The first thing that you need to do when you realize that your computer has died is not to panic. A computer is a machine, and like any machine, it may be able to be fixed. Some issues, such as a power supply or other hardware failure, can be dealt with by purchasing and installing a replacement. Other issues may be resolved more easily than you think if your computer is in the hands of a trained technician.
One of the best ways to recover from a system crash is to prepare for it before it ever happens. Here are some commonsense steps that you need to take in advance to make the inevitable system crash a little bit less painful.
1. Invest in a good power management system. Many folks assume that they can just plug their computer into a wall outlet or a cheap power strip and their expensive electronic equipment will be just fine. In reality, power fluctuations, a power surge or even a power outage can cause data loss and computer component failure. Your best bet is to invest in a combination Uninterruptable Power Supply and surge protector. A device such as this sells for around $60-70 and will go a long way toward protecting your computer and other peripherals from electrical mishaps. You can even configure your computer to close all programs and shut down automatically when it senses that the battery back-up system on the UPS is almost exhausted.
2. Back up your data. Many home computer users know that they are supposed to back up the data on their computers, but many users either forget to do this, they don’t know which files to back up or they don’t back up often enough to ensure that their data is truly protected. I suggest the following backup strategy:
a. Once you have your computer configured the way that you want (i.e. all programs installed and functioning the way that you like), create an image of your hard drive. A drive image is a 1 for 1 snapshot of all of the data, including the operating system, stored on the hard drive of your computer. It used to be that you needed to use a 3rd party program, such as Norton Ghost, to create a disk image. However, with the advent of Windows 7, you can create a system image right within Windows 7 itself. Check out the link below for further details and step-by-step instructions on how to do this.
How to Create a Windows 7 System Image
In Windows 7 a system image can be saved to either multiple DVD’s or (better) an external hard drive. It would be best to create a system image about once per month in order to keep it fairly current. You can even schedule a regular system image backup on your Windows 7 machine.
b. Subscribe to an online backup service, such as Carbonite or SOS Online Backup. These services will automatically backup your documents, music, pictures and other “irreplaceable” files that you designate. The files will be stored in encrypted form in a protected data center away from your home. In the event that disaster strikes, you can rest assured that your data is safe and can be retrieved when needed.
For example, if the hard drive on your computer crashed and you had the above backup strategy in place, you would simply need to do the following:
- Buy & install a new hard drive of equal or greater size than your original. (Installation of desktop hard drives is a fairly easy task these days, usually plugging in just a couple of wires.)
- Boot your system from a Windows 7 repair disk. (You are given the option to create this when you create a system image.) Restore your backup image to your new hard drive (this usually takes between 30-40 minutes)
- Restore your files from your online backup service. Each service has instructions on how to do this that are pretty straightforward.
3. Call a knowledgeable friend or a reliable onsite computer service if you get stuck. If you’re not quite sure how to do something, you don’t have the time to do something or you just need a hand, don’t hesitate to make a call. It can save you time, money and frustration in the long run. Most reputable computer shops or onsite service providers will be more than happy to give you free advice over the phone. Sometimes having a second set of eyes or ears available to examine the issue can help you to find the root cause and/or the best course of action to take.
If your computer is more than 4 or 5 years old, you may find that it is more cost effective in the long run to replace your crashed computer rather than spending the money to replace parts and/or have it repaired. Each situation is unique, though, and it never hurts to get some advice from one or more professionals. While you can’t predict if and when your computer will ever crash, you can take steps in advance to protect your system and secure your data. Then, if the worst happens, you will be ready.