday over the Easter break. So really the ideal time to be without a computer as it’s not like I’d have been getting much work done anyway!

Happily, this story has a happy ending – the computer wizards were able to fix my laptop. Although it has taken me a further week or so to get it completely back up and running, including reinstalling all my software and changing the many inexplicably stupid Windows default settings.

Ultimately the moral to be learned is that you not only need to back-up your data but you also need to back-up your programs. Re-installing and setting up programs caused me no end of hassle and I lost some important data in the process – like a few reference summaries and my entire email history. Cloud back-ups are particularly useful and can save a lot of inconvenience by protecting things like bookmarks and settings from being lost. But whatever your particular arrangements make sure you have multiple back-ups and that you check them regularly to ensure your files and programs are backing-up correctly.

May the computing deities look favourably on you!

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