Confessions of a Saving Queen

Friday, November 23, 2007
By Margo L. Dill

A bright blue computer screen full of white letters and numbers in a strange code, instead of the opening page of Windows XP, is a frightening thing for any computer owner. When that owner also happens to be a writer, it is sheer terror. I experienced this horror at a local coffee shop a couple weeks ago when I accessed the Internet with their free Wi-Fi. After taking a terribly long time to get connected and go online, a message popped up: “A Trojan Horse has been detected.”

This, I knew, was not a good thing. Not because I knew a lot about computers, but I did remember the actual Trojan Horse story and how the Greeks used it to catch the Trojans unaware. To make a terribly brutal long story short, my laptop did not work after I saw this message, except for an annoyingly bright blue screen with the strange white code--only decipherable to people who speak computerese. SO, I immediately took my laptop to a computer shop and said, “Help!”

When I called my husband to let him know what had happened, I was remarkably calm. He was surprised, and I was even more surprised at my demeanor. Then he pointed out, “Well, you do have it all backed up, right?”

And you’ll all be glad to know my answer was, “Yes. On that Geek Squad online backup thing.”

Then he pointed out another fact so simple and true, “This is really just an inconvenience, then. Not a big deal.”

Now, I knew he was right. My desktop computer had crashed before a few years back, and I did learn my lesson about saving my work. (Although the wonderful computer man in Columbia, Missouri, saved all my files, and I lost nothing.)

But still the paranoid writer in me kept racking my brain, going back over my steps of the last day, week, month--did I save my book every time I edited it? It has to be turned in by Dec. 31. Do I have time to type the whole thing over? I did save it. I know I did, didn’t I? These obsessive thoughts haunted me until I got to a computer and checked my Geek Squad account.

For those of you unfamiliar with Geek Squad, they are a group of computer geniuses or computer repair people, whichever way you want to look at it, that work for Best Buy and drive around in little white Volkswagen bugs. I have no opinion on them one way or another. But this online backup service they offer is the next best thing to thin crust pizza with pepperoni, mushrooms, and onions. For under $10 a month, you can back up all your files, wherever you want, 24 hours a day, and then access them from any computer at any location. Your life’s work is saved somewhere out in a secure, cyberspace place that the Geek Squad owns. I don’t claim to know how it all works. I just know it is extremely convenient and easy to use and I love it.

Anyway, I digress. So, I went to check to make sure I had been backing up all my files on Geek Squad’s online backup while my laptop sat at the computer shop. When I logged in to my account, I kid you not, there was NOTHING there. NOTHING. I then panicked. I wanted to call my husband and tell him, “This is a little more than a small inconvenience now, buddy. It’s seven years worth of brilliant writing.” (I could call it brilliant if it was missing because no one would ever be able to read it and say differently.)

I called Geek Squad immediately, and the first little agent said, “Did you try to refresh your screen?”

“Yes,” I said. “And nothing came up.”

“Oh,” he said. “Ummm, could you hold on just a minute?”

Time stood still. Sweat trickled down my chest. I almost stopped breathing. When he came back, he said, “My supervisor is having the same problem. It will be fixed within 24 hours.”

I breathed again, and it was actually fixed in a few minutes. When I logged on, my files were all there, happy to be read, but no longer claimed as brilliant.

As it turns out, the computer store did not fix my laptop because it was still under warranty, so I called the company to help. I had to wind up reloading Windows XP and erasing all my files saved on my computer. I admit I shed a few tears when the consultant on the other end of the phone said, “Ma’am, you do understand all the files in your documents folder will be erased?”

But I was lucky because I had backed my stuff up—all my stories, articles, and novels-in-progress were on Geek Squad.

So, my point of all this is NOT--don’t use your computer at a coffee shop and scream and shout if you ever see the words TROJAN HORSE on your screen. Instead, take the time to back up your files because you can be surprised at any time by those creatures on the Web. Your work is important!

My husband has me overdoing it a bit, though. Of course, this is the man that buys EVERY warranty and insurance known to man. Salespeople at appliance and electronics stores LOVE my husband and his eagerness to sign on the dotted line for the extended warranty. I actually had to stop him from buying insurance on a foosball table we bought on clearance.

Anyway, just in case, I am now saving my work on my hard drive, online backup, CDs, and a flash drive. Some of my stuff is even saved in email. But I’d rather have a little inconvenience, than a black hole any day.

Keep writing and keep saving!

Margo L. Dill


Annette said...

Oh Margo! I went through a Great Crash of Windows 98 and I know EXACTLY how you felt--with one slight difference: I wasn't backed up! At all!

It was Tuesday afternoon, October 29, 2002 and I can remember my reaction so vividly. When it crashed, the words "Oh God!" choked past my heart, which had rocketed into my throat. My blood pressure shot up: full body flush, staggering dizziness. My vision faded to black around the edges and I almost passed out; I felt like I was going to throw up. I didn't cry, not sobbing anyway, I just had tears slowly filling and running out of my right eye. (Who knows what was going on with the left one; maybe it was in shock.) I just sat there trembling.

It was six years worth of work: four feature film scripts, articles, essays, a one-act stage play, a 200-page grammar textbook (that was a project from college), seminar and craft notes, all of my industry contacts and conversation logs, and the beginnings of my first book. There were a total of 467 files in my "Writing Stuff" main folder--GONE.

I said if I couldn't get it all back, I would never write again.

Fortunately, my mother was married to a computer geek at the time. So, he pulled out my hard drive, put it into one of his computers and was able to access the data. It was all recovered. YAY! =)

Now I have two things that will ensure that it never happens again:

1. An iMac computer.
2. A 250 GB external back-up drive.

Now, I just need to remember to back up regularly! LOL

Angela Mackintosh said...

Margo, great post! I have to tell you, I am the backup Queen as well, although I don't have a geek squad as my posse. ;-)

I'm constantly saving my work as I write, in fear that somehow-something-somewhere might quit on me. It's an absolute disaster when that happens.

Yikes, you were lucky!

Fortunately, I have a Mac, and all the snobbery that comes with it. ;-)

But, I've seen this happen to many, many friends and writers. It's horrifying...

I seriously don't know how all your documents could have been erased! What a nightmare. (knock on wood) But I've never had that happen.

As a "semi-kinda-techie" I know that there's always a way to recover files even after a complete computer meltdown. No matter what, I've always been lucky enough to rebuild everything I've lost, even if the computer disagrees with me and "says" nothing is there. You figure, if the FBI etc. can recover all those deleted files on your hard drive, there must be a way... or, at least, that's what I choose to believe, lol. I guess I'm my own geek squad. =oP

But like anything, all that stuff takes an incredible amount of time and research. And for the most part, it's not worth it. Finding a service like the Super Geeks is a very helpful and great resource for writers.

Thanks so much for sharing, and TG your puter is okay!



PS. LOL on your hubby! Did you ever see that Simpsons episode where Homer realizes that he has a crayon lodged in his brain? “Extended warranty... how can I go wrong!”

Sue said...

This is so timely for me. I have yet to back up my files, and I keep pushing that "to do" item farther down my list. I'm so bad.

Years ago, in Texas, shortly after moving from the northwest, our computer crashed, and I lost everything. It felt like Annette described, but I think I actually passed out. Just joking!! I wanted to pass out to forget my stupidity!

Thanks for writing this post; it's vital for everyone.

Anonymous said...

I've had a few things lost because of not backing up. Sometimes just what I'm currently working on and a couple of times the whole thing. The first time a computer geek friend recovered the files the second time they were gone.

Now I back up everything on an external hard drive. This really should be listed as a "Must Have".

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