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Baby got backup

Actually, baby (AKA moi) only had partial backup … for my computer, that is.

Computer_crash_2 And that was, staying on the slightly dated musical reference point here, a real pain in the backside when, a couple of weeks ago, my computer decided it had had enough.

Yep, on June 2, after running its weekly system virus scan, my machine crashed.

I knew it was coming. Even though the thing is only about 18 months old, it had been making a disturbing noise for the last month or so. The sound was bad enough that only the week before I had mentioned to the hubby that I needed to look into a full system backup program. Just in case.

Unfortunately, I neglected my prescience and didn't get around to it in time.

So I'm sitting here that Friday night, panicking because my PC had gone into a coma. I rebooted and rebooted, but with only partial success. I eventually managed to get it to reveal my desktop icons, but I couldn't get any of them to open.

I called Dell, where we still had a service contract in force. And after trying a few more rebootings and hitting F8 and F12 keys and me uttering a few F things, the guy told me that my hard drive had crashed. Duh!

Long story short -- really! -- I got a new hard drive the next week and a local PC place was able to salvage all of my documents. That was a great relief. I had been backing them up to a flash drive, but not as regularly as I should have. My latest backup batch was April 25.

But Congress had passed a new tax bill in mid-May, meaning all the data I'd collected on that and stored on my PC was, at least temporarily, inaccessible.

And since it was only Word and Excel and PDF files I'd saved to the portable drive, I had to reload all my software programs, which led to more of that posterior pain I mentioned.

You know how it is. You get your computer set up with special little tweaks and shortcuts and you're comfortable with everything. Then when they disappear, you have to recreate them or worse, find that the new software now on your machine won't let you do things the same way the old one you liked so much did.

Better backups: So I am going to get a backup program to store all the computer recreations I'm still working on. And actually, my delay in getting one before my PC blew up may turn out to be a blessing in disguise.

Last week, New York Times tech columnist, David Pogue, wrote about a new flash drive that hints at "a future where we could abandon not only the heartache of hard-drive failure, but even the expense, frustration and obsolescence of PC ownership. … [Where] we'll store our entire digital worlds onto cheap 160-gigabyte flash drives … jack into public computer terminals everywhere we go -- taxis, restaurants, airplane tray tables -- and pick right up where we left off."

That future, Pogue says, arrives in July when Lexar PowerToGo software, licensed by Ceedo Personal, "will turn a flash drive into a portable Windows XP ecosystem, meaning that you can jack into anybody's PC anywhere and find yourself -- and your software tools -- right at home."

Ceedo has figured out how to get your Windows installer, the thing that runs your programs, on a flash drive so that you can take your entire PC with you in the tiny package and operate your PC on any PC -- one at a Kinko's, in an airport waiting lounge or at a friend's house. You can read Pogue's full explanation here (registration required).

And you can find me at an electronics retailer next month buying a Lexar flash drive.

A computer in every room: The new flash backup system will be a nice complement to the laptop I bought when my PC crashed. I know, my PC was only down for about a week, but since you're reading this I suspect you are as computer addicted as I.

My dependence on my PC has gotten even worse since I started working for myself. All my business contact, contract, job specifics, billing and background information was and is once again on my PC. Plus, I now have the blog that calls for my constant attention! So I had to have another machine.

The hubby offered to let me use his, but sharing computers is like sharing a closet or a bathroom, i.e., nigh impossible. Plus, he uses his computer for work, too, so that meant I would have to wait until he's done for the day and he's almost as connected to his laptop as I am to my PC.

Oh, I did give sharing a shot. After being without my PC for about six hours, I crept into the hubby's office after he went to bed. Sitting there with the laptop's screen as my only light -- didn't want to interrupt his beauty sleep, you know -- I managed to get some stuff done. But I knew it wasn't going to work.

That was confirmed the next morning when hubby, trying not to freak out, asked me what I did to one of his settings. We got his machine switched back to the parameters he prefers and headed to Best Buy for my new laptop.

The laptop definitely was not a planned expense. In fact, it blew my June budget all to pieces and right there at the beginning of the month. But I think in the long run it will be worth it.

It already saved my sanity and probably my marriage during the PC down time. It also will be a good emergency and backup (though not in this sense again, I hope!) machine and something we can take when we travel.

And since it was purchased for work purposes, I can write off the sucker on my 2006 taxes. It's what's known as a Section 179 expense, the portion of the tax code that allows businesses to immediately deduct some Twop_backup_tshirt_2 equipment purchases in the tax year they were bought instead of depreciating them over the equipment's entire business-use life. You can read more about §179 and recent enhancements to it via those aforementioned May tax law changes here.

And please, to paraphrase the advice Keith Mars always gives his computer whiz kid Veronica: Always make a system backup!

"Backup" T-shirt image courtesy of Glarkware


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