Since I stayed at a Holiday Inn Express last night, I am hoping that this story magically ends well, the way it always does in their commercials.
I watched my computer restart after it froze. The familiar Windows startup screen appeared, then the screen blanked and blacked out. But there in the split second between hope and despair, I saw it:
The blue screen of death.
After multiple attempts at startup recovery, my computer tells me the hard disk is bad.
A few recovery options presented themselves after that terminal diagnosis… placebos and experimental procedures, things to try when none of the traditional options help. One diagnostic test is running now.
And all I can think is, “How much have I lost?”
I have an external drive for backup storage, but I haven’t kept it up to date. It has some documents salvaged from previous laptops, which perished on long temporary duty trips or were disabled by lapses of judgment.
It’s tax season, I have my W-2, and I want to get onto Turbo Tax to get that refund. Last year’s taxes PDF? Probably gone.
(I’m an email packrat and I probably have the document in my inbox still.)
Movies and music purchased off iTunes? Some are saved on the external drive, but I should be able to download anything lost.
Writing projects? Some snippets from this year might be gone forever, but long-term notes and projects are mostly stored on my drive.
You’d think I would have learned from the great iCloud disaster of 2013 when my wife and I weren’t in sync about how that storage method worked. Literally every document I had in Pages was deleted due to misunderstanding. Apple Support was extremely polite and helpful, except for the actually recovering deleted documents part.
Program files, games I’ve purchased, those can be reinstalled as long as I can find access keys or disks. World of Warcraft mods can be downloaded and plugged in again. (Thank goodness for Steam. I can log in and presto, everything is back.)
None of these losses are huge.
“My Pictures” – that’s the loss that stings. I know there are plenty of photos on my Facebook account, and some older pictures are saved on that external drive. But there are several months of iPhone pics and videos saved onto the laptop which I will probably never get back. Months of memories. Special moments that maybe weren’t “ready for prime time” on social media, but were important enough to snap a picture for posterity. Videos of kids being silly, or pet fish that have passed on since then.
Those images, like the moments they captured, are preserved only in memories.
And sadly, our biological memory storage systems are just as prone to loss.
The old computer programming adage is still true, though slightly modified. “Save early, save often.”