You’re Going to Lose Everything

Until today (and the final news on this remains to be seen) I was one of the only people I knew who had not, in my lifetime of computer use, had an honest-to-Gates crash of a hard drive.  I have crashed a computer, many, many times, and have even several times experienced significant loss of data, but all of that was on me, for making bad decisions with software.  In my 10 years as an every day laptop user, I have yet to have one of my hard-traveled machines fail me*, and in this I know I am both extremely lucky and, at any moment, one minute away from ruin. 

Nearly everyone I know has suffered some kind of hard drive failure.  I mean the kind of thing where one day, you’re watching Hulu videos, reading the New York Times, worrying about the spacing on your thesis, and making red-eye edits to your seventy-five thousand photos of your cat, and the next day, the thing won’t even turn on.  That kind of failure.  The kind that makes the guy at the computer store cringe and say things you don’t want to hear, like, “back to the factory,” “these things just happen,” and “one thousand dollars.”

They also inevitably say this: “But you have everything backed up, right?”  I used to be in the vast, idiotic majority who would have, at any time, answered no to that question.  But at some point I became an adult, realized that my entire livelihood at the moment rests on the spinning disc of a machine I batter endlessly, and starting backing my computer up.  I discovered, which is a beautiful, endlessly elegant and reliable service, and became a evangelist for it (I use it and have even restored from it on my Macbook).  I also use Carbonite (logo: Because your life is on your PC), which, for $50 a year, provides unlimited, daily, backgrounded backups for my nephew-video-laden PC.

This morning, I turned on my desktop PC and saw it: the blue screen of hardware failure death.  I had an instinctive, visceral moment of panic, and then I remembered: oh yeah.  Everything is already backed up.  If it’s broken, no big deal.  And then: relief.  Thirty minutes later, I was staring at the total backups of everything on my computer, updated just yesterday, and feeling pretty much on top of the world.

And so, from this high vantage point of computer snobbery, I can say the following with confidence: if you aren’t backing up your computer, you’re a dumbass.

It’s very, very, ridiculously simple to back up your computer.  There are countless online services that will do it for you.  There are external hard drives well under $100 that plug and play.  Every computer made in the last five years has a CD burner, and nearly all of them have DVD burners.  In the same way that when you buy a car, it comes with seatbelts, computers come with many avenues of safety — so when there’s a crash, if you lose everything, chances are, it’s your fault.  In the time it takes you to change the layout of your MySpace page, you could be saving all those photos of Frisky forever.

If the only existing copy of your masterwork is on a disc that spins at thousands of revolutions per minute, which, should it come to any kind of abrupt halt, could conceivably lock that information away forever — what do you think you should do?  Just hope nothing will happen?  Has that ever in the history of humankind ever prevented something wicked from coming this way?  Oh, I hope Iran doesn’t get a nuclear bomb.  Let’s make that our foreign policy and see what happens.  Better yet: try using hope in place of contraception.  I’ll see you at the shower.

Again, I say: nearly everyone I know has suffered some kind of hard drive failure.  That means I’ve done the hard drive hand-holding dozens of times.  I’m tired of it.  It consists of days of whining while the person waits for news of his or her information.  Every conversation is consumed by out-loud wondering about what could be lost, and the sentence, “I was going to back things up, I was just thinking about it,” is tossed around like a raquetball.  Sympathy is expected, because, hey, they meant well, right?  A person suffering a hard disc failure inevitably sees him or herself as some kind of victim — if only they made those drives better.  If only there had been some warning.

Here is your warning: your computer is going to crash. 

Maybe not today.  Maybe not tomorrow.  But soon, and quickly, and without reason or recourse.  It’s a spinning disc in a thin metal box.  Shit happens.  Back up now.  What are you waiting for, a sign?

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6 Responses to You’re Going to Lose Everything

  1. Pasquino says:

    Heh. How’s the view from on high? Pfft. Backups are for suckers. Real computer geeks wait for the crash just so they can try out their data recovery chops — freeze the hard drive, bash it with a hammer, whip out the hex editor and transcribe the novel into ascii.

    For my part, yes, I’ve had crashes. Most recently I had a catastrophic, cascading crash. First I lost my backup drive — the drive where I backed everything up; then I lost the primary and secondary drives while trying to recover the backup drive. Like dominoes, they tumbled down, inevitably, in a thudding, creaking pile of mournful data loss. I lost everything. I managed to recover a great deal of it, but some of it’s gone forever.

    My new regimen is much more practical. I don’t do anything on my computer that requires longevity. Saves having to write.

    Glad you got your data back.

  2. Jenn says:

    …and my computer. Hit it with air and presto, everything works again. Dunno what the weirdness was about.

    Why even have a computer if you can’t save things to it? I have this discussion with my parents, who still believe that if they install a program it makes the computer slower and more likely to break, and therefore want one computer “just for Microsoft Word” and another for the Internet.

  3. Star Straf says:

    so what is the difference between Mozy and Carbonite? I’ve been doing the save to CD thing but I’ve started to think of doing one of the online backup things.

  4. Jenn says:

    Essentially, they’re the same service on different payment plans. With Mozy, you can have up to 2GB for free, which is why I use it for my laptop, where I back up only documents and small files. Carbonite doesn’t have a free service (though they offer a 15 day free trial). For unlimited, single-machine service, with Mozy, you pay $4.95 a month and can quit any time. Carbonite is $49.95 for one year.

    If you decide to try either and wouldn’t mind, let me know and I can get some referral credit.

  5. Star Straf says:

    sure goahead and send me referral thing – the reviews seem a bit better for mozy so I think I’ll try that one

  6. Pingback: 500,000 Found Words | Kepkanation

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