by Terry Wilhite
Do you have a plan when your computer dies? I had put the final touches on a new 10-minute video I had shot and produced for my church. I had transferred the presentation to digital tape and the file to my external hard drive. As I was playing the file from the external hard drive to check it, I mistakenly disconnected the cable from the camera to the computer. That was the beginning of the end.
The computer froze. I restarted. Then one's greatest digital fear happened. The computer could not be restarted. The start-up file, and who knows what else, had been corrupted, making everything on my computer-including the family financial records-disappear.
First came the shock. Second came the repeated attempts to restart. That scene played out over and over and over. The on-board file recovery software reported the damage as "serious"-so dire, it said, that the hard drive could not be repaired. The more I thought about what had vanished before my eyes-a wedding video I had worked on for hours, the family financial records, letters, email addresses, manuscripts, etc.-the sicker I got. The last time an external hard drive I owned bit the dust, the disk restoration software failed to restore anything, including my confidence in its ability.
"What am I going to do?" I asked myself. "I can't believe I didn't have enough sense to at least back up the financial records," I told my accountant wife. (She knew that this was not the time to agree.) I shot a "Help me!" prayer heavenward.
Think this couldn't happen to you? It can! In fact, it will, sooner than later, no matter how old or new your computer. No matter if you use Mac or Windows. No matter whether you tithe or not. No matter whether you are the pastor or the person who sits on the fourth pew from the back of the church. No matter whether it's the computer that's loaded with the morning worship service presentation or your machine at home. Here's some advice that came out of the ashes of a lifeless computer:
<![if !supportLists]>1. <![endif]>Get virus protection software running on your computer immediately. Update the "vaccines" from the maker's Web site regularly. I recommend installing the entire suite of software from Symantec called Norton System Works.
<![if !supportLists]>2. <![endif]>Have an emergency startup disk and know where it is at all times. If you own a laptop, keep a copy with you in your laptop case.
<![if !supportLists]>3. <![endif]>Make sure that you have a drive (Zip, CD, or external hard drive) that can run the emergency start up disk. Consult www.windows.com to learn how to create one. Practice using it.
<![if !supportLists]>4. <![endif]>Have a routine back-up plan. Back up frequently. Back up the back-up.
<![if !supportLists]>5. <![endif]>Consider putting business or personal financial files on a separate machine or hard drive to minimize a total wipe-out of critical information.
<![if !supportLists]>6. <![endif]>Defragment your hard disk before every digital audio/video project. If you don't, you're certain to get "snap, crackle, and pop" as the computer searches and retrieves data scattered across the hard drive. Often computers will crash under the attempt to find all of the scattered data.
<![if !supportLists]>7. <![endif]>Be careful with multitasking. Even the best computers can come tumbling down when asked to do huge, multiple tasks at once.
<![if !supportLists]>8. <![endif]>Keep critical backup data files off-premises. Having a back-up does no good if it burns up in a fire.
<![if !supportLists]>9. <![endif]>Don't give in to the only option: "Can't read disk. Do you want to reformat?" NO! Often your data will be there, but only the "door" to the files, called the header sector, will be badly damaged. Properly-installed software like Norton's Utilities can recover the data.
<![if !supportLists]>10. <![endif]>Make sure you have a UPS (uninterrupted power supply) system connected to your computer. However, no surge or UPS system can prevent damage from a direct lightning strike. Unplugging your computer is the best surge protection in a lightning storm. And remember, the telephone line can be as much a conduit for electrical damage as can the power cable.
This story has a happy ending. With the right software I was able to recover my data, get my computer started, and write these sage words of wisdom. Answered prayer!
Terry Wilhite is a music and multimedia specialist. He welcomes your e-mail at email@example.com.