Gear Tech

Blame It On Murphy

Recently, I had the unfortunate experience of helping a friend, who is an accountant, troubleshoot a computer problem. Unfortunate, because we couldn’t easily solve his problem. He had a major PC meltdown.

While no computer genius, my friend knows enough to poke around the inside of his PC. He had bought a second printer, this one color, from a local store—and a LPT card so he could run two printers. The process of opening up the PC, inserting the card into the right slot, closing up the box, and restarting the computer should have been easy. He knows enough about a PC to do this confidently. But, as Murphy says: “Anything that can go wrong…” 

Right from the start, the computer behaved badly. Hours of phone technical support with Gateway, the PC’s manufacturer, troubleshooting by his computer-savvy wife, and loads of input from me couldn’t get his machine up and running. He later learned from a local repair shop, the computer’s motherboard was fried. He was also told all data on his hard drive was lost, too, though the disk itself might be recoverable.

Talk about dark disaster. This is a business machine with loads of data and information my friend could not afford to loose. He also needs a fully functional office computer. Hey, tax season is coming. Fortunately, my friend is smart. He backs up his data using a tape drive and had recently archived everything on his PC. He also works with a laptop and keeps the most recent data there, so his business hasn’t been devastated or even impaired by the loss of his main computer.

He was also smart to buy from a reputable company with a good warranty. Gateway will replace the motherboard for free—and send fresh memory, too. That’s standard operating procedure at the South Dakota-based firm. So with some expense on my friend’s part for installation, he should have his business PC up and running within a week of the disaster.

Sound like a happy ending? I wish. There is still the question of why his motherboard failed when inserting the new LPT card. I have consulted with several experts who build business PCs and they all agree that it is unlikely the act of putting in the card fried the motherboard. My friend took all the right precautions, like discarching static electricity before opening the box. More likely, the card was defective. And I suspect he was sold the wrong card for his PC, which is why he and the store where he purchased the LPT card are unnamed.

The lesson to be learned here is simple, Murphy was right: Anything that can wrong, will go wrong—and at the worst possible moment. Because my friend took precautions, he bought his office PC from a reputable company with a good warranty and backs up his data, he prevented what could have been a business-crippling disaster. He was right to try to install the card himself. He knows enough about the inside of a PC to do that. But he was wrong to trust the local shop that sold him the LPT card with the printer.

He also nearly made the mistake of trusting the repair shop that helped him, too. The outfit recommended he format his data-damaged drive and recover everything from backup. I put a fast stop to that. I warned my friend: what if the backup turned out to bad? His course on this incident just cried out for another stoke of bad luck. He invested in a new, larger hard drive instead and attempted to restore from backup. The old drive could be sent off for data recovery if need be.

When dealing with a mission-critical, business PC, you can never take enough precautions. Start smart by buying smart—and always use anti-virus software and backup regularly.

Editors Note: On July 27, 2017, this post was recovered, using Archive.org Wayback Machine, from a snapshot of my first website, at editors.com strangely called: “Blue Sky, Business, and the Maine Outback”. What was I thinking?

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