Friends, it’s been a fraught week. I have had two computer failures and bought two new computers.

Many of the details of this trauma are irrelevant, but I have learned a lot. And there are two things I feel compelled to share.


And secondly, no matter how beautiful your computer; no matter how big its screen; no matter fast its processor; it is in fact bound to end up as scrap.

And no matter how much you think you like this object, all you actually care about is the data it is storing.

The Failures

Just before Christmas, my son returned home from university with a broken laptop which would not switch on at all.

It contained data he had just obtained in the course of his PhD research and he was stoically indifferent. But profoundly depressed.

Using the super-power that parents have: I took him out and bought him a new computer. But I could not recover his data.

And then just three days ago I returned home to find my Lenovo Ideacenter in distress. A propos of nothing at all, it displayed a black screen with some obscure text.

After running diagnostics, the primitive brain of the computer informed me gruffly that I had had a hard drive failure.

The Successes

I took the broken computers to our local PC repair shop, the wonderful PC Home.

Within a few hours they told me that the Lenovo diagnostics program was wrong: the hard disk and all my data were fine: it was the computer that was kaput.

They returned the hard disk to me along with a portable drive containing the data they had extracted.

Then miraculously, PC Home found that my son’s computer had a random short-circuit on its main board. They sorted it and the computer returned to life, all data in tact.

Lessons learned#1

What I have learned from these episodes is simple.

No matter how wonderful, or fashionable your computer, it is destined to become scrap.

The attic room in our house is filled with devices which were once sources of pride and wonder. They are now – at best – relics and items of occasional fascination.

In actual fact it is the data on your computer that is valuable: the words you have written as poems or remembrances, novels or reports; the photographs or videos; the spreadsheets or data files.

So please, whatever you doing right now, please stop it. And go and back up your computer!

As the saying goes: there are two types of computer: those which have failed, and those which have not failed yet.

Lessons learned#2

I am now 62 years old and I have been programming computers and using them for work since I was 18. I consider myself modestly competent: I have for example successfully replaced internal hard drives in iMac computers. But I am having difficulty coping with the complexity and mode of operation of modern computers.

For example, while sorting through the hard drive recovered my computer, I was shocked to find that many files that I thought I had saved, were not in fact present on the hard drive.

Many of the files were recoverable from an on-line vault known as the Microsoft OneDrive. They were there even though I had repeatedly and explicitly saved the files on what was apparently just masquerading as my own hard drive.

I am relieved that I have any access to these documents, but these were my documents on my computer: I do not consider it acceptable for Microsoft to effectively steal my documents in order to inveigle me into using their on-line storage service.

Consequently I will no longer be using Windows. So far, I am not missing it.









4 Responses to “Computers”

  1. 171indianroad Says:

    The last year announce of the “M1 Macs” – mini and macbook air – suddenly 10X performance for half the price.

    Add to that Google Drive backup and – magic. Everything I used to worry about computers gone.

    I have ~600,000 photos in my library. And, have been a long time Amazon Prime member – Amazon Prime Photos – unlimited backup.

    I have some friends that are “Cloud Hesitant” often to their regret.

    My MacBook Pro is 7 years old: last year thought it was due for a replacement. I accidentally bricked it. Even though it was long since past warranty – Apple Support talked me through a complete drive wipe and a boot from a firmware link to the web.

    A few hours later – my old machine was BETTER than new. Amazing.

    • protonsforbreakfast Says:


      Thanks for that. I am not ‘cloud-phobic’. I have photo back ups there for example. But the One Drive thing was just appalling. I just could not figure out where the ‘original’ file was. Windows would select a One Drive back over the original ‘on computer’ file, and then not sync them.

      Also it would re-start my computer without asking which is unforgivable.

      I have a 10 year old iMac which is still going but I was using the PC for ‘work’ things – office applications. I have bought one of the new M1 MacBooks and it’s very fine so far, if a little unfamiliar.

      Anyway – hopefully everything will now be produced so much faster!

      Best wishes


  2. abc Says:

    I had a hard-disk faliure on my family home PC many years ago. We managed to recover most of the data, after a long process. Since then, I have always been backing-up all my photos, docs, etc. on a portable HDD.
    I also do not like backing up my personal stuff on the cloud and I have separated the “My Documents” folder from the OneDrive documents folder – I do not remember how I did it, but I managed.

    Also, regarding Windows restarting to update, there is an option to avoid this annoying problem: you can set up a time for Windows to install updates and/or you can set it up to be warned when new Windows updates are ready to be installed.

    • protonsforbreakfast Says:

      Alberto: Hi.

      I have not been able to stop the re-starts, and frankly I think I should be the person who decided IF I want to install an update on my computer.

      With windows I got the sensation that MS thought that their relationship with the software was more important than my relationship with my work.

      I know that people manage with Windows – and that the alternatives are not hassle free. But I happy to be rid of Windows.

      Best wishes


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