Over the Christmas holidays, I was running around my computer room with my grandson when I tripped over one of the dozen cables lying around the desk. The computer, sitting on a foot-high stand, flopped over onto the carpeted floor . . . and died. Better I should have flopped over.
The fall was so minor, I picked it up and did not give it a second thought, but the hard drive, with tolerances tighter than the finest Swiss watch, was damaged. The reading arms scratched the spinning disks as it fell, damaging several sectors. If the computer had been off, everything would be fine. The disks would not have been spinning and the arms would have been in a locked position.
I reinstalled the operating system, ran a disk repair, and reinstalled the operating system again. The disk repair does not actually repair anything. It just marks the damaged sectors as not to be used, and these can be easily spared. The computer seemed to be working again, but tended to freeze after about a half hour.
My computer is almost everything to me, so I cannot tolerate an unreliable one. It earns its keep by researching and maintaining my financial investments and doing my taxes, but it is also my:
Entertainment (world-wide radio programs, TV, old Jean Shepherd shows, complete issues of The New Yorker magazine),
Hobby (photo editing and storage, this blog),
Keeper of our family records and old family photos going back to 1865,
Communication tool (Skype and MagicJack,),
Library (Google, Project Gutenberg, Wikipedia),
Game partner (Empire),
I easily spend over four hours a day on it. This may sound excessive, but mobility declines at our age and I want to be prepared for the future. Just hand me my mouse and keyboard, nurse, and I’ll be fine.
The computer had been getting long in the tooth, anyway, so I was not too upset about its loss. It ran on Windows XP, which is no longer supported by Microsoft. Of course, I had all of my files backed up. Doesn’t everyone?
So, I now have a new computer running Windows 7 with 8 gig RAM and a 2 terabyte hard drive. I got it from Costco, the only place I would consider because I can return it within 3 months for any or no reason, they add a year to the warranty, and provide prompt, capable, lifetime phone support. Best of all, the computer was not preloaded with craplets—unwanted temporary trial programs that have to be removed one at a time. It came without a monitor, which I did not need.
So, the whole story has a happy ending. The new computer has more capacity than I will ever need (but I have said that for every computer I have ever owned), and Windows 7 is far superior to XP, much more than just eye-candy. But you have to buy a book to go with it. Windows 7 is full of very useful features that you will never discover on your own. Windows 7: The Missing Manual, by David Pogue is excellent. It is a reference book that you can read straight through just for pleasure. Well, maybe not everyone.
The big chore was reinstalling all of my old programs, all of their updates, and all of their settings. If you have never done this, it is a very, very, big chore.
Now, when I back up, I make a bare-metal backup that Windows 7 calls a “system image.” This is a complete copy of the entire hard drive. If the hard drive fails, restoring to a new one from the bare-metal backup is just a few clicks, and in about an hour, everything is just as it was. This will also remove the most stubborn virus infection. In the past, it was only practical to backup your own files, which were small compared to the programs and operating system. But, now, sound and photo files are so large it does not take much more effort to back up everything.