July 16, 2011

Warning signs and prevention- How to avoid getting stuck with a computer crash (Guest Post)

If you’re one of those lucky souls who’s personally experienced a computer crash, and had one of those “counseling sessions” with your computer repairs people, you’ll understand how important it is to recognize a computer with problems. You’ll also know that there were a lot of things you wish you’d known long before the crash, so you could have been better prepared.

 Early warning signs
Although computer crashes can be very sudden, it’s relatively rare that they don’t show signs of some sort of problem beforehand. Odd behaviour can be a good early warning sign. There are also some pretty noticeable physical signs, albeit the kind you probably don’t want to think about.
These are the basic signs:
  • A series of beeps from the hard drive- These beeps sound a bit like a reverse beeper. After it crashes, the computer will make these sounds, but it will also do this if it’s having trouble getting started. Get your computer straight to the service center, fast. You’ve got a day or so before it crashes.
  • Fan going all the time- This is usually a result of dust and grit accumulating in the computer, pretty common in the usual computer setup where the computer, monitor and peripherals act as dust magnets. The computer needs a check-up anyway if you’re having heat problems, and your service guys will take one look and vacuum it out for you. (Unless you really know your way around the inside of a computer, don’t do this yourself.)
  • Smells- That ozone/ burnt plastic smell, typical of electrical wiring having problems, is from a potential killer. Whatever the reason, heat is building up in the computer, and you need your computer support people to check it out for you.
  • Computer behavior- Although viruses and other things can cause a computer to be slow, so can a hard drive that’s having a hard time. Be suspicious, and at least think about getting the computer serviced, particularly if you want other work done. This is a good preventative approach.
  • Old computers- The risk factor goes up with age, and if you’ve got a good older computer, it’s a good idea to not tempt the odds. Getting serviced will also allow the computer techs to check out any hard drive issues.
  • Lots of USB connections and plugins- The USBs aren’t the problem themselves. The problem is the amount of work they give the hard drive. High maintenance things like video cameras and other plugins can be the final straw for a hard drive that needs an overhaul. You may want to upgrade your video and TV cards to ensure best performance, too.

How to avoid getting caught by a crash
There are some very basic steps that will protect your data:
  • A good high capacity external memory- This covers the data loss, just make sure you’ve got the thing formatted properly. (Ask your tech guys if you’re not sure how to do this.)

  • Online backups for critical data- Online storage is safe enough for critical materials, and can at least make sure that your high-value stuff is OK, even if the commercial storage allowances are pretty pitiful.

  • Spare computer or notebook- The world doesn’t have to end as a result of a crash. Having a spare is best practice for online workers, anyway.

The moral of the story- Anticipate problems, and you won’t have those problems.

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