Ready for a geek story, with genuine off-brand geeks? Last week, this was my hard drive.
My PC (a Dell Dimension C521) had done Blue Screen of Death, first to Daughter ("Mommm...the computer is doing something weird!") and then to me. After rebooting, I ran my ever-so-updated Norton Security Scan, which found the same lone "low-risk tracking cookie" that it always finds, and declared things otherwise peachy.
But the B.S. of D. kept returning, first every few days, then daily. First, I forked over $50 to Dell tech support to verify that it wasn't a hardware problem (they did the mysterious, remote-control "we-take-over-your-computer" diagnostic), but probably a virus. Norton tech support offered to "manually" remove it for hundreds of dollars, even though I am a paid-up subscriber. Having exhausted all the good will I possibly could from techie friends, I was reduced to hunting around for A Guy to Come to the House. I think I meant to call "Geek Squad," but I had a postcard lying around from "Nerd Patrol," so I called them.
Nerd Patrol claims to be an international franchise, but here in Flatbush that means a nerdy guy arrives from Coney Island Avenue, dispatched by a nice lady on Staten Island. I vaccuumed the cat hair from under the desk as I awaited his arrival. With a faint Eastern European accent, he declared that it was indeed a virus, (thanks, Norton!) although he couldn't offer the satisfaction of naming it. As the B.S. of D. feverishly appeared over and over, he delivered the awful recommendation: Reformat your hard drive. Wipe everything, reinistall Windows, start afresh, for about $300.
"I hope," he said, "that you're backed up."
Oh, God. Like the parent in a turbulence-tossed airplane who realizes she's never made a will, I frantically ran through my digital affairs. They were not in order. I had something called "Norton Save and Restore," but it turned out to have last "saved" about two years ago. Since then, it had presumably been sitting around the cracker barrel, chair tipped back, spinning yarns and blowing smoke rings at the ceiling. ("We think Norton is really worthless," said the Nerd.) I had also backed up the back-up with a black-box external hard drive called "My Book," but it had somehow been detached and forgotten months ago.
My fast-sinking stomach hit a speed bump, however, when I remembered: In a moment of sloppy brilliance, I had thrown some money at Backblaze, a service that saves your hard drive on Mars or someplace. If I was willing to digest it in 4-gig chunks, I could get it back for free, or, for bigger bucks, retrieve it by mail in one chunk. Let's just hope she works, Cap'n, we've never actually tried her, I thought, as the Nerd carried my poor naked Dell out into the cold spring air, to be stripped of all traces of my photography, writing, and personal data.
We whipped out Daughter's laptop--the joys of being a two-puter family!--and discovered that, yes, most of my stuff was sitting there on Mars. (First, however, the Nerd mistyped "Backblaze" by one character, guess which one, and up popped a studly black porno dude. Uncomfortable moment for both of us.) The drive came back and Nerd got it up and running, but it's not quite the same. Not everything came back from Mars; my precious stored e-mails, for instance, and the bookmarks of my eclectic web wanderings. After a harrowing week of restore downloads, I am mostly back up to speed. (And I ditched Norton for a nerd-recommended security called ESET, which growls menacingly at imaginary intruders.)
In fact, today the machine felt well enough to screw with me again: It refused to pop open its CD-ROM tray (even with the straightened-paper-clip-in-the-hole trick) until I ordered a whole new part ($40) from Dell. Clearly, this 2007 machine is headed for Kevorkian territory, like a used car you know you should junk but you already paid for a new transmission blah blah blah. But at least I have my photos...and yes, you should back up your stuff right now and if you're lazy, use Backblaze or something like it.
The whole trauma inspires me to share a favorite moment in the cinematic literature of memory-erasure:
For us nerds, that's a beautiful ending.