Dec 26, 2015


My laptop screen suddenly went BLACK.


Okay, don't panic...

I'm on a laptop and the battery is charged and the cord's plugged in at both ends and I don't think this laptop has a one-touch-make-the-screen-go-black button and the house lights are still on so it's not a power outage and even if it is I'm on a friggin' laptop so what the hell?

Check connections.

All good.

Check connections a second, third, and fourth time.

All good.

Try another power cord just in case the battery's bombed AND the cord's crap.

Nope... nothing.




That was two Tuesdays ago. I was, as I often am, multi-tasking on my laptop: five or six windows open and hopping from one to the next. I need a copy of that appointment slip for next week's trip to the American Consulate in Saigon, so I'll save it as a PDF... Then, when I tried to print a hard copy, my printer suddenly showed "off-line". Strange, I thought, I can see it from here and the blue Wi-Fi light is glowing...

Then, suddenly: BLACK SCREEN.

No fade-to-black; no BSoD (blue screen of death); just BLACK!

Now I'm getting a bit concerned because I really don't want to have to buy another computer... maybe this one is salvageable. What's that phrase? "Whistling past the graveyard"?

Yeah, that's the one.

In the days that followed, I tried:

  • Everything listed on the Windows "Your computer just died and we want to give the impression that we give a shit, so here are five things you can do to feel better once you finally give up trying to fix it" web site
  • "Windows Repair" on boot-up x 3
  • "Windows Recovery Disk" (yes, I actually made one many months ago) x 2
    • The first attempt ended with a message along the lines of: "Sorry, Charlie, no can do"
    • The second one ran about 60 hours before I decided that it must be stuck in a loop and stopped it
  • Removing the hard drive and putting it in a "Hard Drive Enclosure", then plugging that into my backup laptop as an external drive to access the files.
  • Taking it to TWO local computer gurus
All fruitless...

If you read the above and thought, "I'm sure that John, logical person that he is, has a recent backup of his hard drive" because you have one, please read on.

If you read to the previous paragraph without once thinking about a back-up and/or do not have one of your computer, then please finish this paragraph, click on the link at the end, and sign-up to immediately begin backing up your computer to the cloud. Once that is running, please come back and finish reading this post. Click here to go to and start your on-line backup.

Now that you have, or are in the process of creating a back-up, I will tell you that yes, all of my 282GB were continuously backed up in the cloud. The only file I lost was the PDF that I created just prior to the crash... and maybe my IE and Firefox bookmarks; I hope they are in the backup, but I don't know.

Ironically, less than a week prior, I had a conversation with Lorelle at One More Café about computers and back-ups. I told her that I've used Carbonite for about four years and had another cloud-based back-up provider a couple years before that. I also mentioned that I should do a hard back-up because it's been too long since my last and if the system does crash, the cloud-based systems can literally take weeks to restore all of your files—especially with the slower Internet download speeds we have here in VN compared to many Western countries.

I'm now working on my back-up laptop and waiting for Carbonite to re-populate it with my files. I already downloaded the 9.1GB Outlook file (30 hours) and extrapolating out from that, the rest of the files should be complete within... UT-OH...

So far, the backup laptop is holding up. Now I get to buy a new laptop.

Top contender is an iMac 13" with Retina display because I think I'm DONE with Windows. Whatever I buy will probably wait until my trip to Thailand because:
1) I will have a better selection
2) Prices are significantly lower
3) I need time to consider the learning curve

This is one of the few times I'm looking for other people's opinions and so far, everyone says, "DO IT!"

I ask again... are you fully backed up? Click here for Carbonite's backup options.


  1. John, if you get the Macbook, use the Time Machine and an external hard drive. Not all the time, just plug it in every week or so, so Time Machine can do its work. Next time your drive crashes, you can be up and running in a day or so - rather than the weeks it will take you to complete a Carbonite backup. My Mac drive has crashed twice in the past 9 years, and both times, it was no big deal, thanks to Time Machine.

  2. Thanks, Chris; great advice! I'm in Saigon and just bought the Macbook, but didn't see a Time Machine. I'll look for it next trip.