How I Survived A Computer Crash. Lessons Learned.

This week my notebook computer (a Lenovo 3000 N100) crashed. I smelled a burning smell but since I have a cold I couldn’t quite place where the smell was coming from. Even if I could – it would have been too late.
Interestingly enough the battery but the electricity from the power adapter was not giving electricity to the computer. In fact when the computer was turned off, the power light flickered and other weird things happened. Clearly indicating that there was a major problem with the power of the computer.
Of course…my computer was not in warranty and I hadn’t purchased any fancy extended warranty plan or anything like that. (Trust me, the day your computer crashes – your warranty will have expired the day before). I called a local repair shop and was told it would cost $90 just to look at the computer and of course more to repair it.
The computer is about 3 years old – quite old for a notebook used a lot and I was in the market to buy another one anyhow. I was considering Lenovo, Dell or HP. I had not made a decision on which one to buy.

My first concern was how would I be able to conveniently access my critical data, namely email until a new computer came. Thankfully I had recently switched my email to a hosted exchange solution (Intermedia) and all my email was available via the Internet.
Using Microsoft ActiveSync I connected to my ISP’s Exchange Server (my email is hosted on a hosted Microsoft Exchange server) and was able to perfectly have full email, calendar and task access almost as good as BlackBerry users. Actually it would be just as good, but the Motorola Q is definitely not the best email device in the world.
As far as my other data, it’s backed up with Carbonite, so all my critical files were quite fine. What I don’t have is a complete image of my hard disk and full back up of all files…this is what I’ll work on next.
As I was browsing for a new computer and considering if I wanted to pay $800 or $1,500 for a new one, an interesting thought hit me in the head. I’ve written about this several times and chatted about this with Ridgely Evers (Netbooks).
I went to eBay – yeah eBay – and looked for the same computer. Why?
Not because I didn’t want a brand new computer, but for a few reasons:

  • I could get the computer faster. As the eBay seller was in New York City. I picked it up the same day.
  • i would be able to simply swap the hard disk of the down computer for the good computer.

This process worked almost flawlessly. In the end I simply downloaded a multi-megabyte “system update package of files to new computer and everything worked fine. Prior to this, I spent several annoying hours trying to get my Wifi and audio drives working. But in digging around online for a solution, I used Lenovo’s very good System Update, which like Windows Update, searched my hardware for missing drivers, downloaded what it needed and the machine now works perfectly.
I spent $500 for a refurbished Lenovo. It works just fine. Other benefits?

  • My old Lenovo had a 3 year old display – a bit dusty and dingy. My new Lenovo now has a very bright and shiny new screen. Like the new one had when I first purchased it.
  • Form 3 years of continuous and hard typing the keys on the old Lenovo were quite mushy. This new keyboard is lovely.
  • After being dinged and clinged a few times the latch to open the computer was missing and I always had to use a pen to open the computer.

So there you have it. My computer was down and now things are fine. A few hours of frustration, $500 and eBay – not too bad.
Lesson’s learned. Ensure you have a full backup of all data files, not just critical ones. Create an IMAGE of the entire hard disk. If I buy a new computer, with different hardware, I’m not sure if the image will work so well though as the drivers will be quite different from an HP, to Lenovo to Dell computer.
For you next computer purchase consider buying a brand new computer and a used computer of the same model. You’ll have an instant and probably just as good replacement computer in the event of a hardware crash.