Friday, October 21, 2011

George Mindling Column 9-24-2004

Dealing With Damaged PCs


As Internet cable and telephone services are slowly restored to our hurricane damaged area, people once again turn on their PCs and attempt to log onto the Internet. E-mails are backed up beyond capacity for many users as some people haven’t checked their messages since August 13th.

Some Personal Computers were waterlogged and many were covered with debris from collapsing ceilings. A few people actually covered their systems with garbage bags before the storm, a simple but effective way to protect personal computers and printers from contamination. Most PCs, however, were not protected from Hurricane Charley.

While many people simply brush off the unit and plug it in, PCs that were subjected to the elements should be checked by someone qualified to say whether or not a unit is safe to power on. Powering up a PC subjected to obvious water contamination is a good way to fry a power supply or a system board. A hard drive is usually pretty safe, although I had one fail yesterday. Connectors and cables may show signs of rust or corrosion that will lead to premature failure. In the case of a hard drive that comes back to life after being subjected to the elements, don’t be surprised if the life expectancy is shortened considerably. If you are lucky enough to get your machine to cooperate, copy the hard drive’s data to a back up source as soon as possible. The best bet is new hard drive at worst, a new PC at best. Saving your data to CDs or DVDs is almost mandatory. A PC that has been sitting idle for an extended time may not power up without groans of protestation as the hard drive tries to attain operating speed. Sometimes the noise is a bad fan, but that is another problem that will lead to overheating the processor chip or the memory chips.

There are many ways to back up your systems, from the older tape drives to RAID (Redundant Array of Independent Drives) disk arrays. I use a mirror hard drive to back up my programs and data. In other words, I have two identical hard drives in my PC. One used normally, the other is an exact duplicate of the main drive. I use a commercially available disk copy program to copy the data from one to the other.

I hadn’t backed up the complete system since April, and yesterday my C, or main drive, failed completely. The drive motor died and nothing will make it spin again. Effectively, the drive is useless. I had backed up my financial data on CD the day before the hurricane, so reloading current data was no problem. I had to load several program updates that weren’t on the back up drive, but that only took a couple of hours and I am again writing on my PC. Now I need to backup the new drive. I know it will fail eventually, I just don’t know when.

George Mindling ©  2004

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