Tuesday, February 27, 2007


Well, had one of those days yesterday. Ye ol' computer crash. Happened just after I'd opened my book file to start writing for the day. Oh, yay. Ain't we got fun.

'Twas a different error message than I've ever seen before. "Insurmountable boot amount." Huh? They telling me my foot's too big?

I called Gateway--maker of my computer. Got put on hold for a loooong time. Finally got through to a tech support guy. Who had no clue about insurmountable boots. This did not make any points with me, but I managed to be nice. He put me on hold again. For a loooong time. I paced my office. The only good part was their cool "hold" music. The tech had the nerve to come back on the line in the middle of Aerosmith's Sweet Surrender. I liked him even less after that. Tech guy informed me he'd "done some research" on my problem. I got to hear his technical explanation for the bottom line:

It done broke.

So I bundled up said sad computer and ran it into Best Buy. Of course it was pouring rain. Could it possibly be sunny on such a day? Good news--they can restore everything. Bad news--it'll take four to five days. And they don't know whether they can recoup all my data files first. But for $99 they'll give it a go.

I could just kick myself.

I back up my manuscripts--let me say that immediately in my own defense. If I didn't do that, I'd be in serious trouble right now. Every day after I'm done writing, I faithfully back up--twice. First on a flash drive. Second, in case said flash drive drives off into the sunset, or my house blows up or something, I email the manuscript to my assistant, where it can sit in her "saved" file on the Internet. However, there's still that back-up-all-your-word-files-and-pictures-and-Outlook thing. I'm not so good at that.'

I tried. Really. Bought a back-up drive and everything after my last computer crash. One of those fancy thingies that you're supposed to be able to set up so it auto-backs whenever you want it to. Except that I could never get the dang thing to work. (Are you figuring out yet that I'm not the most computer-savvy person on the planet?) I planned to study up on the problem. Really. It's just that every day I have this page count, and before I know it, days go by, then weeks, then months ...

Forget kicking myself. Too painful. I'm taking that insurmountable boot to the nearest cabinet.

Worst case scenario is--I lose all my email stuff. Again. All my pictures and logos and word files, except for my manuscript. Again.

This time when I go back to Best Buy to pick up my computer, I'm taking that back-up drive with me. They're gonna show me how to do everything--more like set the thing up for me. Or I ain't leavin' the store.


Needless to say, I lost hours of work time, trying to sort all this out. I did manage to finish the alloted page count by 9:30 p.m. But I had no handy-dandy blog post ready, and wasn't exactly in the mood to go hunting for one. So here's what ya get. In all its glory.

So tell me, oh brilliant BGs. How do you back up data? Anybody use an online service? Anybody got their handy-dandy back-up disk to do its auto thing? Anybody lost lotsa data and kicked lotsa cabinets? Anybody else got an insurmountable boot?

Dagnabbit all. I need to pull out my Best of Aerosmith CD. Maybe a listen or two to Sweet Surrender--the whole song--will lessen the pain.


Richard Mabry said...

I never feel so vulnerable as I do when my car or my computer acts up. You have my sympathy.
Other than using a Mac (I'll refrain from pouring salt into your wounds by going there), I back up my writing every day on a flash drive. For me, it's as simple as plugging in the drive on a USB port on the keyboard, dragging the folder for that particular novel to the flash, and allowing the fresh one to replace the one already there.

Once a week, I do a back-up of all my sensitive stuff using a separate 2 gigabyte flash drive. Again, once I've decided what I want to back up, it's just a drag-and-drop operation.

Once a month, I do a back-up to a portable hard drive. And every day, my "backup" utility (Mac) backs up my address book and personal data stuff to my iDisk (an online repository). This automatic action is the only backup I don't do "by hand."

Paranoid? No, realistic. I took my laptop to the Apple store last year to see if they could get it to run faster. Instead, they erased all my financial records and checkbook. Thank goodness for backups.

Kristy Dykes said...

"I had no handy-dandy blog post ready. So here's what ya get."

K: (Rubbing my hands together) I LOVE behind-the-scenes happenings of writers' lives. Thanks for sharing. I haven't had a "real" computer crash, thank the Lord. Once, in the mid 90s, I had something go wrong that required my bios to be flashed. Or something like that.

Top said...

May I recommend the following back-up system; http://www.symantec.com/home_homeoffice/products/overview.jsp?pcid=br&pvid=ghost10

Karen Wevick said...

I use a "briefcase" on an external hard drive to sync my files and try to sync on a daily basis. This includes my internet favorites and my email archives since I save a lot of reference stuff in these. After my crash last year, although we were able to recover most of my stuff eventually, I still lost a lot.

I generally don't have an "auto-recovery" disc, although I should. If I crash and burn, I have to reload my system from scratch, which is generally cleaner, but it does require resetting everything and that does take a while. One of the best defenses is to catch the signs before they happen, slowness, freezing, etc. can portend the crash of a hard drive. Ideally, you would have a system with mirrored drives and simply be able to keep going on the good drive while you replace the dead guy. Of course, this doesn't work well on laptops.

My $0.02

Blessings and my condolences...

CHickey said...

Add me to the paranoid club. All my books are saved on my computer, my laptop, and my jump drive. Just in case.

D. Gudger said...

B - I had a computer meltdown last week and left the dark side forever. I bought a Mac. My Gateway was the worst piece of junk I ever owned. 2 nother boards fired in less than a year, rendering the thing useless. My hubby backs up on one of those little firelite drives and it goes to his office with him every day so it's not in the house. I don't back up as often as I should though. I'll e-mail my ms to several friends & fam so they can store it. I also have a flash drive. Need to see if I can use it w/ the Mac. Love the Mac. I don't loose so much writing time anymore trying to do techie stuff I have no clue about.
LOVE my Mac!
The folks on the ACFW loop are mostly Mac users, they convinced me to get one :)

John Robinson said...

For me? Flash drive, and then sending it to my yahoo account. Oh yeah, and then I grab the hammer and chisel from the basement workbench and drive it into limestone slabs. Let's see THAT backup file vanish, baby!! *G*

Robin said...

Brandilyn, since I switched to the Mac, I have auto-backup that runs different times in the day. I back up my Books Folder to my .Mac account on the Internet as well as my email and personal data. It also automatically backs-up my entire Documents folder to an external hard drive. A .Mac account costs $100 per year and the back up software is free and pretty much sets itself up.

Before I left Windows, I paid for a service where my documents were backed up to a site on the Internet every night at 11:00 p.m. I think the name of the service is connected.com. I found them through Intuit/QuickBooks. I don't recall the cost for sure, but somewhere around $15 to $20 per month. But boy, I slept much better knowing it was being done without me having to remember to do it. Worth every penny I paid for it.

The new Mac OS Leopard that comes out this spring has an even better automatic backup software that I'm looking forward to using.


~ Brandilyn Collins said...

Thanks, all, for the advice you're giving. I'm learning a lot from you.

Lynette Sowell said...

I save to flash drive, and my laptop. Except I need to make very sure which version I edit and which one I delete. :)

Suzan Robertson said...

Losing my photos, my favorites, and my book research taught me a difficult lesson when my PC hard drive died. I now use two flash drives and an online photo service like flik.com. I email my manuscripts to myself, too. I gave up using outlook after the hard drive on my PC died. I use google and yahoo e-mail only now. One of these days I'll get an external hard drive.

William G. said...

Well... there's several things you can do, depending on your system.

Personally, if it's a desktop tower, I'd opt for multiple hard drives in a mirrored RAID configuration. That way all your 1s and 0s are duplicated and if one of the drives goes out, you've really lost nothing. Of course, that won't protect you in case of virus attack.

DVD+R backups are good for saving loose files. My Briefcase on a PC works well too (that's how I back up my must-keep docs).

You could get an external hard drive and then ghost your system periodically. I think the new version of Ghost offers automated options to do that weekly or so.

Somehow, Brandilyn, I always figured you just built your own PC or else used a Mac.

Hey... maybe your next PC adventure could be building your own system! What a fun serious of blog posts that would be. :)

Sara Mills said...


I just signed up for an online data backup service called SOS Online backup and I think it's great so far. It works two ways, you can set a hourly/daily or weekly automatic backup or you can sign up for what's called Live Protect. You upload all the files you want to save one time (basically your My Document folder) and then every time you change one, it saves the new version, as you type. This is what I signed up for. The cost is 45 cents per month or $4.50 per year for 500 MB of space. Prices go up from there, but my extensive My Docs file (which includes a lot of website elements) is only a shade under 300 MB.
It seems like an excellent, carefree solution to me.

Hope this helps,

Sara Mills

Susanne said...

Oh Brandilyn. I'm so sorry this happened! I so need my hubby to show me how to back up. He uses those memory stick things. It always takes me a few times to learn how to do these darn things. I'm so computer illiterate. Really can't they make them so you can just use the things without all the rigamaroll! :vD

Ernie W. said...

I use a flash drive and email to myself my WIP.

~ Brandilyn Collins said...

Yeah, right, William. I'll go build a space rocket while I'm at it.

You all have been great! Thanks for the information!

Top said...

Weird, my post just disappeared, and I didn't back it up! Anyways, my unsolicited pitch again for Symantec's Ghost software, here are it's features;

Backs up everything on your computer - digital music, photos, financial documents, applications, settings, operating system, etc. - in one easy step

Recovers your system and data even when you can't restart your operating system

Makes incremental backups to maximize space and save time
Makes backups on the fly, without restarting your system

Backs up to almost any media, including CDR/RW and DVD+-R/RW drives, USB and FireWire® (IEEE 1394) devices, and Iomega® Zip® and Jaz® drives

Robin Caroll said...

Oh, B....so sorry. I kicked my couch for you!

Since I network between the desktop and laptop, I backup to both. And a flash drive. And a disk. And emailed to hubby's office. Sigh. Sigh. Sigh.

Yeah, yeah, Ms. Coble if you're reading this, I know...GO MAC.

Again, sigh, sigh, sigh.

Dineen A. Miller said...

I have the same system Robin is talking about with .Mac. Sure makes life easy.