pedanther: (science)
[personal profile] pedanther
So, the last week has been interesting, computer-wise. (But there's a happy ending.)

It began when I finally got tired enough of the little ways in which my computer was showing its age to go and ask the computer guy if there was anything simple that could be done without going in for a whole new computer. The guy listened to my description of the problem, asked how old the computer was, and diagnosed that the hard drive was starting to wear out. I agreed to bring my computer in and have a new hard drive installed, after getting his assurance that he could shift everything straight from the old hard drive to the new one and everything would still be where I was used to finding it.

I took it in on a Wednesday. It took a couple of days to reach the head of the queue, during which time I made do without a desktop computer at home. On Friday, I got a call from the computer guy, who had started work on my computer and realised that it was older even than he'd gathered - specifically, so old that it still ran a version of Windows that Microsoft no longer supports and that is therefore at risk of all kinds of things.

Did I, he asked, want him to upgrade the computer to Windows 10 while he had it in his hands?

I said yes, since I'd always intended to get the upgrade at some point and it seemed more straightforward to have a new operating system put in at the same time as the new hard drive than to come back and get it done later. I said yes without thinking about it much or asking some important questions, because it was now Friday afternoon and he needed an immediate answer or I'd be without a desktop computer for another two days at least.

What I should have done was ask: Can you still shift everything straight from the old hard drive to the new one if you're changing the operating system at the same time? (To which the answer is of course, "No", that being one of the reasons I'd been putting off upgrading.)

What I should have done was take the computer back as it was and spend the weekend thinking it over, and if appropriate making copies of everything on the old hard drive that I wanted to keep.

But I didn't think of that at the time, and time was pressing, so I said yes, and just before the computer guy shut up shop for the weekend, I got my computer back, with a brand new hard drive and a brand new operating system. And a brand new outer casing, because the computer guy had talked me into getting one of those as well, with upgraded USB ports in it.

Which led to the first bit of excitement, when I got home and found that the new casing didn't have anywhere to plug in the cable from the monitor.

There are, I have learned, three different types of cable commonly used to connect computers and monitors (VGA, DVI, HDMI). The new computer casing only has ports for two of them, and the one it's missing just happened to be the one I'd been using to connect the monitor to the old case. Fortunately, some rummaging in the big box of Electronic Bits I Kept In Case They'd Be Useful One Day produced a spare VGA cable, so things could proceed. (It also annoyed me enough that I spent a chunk of Saturday finally getting around to sorting out the big box of electronic bits properly so I could find things when they became useful, but that's another story.)

With the monitor connected, I could get on with turning the computer on and seeing how it was different. It was fast. It was shiny. All the annoying signs of age were gone.

Also gone were most of the files that had been on the old hard drive.

This, I should say, is not the fault of the computer guy. I should have discussed things with him more beforehand. I should, as I said above, have made my own copies of stuff so I knew I had everything I wanted. He'd copied over the obvious stuff, like Windows preferences, and everything in the My Documents folder. But not the settings and files for any of the third-party programs I'd had installed on the old hard drive. Meaning, among other things, no email program (and no saved emails), and no web browser (and no browser bookmarks or saved sessions).

There was a lot of swearing as the amount of missing stuff sunk in, but by the time I turned in Friday night I'd come around to the idea that there was nothing to be done until Monday, when I could go and ask about getting the rest of the stuff copied off the old hard drive. The computer guy had given me the old hard drive, in a static-proof bag, and told me to come back if there was anything important missing, so I knew there was a good chance. But first I had to get through the weekend.

It was a weird weekend. Normally, I spend a large chunk of my weekend catching up on my emails and my websites, but without my emails or my bookmarks I had to find other stuff to do. Other stuff included:

* Sorting the big box of electronic bits into two smaller boxes, one of useful bits organised so I could find them again and one of bits that were no longer useful.
* Buying a new HDMI monitor cable to replace the spare VGA cable. (VGA cables were designed for the old CRT-type monitors, and aren't so good with modern monitors, which is why it had been the spare in the first place.)
* Figuring out why the screen image went weird and cut off at the edges after I plugged the HDMI cable in. (Turns out the monitor has two HDMI settings - one for being a computer monitor and one for being a TV - and it had guessed incorrectly about which one was wanted.)
* Listening to podcasts.
* Reading a novel.
* Re-installing games from Steam and marvelling at how much more quickly they loaded.
* Reading another novel.
* Installing Mass Effect finally, and spending several hours playing (including an hour on character creation, and probably another hour trying to get through the five-minute timed bomb disposal mission without any of my teammates getting killed).

Monday morning, after a weekend spent worrying about whether the old hard drive would still work and whether the computer guy would be annoyed and other such worries that in retrospect were not bound by actual probability, was actually a bit of an anticlimax. I took the old hard drive in, and explained that I'd like a copy of all the files since that was the only way I wouldn't worry something had been missed, and he came up with the idea of an enclosure, which is a box that a hard drive can be installed into that turns it from a hard-drive-that-goes-inside-your-computer to a hard-drive-that-plugs-into-the-outside-of-your-computer-using-USB. That way whenever I find something else I missed, I can plug it in and retrieve the relevant files.

And now I have my emails and bookmarks back (hurray!) and am caught up on Tumblr and Dreamwidth (hurray!). And that - hopefully - is the end of interesting computer times for now.
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