#ContactForm1 { display: none ! important; }

Friday, May 10, 2013

The Day The Computer Died

I knew it was going to happen. My desktop was three years old and we'd already replaced a bad hard drive last fall, so when it started flickering off and on I knew there were problems. Sometimes Windows would shut down with no warning. Sometimes programs would simply vanish from the screen. Sometimes the entire computer would turn off with no warning.

I thought I had it covered. I backed up my most important files off site. Sure, I was still editing the short story for the anthology, but I figured the email would serve as a decent back up. And - really - even though I knew there were problems I didn't expect the computer to not turn on ever again. I thought I had a few weeks, months on the outside, long enough for hubby to get home from his teaching assignment so I could steal the external hard drive back.

The computer didn't last.

I went to turn it on the morning after emailing my short story to my editor to find it simply wouldn't start. It was frustrating, but not a huge issue, hubby was on his way home and I had no outstanding contracts.

Then the worst happened... my editor emailed me to say I'd sent the wrong file.

In a haze of exhaustion and relief over finally getting the edits done I sent the wrong file. It was embarrassing. It was stupid. I reamed myself for hours until I got home and turned on the decrepit Very Ancient Laptop to coax it into opening my files. Before it crashed I had time to realize the horrible truth: I hadn't saved the edited short story off-site.

I thought the email was enough. After all, the email with attachment would be saved forever in my Sent mail folder. But that doesn't work when you send the wrong document.

Embarrassment turned to horror. Horror turned to panic. The short story was overdue to my editor and I couldn't fix it easily. I had to find a computer that would read a .docx file (Very Ancient Laptop runs Vista...and that only with serious complications) and redo a major portion of my edits. Two new scenes and several chapters worth of heavy changes - a week's worth or work - had gone unsaved. 

Not having a few hundred dollars to throw down to do a hard drive recovery I rolled up my sleeves and started editing. Again. Because I was stupid and forgot the first rule of computers: SAVE YOU WORK IN MORE THAN ONE PLACE.

External hard drive, cloud, thumb drive, email... save your files in multiple places.

I finished the edits. My editor was wonderful, patient, and forgiving. She accepted the new draft without complaint and I was left with the horrible realization that I'm still missing key files. Like the excel worksheet with the list of agents I was querying for JANE DOE, my collection of recipes, all my photos taken since hubby left the country with the external hard drive, and all my banking information. All of it is trapped on the dead tower and to recover it will take money, time, and talent. I'm not sure I have all three. However, I know some super talented people who have been kind enough to walk me through the first steps to recovery.

And I bought a second external hard drive.

And I saved my edits to Drop Box.

And I emailed the right document this time. 

Let my nightmare serve as a horrible warning lest you repeat my fatal mistake: SAVE YOUR WORK. Save early. Save often. Save off-site.


  1. There is a way to take your hard drive and make it into an external hard drive. Been a few years since I dealt with that issue but I know it used to be possible to buy a frame to set the hard drive in and get the data from it. Perhaps one of your super talented people knows how to do that.

    By the way, some of those problems are associated with a failing power supply so you might want to check out that as well.

    1. That's what I'm planning on doing. I found a USB cable on geeks.com that should make the internal hard drive work as an external one for long enough to download the files.