3 Proactive Ways to Avoid Computer Grief

By | April 11, 2011

No one likes to waste time.  Sometimes spending a couple of hours now can keep you from experiencing grief, wasted efforts, and even misspent money down the line. Remember: “he who fails to prepare, prepares to fail”.

As such, the purpose of this article is encouraging you to invest a couple of hours doing relatively boring tasks. Why? Because enduring a couple of hours of boredom is well worth the trouble, if it will keep you from having to endure several nerve-wrecking, patience-twisting, heart-braking situations in the next couple of months or years.


1 – Build your personal OS rescue kit


Reinstalling an OS is a fairly simple procedure, right? You just pop in the CD/DVD, reboot your machine and the installer takes care of the rest. Well, theoretically yes indeed. However, in practice, there’s just so much that can go wrong, that will translate into hours upon hours of wasted time and increasing migraines:

Maybe your optical drive will refuse to work, maybe your original OS disk will somehow get scratched, or maybe you’ll just misplace it. Maybe a friend will come over with their netbook asking you how to reinstall Windows XP without using a CD or DVD. Maybe your laptop will just suddenly refuse booting and you’ll have to connect the hard drive to another computer before you can see what’s going on.

There are too many scenarios where the regular installation disk or rescue disk just won’t cut it. This is why it’s a wise decision come up with a neatly organized computer rescue plan, covering all possible angles.

Spend one hour building your own OS rescue kit, and never again will you have to shudder at the thought of formatting your system, or anyone else’s, for that matter.

Your personal OS rescue kit should contain:

a) Backup copy of OS installation CD/DVD (if everything goes well, this is all you’ll ever need, but you’ve heard of Murphy’s law, right? Make sure you write down any serial numbers you may need on the actual disk or a post-it note, for future reference).

b) Original OS installation CD/DVD (scratching this disk can be bad news, so always use backup copy instead).

c) Thumb drive with rescue disk / PE (pre-installed environment of your choice, so you can install your OS from a thumb drive in case optical disk drives are broken or unavailable).

d) Universal HDD cables (in case you have to connect a laptop hard drive to your desktop computer).

e) Set of screw-drivers (how many times have you tried unscrewing your computer case with a nickel, because you couldn’t find an appropriate screw-driver at the time?)

f) A few blank DVDs (you never know when they will be useful… most often they will be useful when you don’t have any around, so just in case, keep them in stock)


2 – Set up your personal backup plan.


Even though it’s fairly easy keeping data backups, the majority of computer users simply don’t bother doing so. This, naturally, translates in major grief, sooner or later. Don’t be like that. Spend one hour setting up a detailed backup plan and you’ll never again have to worry about losing data. This is usually pretty easy to do, and always worth being done.

You can back up your files quite easily, both online and off-line. In fact, if you’re a webmaster, you even can (and should) set things up so that your website or database is automatically backed up every week or so (depending on how regular your updates usually are).

a) Offline backup: Just get an external HDD for backup purposes and configure your OS to synch up your important files or folders whenever you plug this drive into your computer.

b) Online backup: Nowadays there are quite a few handy online backup services (such as Dropbox) that integrate into your operating system, meaning you can easily backup your work as easy as right click -> go.

c) Website backup: If you’re a webmaster, don’t assume your website is kept safe by your host. There are many backup tools available, for a good reason. Spend 5 minutes setting up a website backup now, and you’ll avoid feeling major grief if something ever goes wrong with your website or database.


3 – Schedule System Maintenance Tasks.


Even if you have a fast computer, modern operating systems can go a long way to clutter up your workflow with their bad timing and compulsive need to update or renew components.

For example, you’re doing research-intensive work online and suddenly Windows decides it’s time to update some files, which puts a dent on your bandwidth and makes your patience grow thin. Well, this is the kind of thing that you can easily avoid with a little bit of planning ahead.

If you do a little clicking around, you’ll notice how maintenance software usually allows scheduling tasks. This is feature that most people overlook, but it can be most useful to make sure your operating system does not get all over your face with trying to do all the right things at the wrong time.

What you want to do is make sure that all maintenance tasks – including backups, updates, virus scans, defragmentation, etc. – are properly scheduled for a time you’re not using your computer. This is how you get the best of both worlds: a properly updated and maintained system, and no putting up with obtrusive maintenance tasks while you’re trying to get some work done.


Guest Writer: This is a guest post by Dominic Acito. Dominic brings his experience as a computer engineer, a pc super user, and a web developer to our site. Why not pay a visit to Dominic’s site about how to fix a slow computer.