Tech – for Everyone

Tech Tips and Tricks & Advice – written in plain English.

Another look

Every now and then, something comes along and upsets our daily routine. This causes us to make adjustments and adapt. I am a fairly typical example of human nature in that I find upsets to my routine (sense of normalcy), well, upsetting. I get things set to the way I like them, and I want them to stay that way… and I get cranky when they’re not.

Yesterday, the hard drive on one of my testbed machines gave up the ghost and died: one machine down. Then last night we had a storm and some funny things happen to our electricity — all of my lights got really bright and then ‘poof’ darkness; then, quickly, about three times in a row, the power tried to come back on, but failed. A couple of minutes later, it was on and stayed on.. long enough to develop a false sense of relief. Then it was out for an hour. Basically, a “surge”, followed by “line recycling”.

Now I don’t want you to think I’m snivelling. I’m not. But I did need to “set the stage” for this — another of my machines was plugged into a cheap, old, powerstrip pstrip.jpgwhich did not react to the surge. So, that machine experienced the full roller-coaster ride of a surge in power, sudden outage, rebooting, outage, full reboot+full outage.. which, apparently, it didn’t like very much.
I have yet to determine if it just the Windows installation that was damaged, if the reported RAM memory module errors are temporary, or if a component on the motherboard is now “fried”. Second machine down.

Due to these things, and the fact that I simply cannot live without a computer, a trip to my local electronics store was my first act of the day– and because there is a moral to this story (actually, a couple of them) I will share with you my purchases.
Moral #1: the devices I had plugged into modern, rated, and not “cheap” powerstrips suffered no ill effects. (I had used the old powerstrip because it had happened to be handy.) There is a difference in the quality of powerstrips, and their protective abilities. I made a conscientious inventory and have replaced all my old powerstrips with ones specifically designed belkin.jpgand rated for sensitive electronics. (If you are in an area that has lightning [and who isn’t?] it is a good idea to protect your phone line and coaxial cable lines too.) Such as with this “media center” one from Belkin.

Moral #2: My machines attached to a UPS also were unaffected by the surge and recyclings. However, I never got around to attaching my DSL modem and router to a UPS, as they are somewhat distant from my work area. And so, while I was able to have a computer running, the network, and the Internet was unavailable. I remedied that as well.
I wrote an article on Uninterruptible Power Supplies (UPS), which you can read by clicking here.

Moral #3: Hard drives do fail. Fortunately, replacing them is not a very difficult task. And restoring the first machine I mentioned was not all that difficult or time-consuming either.. in fact, I had a side-benefit as the new drive is quite a bit larger than the now-dead drive was.
But I must point out, I can make the statement I made (immediately above) because I had a full system backup stored on another drive. If I did not have that full backup, I would still be reinstalling programs and reconfiguring settings and updating my software and… well, anyone who’s done it can tell you, it’s a royal pain.
So I remind you, again, that it is very important to make backups of your computer.. and to store those backups on two different storage media types. To read my article on setting your computer to make backups automatically, click here.

Well, that’s it for today. I’ve got to go finish restoring my sense of normalcy, and putting my new gear in place.

Today’s free link: Many people have taken particular note of my article on Processes, and what should (or should not) be showing in the list in Task Manager. A resource for figuring out those strange looking entries that I have not mentioned before is the Process Library, which will help you determine if a process is “good” or “bad”.

Copyright 2007 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved.

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December 7, 2007 Posted by | advice, Backups, computers, hardware, how to, PC, shopping for, tech, Windows | , , , | Leave a comment