Sunday, May 8, 2011

CRASH!! It's Your Computer!

Long ago, authors like Charles Dickens and Jane Austen wrote everything out with quill pens and paper. The only way manuscripts could be destroyed was by fire, water, or a very naughty dog. Next came the era of Margret Mitchell, Thomas Wolfe, etc. where authors typed everything on a typewriter. Again, finished pages were for the most part, eternal. Unfortunately, in our day, typing ones work on the computer can have both positive and negative consequences. While we juggle plot, characters, editors, and publishers we also have to deal with these mysterious and sometimes maddening mechanisms called thumb drives, hard drives, viruses, and more.

This past week my own computer crashed taking with it three or four weeks worth of research, and the outline for my current WIP. Needless to say, it took several gallons of chocolate to finally resign myself to my fate - my work was gone.

Among many things I did wrong, the worst was that I neglected to back up my work every day. During the time I was researching, I was so intent on my task that I neglected to back up my work to my thumb drive. This was a very painful lesson to learn and one I would not wish to repeat. For the rest of you readers and writers, I can recommend the following tips from to ensure you do not succumb to the same fate.

Eight Tips to Keep your Computer Operating Smoothly

1. Never, turn your computer off with the power switch until Windows has shut down.
The exception to this is when your computer locks up and the hard drive is not running. In this case you can turn off the power without harmful effects. Only do this when all else fails, as this can result in losing data. Whenever possible, recover from crashes by pressing the Ctrl + Alt + Delete keys at the same time. Press them again to reboot your computer.

2. Purchase a UPS (uninterruptible power supply) for your computer. This will keep your computer from crashing during power outages, and will protect it from low and high voltage occurrences. A UPS is far superior to a surge protector and will save your computer from almost any type of power disaster.

3. Backup, any data you cannot afford to lose to at least two separate physical drives. You can backup data to external hard drives, USB drives(thumb drives) CD-RWs etc. The time to backup is when you create something you can't afford to lose. Don't wait until tomorrow. Thumb drives come with a wide variety of memory storage and they sell for as little as $8.00.

4. Run Scandisk and Defragment at least once a month. This will keep your hard drive healthy and prevent crashes. Alternatively, purchase Norton Utilities and use it to keep your hard drive healthy.

5. Keep at least 300 MBs of your C: drive free for Windows to use. If you use Windows XP, Vista, or Windows 7 then you should have 400-600 MBs of free space on your C: drive. If you do not have enough free space you will choke Windows and it will start dumping data to your hard drive, or it will just get really, really, slow. Microsoft at home ( ) will guide you step by step on how to do a clean sweep and delete unwanted files and programs. 

6. Do not let a lot of programs load up when you start your computer. They use valuable memory and Windows Resources (Windows internal workspace). All programs in your Windows System Tray (in the lower left of your screen) are running on your computer when you start up. Close them if you don't need them or run them and configure them to not load when you boot up. Other programs running in the background can be found by pressing Ctrl + Alt + Delete at the same time.

7. Do use a virus checker regularly. Everyone should use a virus checker that is either purchased or found free on the internet. A computer expert friend of ours recommended AVG, which is downloadable free on-line.

8. Create a recovery disk or keep your system disks that came with your computer. These disks contain valuable software drivers, and programs for Windows, and are needed when Windows must be reloaded. If your computer did not come with a recovery disk call customer support or look on-line for instructions on how to create your own properly.

Lastly, note changes in performance. One of the first indicators that something is wrong is when your computer starts operating abnormally. When this occurs, immediately back up any unsaved files, and run a virus scan and defragment and see if this helps.

Hopefully, by using these tips you will not succumb to the same fate as I did, this past week. As writers we prefer to write in blissful oblivion, thinking the box that we are furiously typing away on, will hold our precious data without a glitch. Yet, this is not always the case, and it is best to be prepared. I hope to be writing in blissful, yet wiser, oblivion once again - as soon as my computer comes back from the service center!

Share any tips that you have for saving data or keeping your computer healthy!


Richard said...

Wow. Very useful info. Thanks

Catherine said...

Sometimes I get so absorbed in what I'm doing that I completely forget there's even a save button I should be pressing! Autosave is my best friend.