Sunday, August 12, 2012

Crash and Burn

I love laptops.  They are fabulous tools, aren't they?  You can write a novel, edit, check mail, chat, post on social networks.  Research time is cut down to a fraction of what you'd spend in an honest-to-goodness library.  Not to mention Solitaire.  No longer do you need a table and a deck of cards and the patience to keep them all lined out neatly in a row.  Best of all, it's all portable.  You can take all of your work, games, and networking with you wherever you go.  Yes, laptops are amazing, near-perfect machines.

People, however, are very flawed.

For instance, I currently have three finished novels, and about a dozen unfinished novels, sitting on my hard drive.  Then there are the short stories.  Heaps of them.  All safely stored in my laptop.  Or so I thought.  It has been about three years since I backed anything up, and at least six months since I ran a virus scan.  Those of you even marginally familiar with computers should be laughing at me right about now.  Three years of work is a huge gamble, one I nearly lost last month when my perfectly healthy laptop tried to die on me in a blazing Blue Screen of Death.

(Not familiar with the Blue Screen of Death?  Lucky you.  For gamers, it's similar to Xbox's Red Ring of Death.  Both very sad.)

To put it nicely, I freaked out.  I went through the dead-computer stages of mourning.  I pounded on the keyboard a few times, erroneously believing that would fix my problem.  I snapped the screen down and said a couple of not nice words.  I sobbed over the useless machine.  Eventually I unplugged it and curled up on the couch to contemplate my storyless future.

Pre-destruction picture of my ruined
journal, seen on bottom of pile, with
the evil pen inside the top journal.

I decided to be stubborn, something I'm pretty good at when I want to be.  I got out my journals and started writing out everything I could remember.  I spent days getting a synopsis on paper for every story I'd lost.  It was all going so smoothly, until I decided to write at a restaurant down the street from my house.  Somehow between the parking lot and the restaurant, a thunderstorm popped up.  My own little storm cloud of doom hung overhead.  It dumped rain down in such heavy sheets that my journal was ruined.  I cursed my choice of felt-tipped, runny-ink pen.  For the second time in a month I had lost everything.

Then I got a reprieve, which I wasn't expecting in the least.  My genius husband took my laptop in for repair, and instructed the technician to save everything he could access.  If the laptop couldn't be fixed, at least my stories could be salvaged.  Thankfully they were able to do both.  Which brings me to my new favorite gadget...

My Book Live is a personal cloud storage system.  Every time I hit save in Word, the My Book Live makes a backup copy on an external hard drive.  (External, as in, won't crash when my computer does.)  It works with pictures, documents, music.  Pretty much everything that can be saved to your computer device gets automatically backed up, without any extra clicking or device-hunting.  Which is perfect for me because apparently I'm terrible at plugging in a USB.

Don't trust the hook!
Speaking of USBs, I do own one of those, now, too.  Saturday is now officially my USB backup day.  I'm using it more to appease my husband (who has lectured me about saving my files somewhere other than my laptop for ages) but I figure it can't hurt. 

(For those of you that have a USB like this one, keep in mind that little hook is NOT as secure as it looks.  Don't stick it on your key chain.  I've lost two that way, and I know several other writers that have done the same.)

So unless you have a printed copy of everything you've ever written (ugh, I have that now, too!) I urge you to get a backup system in place.  Email a copy of your work to yourself if you have to, but save it somewhere other than a computer.  Laptops, desktops, even the almighty MAC is not meant to last forever.  Someday you are going to get a Blue Screen of Death, or you'll spill a sticky drink on the keyboard, or (shutter) you'll drop your laptop down the stairs (I've done all three) and trust me, you'll be a lot less panicked if you can say, "Thank goodness I backed everything up!"


  1. Glad your story had a great ending. :) I've had a few close calls, but luckily everything was recovered. Always great to get a reminder.

    I usually e-mail myself a copy, but My Live Book looks pretty awesome.

  2. I totally feel you on the laptop thing. As you may remember, I had huge laptop issues earlier this year. Luckily, I was able to back up everything even before I took it in to the technicians. Even luckier, my local computer place is excellent and fixed my computer pretty cheaply. Hooray for awesome computer technicians!

    That does sound pretty fantastic. I have a couple of backup hardware drives, but both live in my house, so I'm always concerned about what would happen if something ever happened to my entire house (god forbid).

    1. I've worried about that, too. One of the reasons I raced home back in July was to rescue my laptop should the fires have made it close to us. That might sound shallow, but all my family photos are on my laptop--pictures of my kids being born, every birthday and anniversary, every memory I've ever captured on film. In fact, we filed our taxes online and I never bothered to print a copy. It would have been a big deal to lose everything. I've thought about doing the thing, and save everything in a cloud online, but I'm starting small.

      If you ever decide to do one of the off-site cloud storage systems, let me know what you think.

  3. One of my biggest fears! And I don't think I'm nearly as backed up as I used to be. I used to send e-mails to my sister with all my writing on it, but now there's just so much...This is a great suggestion! Thanks.

  4. “Blue Screen of Death?” – Yes, this is awfully familiar. I, too, had my fair share of laptop crashes. And I have a couple of experiences on data loss and the hassles of file recovery. But as they say, everything is a learning experience. From then on, I created back-up for my files and bought an external drive for safety purposes.


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