Things I Learned From A Computer Failure

Things I Learned From A Computer Failure

My Apple TabletThose of you who follow me on Facebook or on Twitter will know that my old 2007 MacBook Pro just died. I’ll take it to the Apple Store for them to check out, but I suspect it has gone to logic board heaven.

This is the first time I have ever had a computer I am actively working on die (I’ve never even had a drive failure), so here are some things I’ve learned from the process so far.

Don’t Tempt Fate

I have often joked “I hope my old computer dies so I will have an excuse to buy one of the shiny new ones.”

I also told someone a few days ago that I have been holding off upgrading to Lion because I wanted to do a fresh install, and haven’t found the time to do it.

Guess what? Now that I am getting both my wishes, it’s not so fun. Next time, I’ll keep my mouth shut.

Backups Make Things Annoying But Not Stressful

You know that expression “the cobbler’s children have no shoes”? Thankfully, one area where I do not fall into that category is with backups.

I do pretty much everything in this How To Backup Your Computer video. My SuperDuper! clone backup had run the day before, and my Time Machine backup had run an hour before.

I also have an online backup with CrashPlan and just to make things even more paranoid, I have my critical files backed up at a friend’s house.

I also tend to store whatever I am working on in Dropbox, so many files are backed up realtime to Dropbox’s servers.

All this is to say, while this whole process is annoying, at no point have I felt stressed out about losing anything important. It’s a nice feeling.

Love The Cloud

I am typing this on my wife’s old second-hand white MacBook, and since my failure, I have done pieces of things on my iPad, on this computer, on my Windows 7 laptop, and on my parents’ 27″ iMac.

All this is made super-easy with cloud services like Dropbox and Evernote. I can’t imagine what a pain things would be if I wasn’t able to seamlessly switch between computers and devices.

Also having my 1Password and TextExpander data synced has been incredibly helpful. My 1Password app on my iPhone has certainly been getting a workout. Not having TextExpander on my wife’s computer is like eating glass though – I am going to have to rectify this.

Mac App Store

The Mac App Store has been great for quickly installing applications. You don’t really appreciate it until you have to install a number of them all at once.

Life Didn’t Stop Because My Computer Died

Unfortunately, the real world kept going even though my computer didn’t. I had a hard deadline at 5pm yesterday for a new project I am working on for DocumentSnap, and the failure did slow me down a bit. I got it done though – at 4:52pm. Having things backed up and accessible is important if you are in a situation where downtime is a problem for you.

Fortunately for me, this all happened on a long weekend, so the only real impact will likely be no video post this week.

Look At It As An Opportunity

As the Monty Python song goes, I try to always look at the bright side of life. I had been meaning to do a clean install of Lion anyways, so this way I can go through and see what things I really need from my old computer and what had been junking up my computer over the last four years.

Also, my old MacBook Pro was getting pretty slow at doing video, so I’m looking forward to a new, faster computer.

Have you ever had a computer failure? How did the recovery go? Any more lessons learned? Let us know in the comments.

(Photo by andymangold)

About the Author

Brooks Duncan helps individuals and small businesses go paperless. He's been an accountant, a software developer, a manager in a very large corporation, and has run DocumentSnap since 2008. You can find Brooks on Twitter at @documentsnap or @brooksduncan. Thanks for stopping by.

Leave a Reply 6 comments

Enable Google Docs For Offline Access | Tips To Learn How To Go Paperless | DocumentSnap Paperless Blog - October 26, 2011 Reply

[…] wasn’t worried about this, until I realized that on my new computer, I had forgotten to enable Offline access. […]

Pat - September 22, 2011 Reply

Unfortunately, my hard drive went out on my pc after scanning approximately 12000 items….Luckily I do have external drive backup….My problem is I have reinstalled scansnap software and I have 2 copies of my data files (cabinets/folders/etc) but when I open scan snap the cabinets are not showing…and when I try to move the data files, I am obviously doing that wrong as everytime I open scansnap or organizer they do not communicate….hope you can help me with this as I do not want to set up a whole new cabinet system nor do I want to look at one place for old docs and somewhere else for new docs.
Thanks for all your previous writings as I get a lot of information from them.

Julie K - September 6, 2011 Reply

Yes, when doing an OSX update a few years ago, it stalled and I quit and the computer bricked. I simply restored from my SuperDuper backup.

Recently, I did update one computer at work without critical info (so I did not make a backup before updating to Lion). After the update all user accounts were gone, except one non admn account and the password did not work. I quickly Googled and it was a common bug, so I was able to re-create an admn account and all data was there. It was a good reminder to always run SuperDuper and TimeMachine before updating.

    Brooks Duncan - September 6, 2011 Reply

    Thanks Julie, aren't clone backups great? I was too lazy to do it for quite a while, but i am a big believer now.

Doug Ransom - September 6, 2011 Reply

About 6 weeks ago I tried to do a LION Upgrade on a leopard install on a 2006-era IMAC. The snow leopard upgrade failed, and corrupted my main drive (or revealed a hardware problem – I am not sure which). So into the shop where I had them install an SSD, some more ram, brought it home, and restored from time machine OK. Handy to have passwords on 1Password, and I had some things in evernote.

Then my NAS wouldn't mount – apparently most NAS vendors had incompatibilities with LION that were revealed on launch day. That was fixed by LACIE last Friday so I did a NAS install. I have photos and iTunes files on the NAS.

I don't have a backup strategy for the NAS yet. Jungle disk does weird things (erases all the files) if the NAS isn't mounted when the backup runs. I copied all the files from the NAS to a backup drive before running the LACIE firmware update (and running Aperature->iPhone conversion at the same time)

    Brooks Duncan - September 6, 2011 Reply

    Thanks Doug, you're not the first person I have heard from that has had big problems upgrading to Lion.

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