Sunday, January 24, 2010

When PC’s get sick – Part One

I got this PC in November 2008 and for the most part, it has been very good. I wasn’t thrilled about having to get Vista, but I’ve gotten more or less used to it in the last while. I’m pretty careful with my PC. I do weekly disk cleanup, weekly virus and spyware scans and defrag once a month. I scan everything that I download – even music files and programs from sites I trust. I do regular updates and try to keep things running smoothly.

About three months ago, I tried to install the Vista service pack 2 but got an error message. That sometimes happens but an update doesn’t always install successfully on the first try so I wasn’t that concerned. I’d try again later. Well, time went on and it was offered to me again. It still didn’t install. I probably should have called HP then, but I was busy with Christmas baking by then and just didn’t have the time to sit on the phone to get help with the installation.

I actually forgot about it until New Years, when the update showed up again as an important and recommended installation. I tried again and it didn’t work. Damn. Time to call for help.

On Monday, January 4, 2010, I called HP about 7:00PM local time. I ended up speaking with a very nice tech in Mumbai India! I told him that I was legally blind and a poor typist. “No worries! I am here to help!” He tried downloading and installing the update manually and it wouldn’t work. He ran several diagnostic tests and eventually discovered that somehow something in my OS had corrupted and this was preventing service pack 2 form installing. The only real way around it was to do a system recovery.

In other words, remove ALL of my files and reset the PC to factory condition. He assured me that this was not necessarily anything I had done wrong – that this can happen to the most cautious users. He also informed me that the longer I went without installing the upgrades, the more at risk I became for a complete crash. I could either have HP talk me through it, or pay a company to do the entire backup and recovery for me – which I really couldn’t afford. Out of curiosity, I did call a couple of places for quotes and got $120 if I brought in the hard drive and all went well in recovery or $250 for a tech to come here and stay till it was all in working order! OUCH!!

Double damn! I was not a happy camper. I needed a little time to figure out how I was going to do all this myself. This was not going to be easy – or fun. Over the last 14 months, I had downloaded a lot of music, videos and pics. These could be backed up and reinstalled. So could most of my games and some freeware programs. I had also installed about 25 pieces of software from GOTD. The GOTD items were only available in full program for the day they were given away, so I did not have a key to reinstall once they were removed. Some of the software, I had barely used but other pieces were used frequently and I wasn’t sure where I could get suitable replacements in freeware.

I spent the next several days reorganizing my files. I sorted through folders to see what could be moved, renamed, uninstalled, backed up or deleted, I burnt CD’s and DVD’s of music, video and programs. It was time consuming, exhausting and annoying that I was in this situation but I was also glad that I had the opportunity to actually back everything up before a crash caused me to lose everything. I also made several notes on what I was saving, deleting and what my various settings were that made the PC easier for me to see.

I do have a backup drive and I use it at least once or twice a month, but it can’t save applications. I have a 2 gig flash drive for apps, but couldn’t get it to work so I burnt all the apps I could and hoped for the best.

By Tuesday, January 12, I was ready to do the final backup. I connected my backup drive and let it start scanning for new files to copy. After awhile it told me that there was not enough room to add new files! HUH? It was a 160 gig drive and I knew I only had about 50 gig of stuff to save after programs were uninstalled. I tried deleting files from the backup, but it kept shutting down, I called the tech service for the device and after several more attempts, the tech said it wasn’t going to work and that they would replace it. Unfortunately, that was going to take 7-10 business days. ARGH! He suggested that I buy an external hard drive anyways as they can save app files and also use a drag and drop system so I can more easily select what to save.

I phoned several stores and finally ended up going to a local electronics store and getting a 500 gig external drive on sale for $89.99. The sale actually ended Tuesday night, but the sales clerk hadn’t removed the sale price from the shelf by the time I got there Wednesday morning so I was given the sale price!

When I got home, I read the instructions and started to transfer stuff from my “C drive” to my “F drive”. As I was doing it, I realized that I hadn’t exported my email files/folders or my contacts list from Windows Mail. My other backup drive could have gotten those directly. A couple of quick clicks to export and I was on my way again.

The “drag and drop” process took only a few minutes. The actual transfer and backup took about an hour.

It was noon by this time and I was about as ready as I’d ever be. I’d call HP after lunch and start the recovery.

(to be continued January 28, 2010)


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