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Computer house of horrors
Bone-chilling scenarios that could happen to you

10/25/12
By John Andrews jandrews@hippopress.com



We’ve all had those moments of pure terror: that moment when we realize our unsaved document is gone, or our beloved device has just broken itself beyond repair. It can be a confusing few seconds when we try to deny the truth, but the reality of the situation always sets in, setting the stage for despair.
 
Behold these horrors and learn from them, lest they happen to you!
 
The intermittent symptom: Before the PC era, this cursed fate was most often experienced with automobiles, but now it has invaded our home office spaces. A problem would crop up: with a car, it might be a noise from the engine
 
compartment; with a computer, it might be a software program that refuses to open — but only sometimes. The only thing predictable about it is that it will never happen when a professional is around to diagnose the issue.
 
To solve this frustrating problem, you must be vigilant. Record everything you can think of that could conceivably have an effect on the issue you’re having. What other programs are running? What were you doing just prior to the problem manifesting itself? What is the temperature in the room? Is there maybe a black cat in there with you? Write it down; you never know what might be relevant.
 
The irreplaceable part: The smaller our electronics get, the more integrated their components become. The smallest desktops and tablets now rely on a “system on a chip,” where everything is built into a single silicon slab on a tiny circuitboard.
 
What happens when one single thing goes wrong with that hardware? Maybe the USB ports stop working, or the memory becomes unreliable. In the days of large, modular PCs, you could replace even single chips on a motherboard. Now, any failure means replacing the whole unit. Hope you have your credit card ready.
 
The dying hard drive: Desktops and laptops depend on very few moving parts. There are a couple fans that move air around, but the most critical moving component is the disk drive. There resides not only the operating system, but all the data you’ve amassed: documents you’ve written, songs you’ve downloaded, precious photos and videos you’ve taken.
 
Oh, there are clues beforehand, but they’re often ignored: slow performance, random reboots, the occasional corrupted file. Nothing seems quite serious enough until the hard drive finally decides to give up the ghost and stop working altogether.
At that point, you’re greeted with the message “DISK BOOT FAILURE” on startup. “No,” you think, “surely this is just a one-time thing.” You reboot, you unplug and re-plug the hard drive, you leave it alone for hours before coming back, but each time the same heart-stopping message greets you. Slowly, the realization dawns: not only is your computer inoperable, but all your precious data is gone.
 
Some technicians have reported success with placing dead hard drives in the freezer overnight and then reconnecting them in the morning. Somehow, this revives the hard drive long enough to at least move the most critical data to another hard drive. This solution actually working is rare, though, so most often you’re well and truly borked.
 
Unless you took regular backups. Then it’s all good.
 
Get really terrified by following @CitizenjaQ on Twitter. 





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