December 26, 2017

Computer Woes

Computer woes. Doesn't that make you groan? The other evening I woke up my computer to check my email. It wouldn't wake up. I restarted the computer and got a bunch of error messages, so I started working my way through some diagnostics. Long story short, it thinks there is no hard drive. The hard drive is there, but the start-up program can't see it. The computer is only 16 months old, which makes it especially annoying.

Fortunately, I don't have Windows, so I was able to use my Xubuntu installation DVD to load the trial version of Xubuntu into RAM (one reason why I use Linux, other reasons here). That got me to a temporary desktop and web browser. Then I could get online to ask for help at UbuntuForums, my go-to for all things computer

First question - is there anyway to recover my files and photos??? We all know the advice to backup, backup, backup, but how many of us actually do it? I do, but not religiously, so I have probably lost a lot of good information and quite a few photos. The one thing I have been faithful to make several copies of daily has been my book manuscript. I do that every day I work on it. On this particular day I hadn't gotten that end-of-the-day task, and so I lost the day's work, but at least I didn't lose the whole thing.

I have been able to verify that there is power going to the hard drive, which hopefully means I can just replace it rather than having to buy a new computer (whew). There's also a remote possibility that I can access the old HD with an external HD caddy and USB cable. Doesn't seem likely, but it's worth a try. At least for now I'm able to use my computer for basic tasks with my Xubuntu installation disk; I just can't save anything on the computer itself.

More to the point, this is a very severe reminder of how fragile our electronic digital world is. Hard drives and storage devices will eventually die, become corrupted, outdated, or otherwise fail. How many of you had stuff you never got off those old 5.25" or 3.5" floppy disks? Or on CDs or DVDs that have gotten scratched or otherwise unreadable? I know the modern answer for storage is The Cloud, but how many of you deep-down really and truly believe that to be permanently and eternally secure and infallible? And then what do we do with all this expired hardware? We throw it away, so that our tree and carbon saving are for naught.

Thankfully I work on making hard copies of reference information I want to keep, but there are still plenty of files and bookmarks I didn't copy. So if I can't recover anything off my hard drive, hopefully they're still out there and I'll run across them again sometime. The internet certainly is handy for that. It would be the photos that would be the most regrettable loss. Digital photography is more convenient than using old-fashioned film, but 100 years from now I wonder how many of those digital photos will anyone have anymore?

Things like this are always something of a wake-up call, aren't they? And a reality check of how dependent I really am on my computer. I think some people would go absolutely bonkers if an EMP or CME knocked out all electronics and the version of reality it has created. My computer is a handy tool, but I have to admit I'd probably get a whole lot more done around the homestead if I had to do without.

So there's my tale of woe. I know you all can relate!

Computer Woes © Dec 2017 by Leigh


  1. Computers are great when they work. When they don't, it seems they are the spawn of Satan. - lol

  2. I feel for you sister! I was able to get an external hard drive on Amazon for about $25 which I thought was reasonable...I thought it would cost more. Good luck in your retrieval operations!

  3. Wow, just thinking of all I could lose. Back-up back-up is right. Thank you

  4. Sam, that's where I found my new one too. At first I looked at Dell replacement hard drives, but all I could find was refurbished ones running about a hundred bucks. Someone on Ubuntu Forums mentioned that they work in the computer industry and that apparently Dell is neither liked nor respected by their overseas suppliers and therefore don't favor them with the best quality parts. 'Nuf said! I found a new one with excellent ratings for half that.

    Sherry, do it! It's one of those things I do occasionally but then keep putting off. Lesson learned!

  5. I'm forever creating file folders, and then saving those to a stand alone hard drive. Especially w.r.t our business info. Would really hate to loose all that info.

    I hope you can recover your info...

  6. this is a great reminder...thank you!
    congrats on your upcoming book.

  7. I never really worried about this problem until I started receiving old photos passed down from my family. Now I take it seriously and have a three part strategy.

    Part one is backing things up to the cloud automatically. I use Carbonite but there are dozens of other software out there that once you set it up, back up everything you do automatically to the cloud so you never have to think about it until you need one/all of those files. This has two advantages in itself. I can access any file I have backed up anywhere in the world with internet access. When I upgrade computers, I don't have to worry about transferring files. I just get the internet connection setup, go to Carbonite and back up my old files. I have so many it takes about three or four days but eventually all my old files are back. The biggest complaint I hear is security. All my sensitive documents are hardcopies and not digitized so I guess I don't worry if someone wants to hack into the cloud to see my pictures or writings.

    The second part is the hard drive itself. All my data is still on my hard drive and not solely on the cloud so in the event of a cloud failure, I still have the local copy. Once a year I do make a copy of that onto an external hard drive which goes to a safe location other than my house as a fail safe. It doesn't protect against an EMP though.

    The third part is the part I struggle with but still attempt. Those things that mean the most to me, mostly pictures I have inherited, I use internet sites to create hardcopy picture books in case of failure of my life and those who survive me are unable or unwilling to save the stuff I have saved in digital formats. At least they will see some of the stuff I saved before selling it at the next garage sale I suppose.

    At the end of the day, I know that most of my ancestors had knowledge that was probably very important that never got passed on upon their deaths and was lost for all time. The world went on and their family continues. That may happen to me too and I have learned to be comfortable with that.

  8. You're dealing with something that has historians tearing their hair out. You can find a wealth of information in old letters, diaries and photos - the rough drafts of our nation's founding documents reveal so much about the debates swirling behind them - but all of that is lost with cut and paste and the delete button. And that's not even looking at the fact that tons of records are lost with a change of programming, of technology - and even if the tapes, disks or drives are not corrupted, will the device still exist to read them?

  9. Leigh, you're reminding me that I MUST get some photo books made from photos taken and stored over the years. Some of the folks shown there are no long with us and it would be a shame to lose them. Thanks for the reminder.

  10. Dani, it would be horrible to lose all that info. Let's pray some cosmic event doesn't wipe it all out!

    M.E. thanks! I need to put a written sticky note and put it on my computer!

    Ed, sounds like you have an extremely well thought out approach; a rule of threes. We looked into Carbonite once upon a time. When I read that the data speed slows down as the mb add up and that it can take up to 6 months to completely back up one's computer, I said maybe not. However, you bring up some really excellent reasons for it. The family photos and other information would be the hardest to lose. The photos, especially, aren't replaceable which makes them all the more precious. If we ever did have a world-wide digital collapse, we would be a world without historic roots. That's a sad thought.

    Amanda, exactly! Excellent points. I'm definitely with the historians, and lament the loss of so much. I find the other problem, is having so much information that it's impossible to remember that I even have it, let alone where I stored it.

    Sue, that's an excellent project! I have to say that I much prefer looking at my photo albums than a computer screen.

  11. When I started out with Carbonite, they did (and still do) throttle the speed at which you can upload to their servers. I think when I started, it took three months to complete the initial upload. However, once you complete the upload, it works seamlessly in the background and doesn't throttle computer speed, or at least at the rate I can create it these days. They do not throttle the download which is the most important aspect in my opinion. When I started up my new computer earlier this year, it took a mere two and a half days to download all that information back onto my new computer. Had I paid to expedite, they would have shipped it on a hard drive overnight. So although it may take awhile to initially back up all your data, they don't hold you ransom to get it back in a time of need.

    One of the reasons I picked Carbonite was because it had a reasonable fee at the time for unlimited data. I don't know if that is still the case but I still pay the same annual fee as when I joined and I have nearly 500 GB of data backed up. I will also say that there are many other software packages that do things similarly including serial backups so you have every old version of something which may be handy in some applications. Carbonite doesn't do that automatically to my knowledge.

  12. Good information Ed, thanks. Definitely something to consider.

  13. I don't know how you feel about google taking over the world (although you use Blogger) but I have google photos installed on my computer and phone. All my photos are autosaved to the net, they're some of my most important things so I've always got a low quality image saved if the computer and backups go haywire.

  14. All the techy terminology, I'm sorry to admit, is Greek to me, but I do totally agree with you that we don't realize how dependent we are on our computers and internet, nor how much we react to its disappearance -- even those of us who say we anticipate being "off grid"!! Yep.

  15. Kirsty, I actually started using Blogger before Google took it over. I admit that I think they, along with every other large internet entity, are too far reaching in their disrespect for peoples' privacy, but there isn't anything we can do about that, is there? I didn't know they had "photos" but an online place to save things is a good option, I'm sure. But I think nothing truly beats a printed copy!

    M.K. off grid folks have computers too! It's all in how the energy budget is balanced. :)

  16. I tried to reply to your Christmas post, on (our) Christmas day, but guess what? My internet service provider had a technical glitch. It happened in many states, not just our own. So commenting online was not an option. I was so frustrated, I couldn't wish all my favourite blogs a Merry Christmas! So Merry Christmas, lol. I finally got there.

    I bought a 1TB external hard drive, which is always attached to my computer. If you don't attach it occasionally, the data will corrupt more easily. It needs the juice to stay functional. My back up for pics at least, is not to delete them from my camera, until they've been backed- up on the external hard drive. I also do a copy on CD. Why so much trouble? I lost the year we built our house images, from a corrupted Windows hard drive.

    I'm glad you found some temporary fixes though. I hope you can salvage your hard drive. :)

  17. PS: forgot to mention. My indigenous ancestors had a foolproof system to back up their memories and important work. The next generation. ;

    Way before we built machines to store information, or even before paper was invented, there was the tradition of passing on knowledge to the next generation. It was never lost. At least for many, tens of thousands of years. I know it's not very helpful for broken computers, but it's interesting to look back on successful systems of the past.

  18. Chris, Merry Christmas to you too! I think the traditional methods were much more foolproof than our modern ones, at least for information. We moderns have photography now, and one picture truly says a lot in a way words can't! It's always a shame to lose them and even photograph albums are lost in fires, floods, and other disasters. :( A lot of genealogical records have been lost the same way!

    I plan to do exactly what you're describing next time, so thanks for the tip on keeping it plugged in to the computer. Of course I'll worry that the second hard drive may have issues too, although both going out at the same time seems unlikely.

  19. Leigh, I have been there...and I still flirt with that constantly. My laptop for some reason HATES Windows 8 and crashes quite often. I get the same diagnostic crap and go through the cycle until magically (and luckily) my screen opens to my desktop after several hours of anxiety. I do however, back up my most important file (my budget) every day now. Alex keeps telling me to move to Windows 10 but it doesn't work with my favourite photo editing software which I use so often. I'm stubborn lol...

    A while back though, I did lose all of my photos and I found a recovery software online that got maybe 50% of them back. I back them up on Google Photos now and although it seems safe, who knows in the long run?

  20. Rain, maybe you should try Ubuntu! Of course, you'd have to use GIMP for photos (which I love). Always a risk with losing something when it comes to computers. I may have to try Google photos myself, once I get my new hard drive installed.

  21. ugh! I hate when we have computer issues. Luckily we have a neighbor who likes to work on computers in his spare time. My daughter dropped her laptop after she finished her finals (thank goodness it was after!) and to replace the screen it was only $80...I'm hopeful that he also checked to see if the computer is okay...but we didn't ask him to as that all seemed fine. :-/ Once we get that settled (he went out of town for Christmas and took the computer with him) I'll see if there is anything he can do for our old laptops. fingers crossed. They're all backed up, but we need to figure out where all the memory has gone.

  22. Renee, at least she didn't have hard drive failure! A good back up system certainly wouldn't hurt.

  23. Leigh,
    I truly hope your able to recover your hard drive and all the material stored in it. Did this happen after downloading computer updates? Oce we download computer updates and our computer refused to turn on. We ended up purchasing a new hard drive.

    Hugs, Sandy


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