frustratedman.jpgPersonal computers are great tools but many times people overlook the smallest details for protecting their investment.  Learn how to avoid costly computer mistakes.

frustratedman.jpgPersonal computers have given everyday people a tool that they can use to increase their productivity and their income. Occasionally, however, these same people make costly mistakes and they wind up spending more than necessary.

Although my company sells and sets up computers and networks, much of our business comes from helping people with their computer problems. In the past few weeks, we have had several instances of costly computer problems that could have been easily avoided. Perhaps telling you about these will help you avoid the same mistakes.

So ladies and gentlemen, the stories you are about to read are true; only the names have been changed to protect the innocent.

Case #1:

Mrs. Harper runs a thriving antique business from her home. She called when her computer wouldn't boot. When she turned it on one morning, it never got to the Windows screen. No matter what she did, the computer wouldn't get past a black and white informational screen. Our diagnosis was that the hard drive had crashed and the data could not be retrieved through ordinary means. Mrs. Harper was as devastated as her computer. She had no backup of her data. The crashed hard drive contained pictures of her inventory, her company books and financial data, her costumer database, and her day-to-day operational software. We informed Mrs. Harper that she could send her hard drive in to a firm that specialized in hard drive data recovery, but that such retrieval would be costly. The firm we recommended performs "open drive surgery" in an expensive clean room environment that is necessary for the delicate repairs of hard drives. Luckily, the data recovery people were able to retrieve Mrs. Harper's data, but she encountered several days of lost business and a bill for $2,500 from the data recovery company.

The moral of the story: Not backing up your data can be costly

How to avoid this problem: You can't avoid a hard drive crash, but you can avoid the costly data retrieval by maintaining a good backup of all important data.

Case #2:

Mr. & Mrs. Easton had been happily using their two networked computers which allowed them to share their printer and files, as well as their Internet connection. Then one day, they couldn't access each others files and couldn't get on the Internet. After careful investigation, we determined that several computer components needed to be replaced. Luckily, the repairs were able to be made on the spot. The obvious cause was a power surge, probably during a recent storm. Mr. & Mrs. Easton were very computer-literate. They had their computers and their broadband modem plugged into surge protectors. So how did this happen? It turns out that the Easton's had moved to cable Internet several months ago, but they still had the telephone line plugged into their computer from their old dial-up connection, and that line was not run through the surge protector. Chances are that the power surge came down the telephone line into the computer. The Easton's were lucky, their computer equipment was repairable. Often in such cases, the whole computer is fried.

The moral of the story: Not paying attention to details can be costly.

How to avoid this problem: Make sure that all your computer components and any cable or telephone line used by your computer goes through a good surge protector. There are surge protectors made especially to handle telephone and cable lines as well as the electrical equipment.

Case #3:

John Jacobs is a local real estate salesman who often works from his home. He uses QuickBooks for his home and business finances and Microsoft Office for email, word processing, and spreadsheets. He also has purchased several programs for working with digital photos and for creating music. John called us when his computer slowed to a crawl and started acting erratically. It turned out that he was so badly infected with spyware that the only solution was to reformat the drive and reinstall the programs. Unfortunately, John was not a terribly well-organized person. After an extensive search he concluded that he hadn't saved any of his program disks and couldn't find the recovery disks that came with his computer. Since John's computer was pretty old, he decided to just purchase a new computer. That gave him a clean hard drive and new operating system, but didn't solve the problem of the missing program disks. John had to repurchase full versions of several of the programs that he otherwise might have just moved to his new computer or that he could have purchased at a lower price by buying an upgrade rather than a full version.

The moral of the story: Your computer disks are valuable.

How to avoid this problem: Always save any disks that come with your computer. Make the restore disks immediately after your get your computer home. Save all program disks as well as the serial numbers that come with them. If you download software, copy the software file to a CD or DVD and keep the serial number with that disk.

Oh, and if you don't take the necessary precautions to avoid these problems, my telephone is 910-235-3838. You will need this ‘cause before long you'll be calling me for help.