Friday, December 3, 2010

Recovering from computer crash

My laptop computer crashed yesterday. This post is being written on my wife's laptop. We had concluded several years ago that there was a reason for the term "personal computing" and that a second computer was cheaper than a divorce.

We are back in California and will be home later today after a four week road trip to visit family back east. That is good because it will allow me to get back on my desktop computer while we decide if my laptop can be salvaged. That part of the timing of this crash is the good news. In some other respects, it couldn't come at a worse time. I am entering the last two weeks of my online course that I teach each fall in Ethics in the Information Age. Also, the draft of my next book, A Crash Course in Genealogy, is due to my editor at the end of the month.

My problems may be mitigated because of an action I took shortly before we left on our trip. I subscribed to Dropbox. I did this primarily for the ease with which I can synchronize the files on my desktop and laptop computers. In retrospect, it may have saved much of the data on my laptop in case we are not able to rescue that data. Most of my genealogy files, class files and book draft, photos and supporting documents are included in directories that I sync through Dropbox.

Dropbox offers 2GB of free online storage. Fortunately for me, I chose to upgrade to a paid for version that allows me 50GB of storage. The way this works is that linking software is downloaded to each computer from which you wish to access your online files. Then you drag the files you wish to store online into the Dropbox directory on that computer. If the computer is online to the Internet, the files are uploaded to your online Dropbox. If you have another computer, in my case my laptop, you need to install the program on it as well.

Before we left home I went online with my laptop and allowed it to sync all the files that I had uploaded from my desktop. Hopefully, all changes I made to these files or new documents I created in these directories in the last month were uploaded from my laptop as I made them. When I get home later today, I should be able to boot my desktop computer and it will download my latest version on these files from my online Dropbox. If this works as expected, what could have been a major data disaster will only be an inconvenience.


  1. Hello there!

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    We will announce your blog in our weekly New Genealogy Blogs on Saturday, December 4, 2010. In the meantime, please visit the About ( section at GeneaBloggers to learn how you can display your GeneaBloggers badge on your blog and also how you can participate in activities such as the Daily Blogging Themes.

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    Thomas MacEntee

  2. Hi Dr. D - sounds like we're practically neighbors! I'm also a member of SLOCGS, but haven't been able to attend many meetings, unfortunately. Hope to see you there some time!

    P.S. I also love Dropbox. The only problem arises when the folder doesn't properly sync. I've had this happen with my netbook, when it wasn't connected the the internet (and I thought it was). Next time it connected, everything was fine. As long as your outgoing sync from your home computer worked, you should be ok.

  3. I know a couple people who use and highly recommend dropbox. Unfortunately when I tried it, I lost my data...I am sure it was user (me) error, but it wasn't a pretty site...
    I just stick to backing up on the portable hard drive and memory sticks for now - til I get my cyber confidence back up again.