Tech Lifesavers

As an author, I depend heavily on my computer for writing my books, tracking changes, and formatting, not to mention for making and launching promo and ad campaigns. Students wail in dismay when they accidentally lose an essay on their computer. Well, as I’m sure my fellow authors can attest, losing a novel, or even several chapters of it, can be just as bad or worse.

Having experienced such a scenario, I thought I’d share what I’ve learned. There are more detailed, step-by-step instructions out there on the Internet, but my intention is to simply alert my fellow wordsmiths that these solutions exist (something I wish I’d known sooner myself).

Years ago, I was writing my polyamorous romance, Husbandry. I’d been working on it all day, saving as I went in Word at the time. Then, to be extra careful to back up my work, I saved it to my flash drive. Except much like when I’m driving somewhere new, I got my directions turned around. Instead of saving the new file to my thumb drive, I saved the old file to the hard drive and destroyed a whole day’s worth of work.

After the tears and screaming died down, I went looking for a solution to get the overwritten file back. Tip #1: If this happens to you, before you do anything else, go to Windows Explorer and search your temp files (.tmp). The file might have been saved as a temp file along the way, which means if you can find it, you’ll only lose 15 minutes or so of work instead of hours. Alas, I’ve never actually had this work for me, but maybe you will.

Tip #2: If you use a program like Word that has the option to set up backups and autosave, then you should look through those files in Explorer to see if you can recover your work. I’m sure a computer geek could explain why, but even though I’ve always set up features like this, I have never once had any luck recovering my file this way, either. I blame gremlins. Of course, if an illegal shutdown or power outage causes you to get kicked out of your file before saving, there’s a chance you’ll see your recovered file waiting for you when you open the program again.

In the case of Husbandry, nothing I did at the time worked, and I wound up having to rewrite the entire day’s work from scratch. I swore then and there that I would never do something that stupid again.

Flash forward to this week, when I did something that stupid again. I was working on rewrites on a novel—about three hours of work—and then managed to overwrite the novel’s file with a couple idiotic clicks of my mouse. I blame fatigue, WiFi issues, and the fact that I was bouncing between more than one device to work on the rewrites. Cue screaming. The blood drained out of my head the second I realized what I’d done, which was within three seconds of doing it. Who knew three seconds could cost so much? Pressing Undo didn’t work.  There were no previous versions to restore, no temp files, and no autosave files. I was sure it was hopeless, but I took the time to Google the problem and learned about free software that could help.

Tip #3: Recuva is free recovery software that you can download online. It works for all sorts of file types, not just word processing, so it’s pretty handy. It’s even supposed to recover files you’ve deleted from your recycle bin. I am in no way affiliated with the company, and to be honest, I didn’t hold out much hope. I ran the basic scan and got nothing. Then I ran the deep scan, which took over an hour. I had to sift through seventy-two files without names or dates on them, but then there it was. Although it was now only accessible through Notepad, I found my lost file and was able to get my work back. Hallelujah! I have Windows 8.1 and have encountered no side-effects from the program, though you should always be careful downloading from the Internet. I can’t promise anyone else the same results, but the program is free, and it was certainly a lifesaver for me.

This was my second run of good fortune following tech problems recently. A few months ago, I had my first encounter with ransomeware. I was in Twitter, tweeting and retweeting like we all do, when I saw a nifty tweet on wall murals. I clicked the picture to enlarge it and bam! I got a message stating that my computer was locked up and wouldn’t be released until I called such-and-such phone number. Google Chrome froze up and wouldn’t let me exit. In a panic, I turned to my old friend Control+Alt+Delete. I was able to shut down Chrome, but then my entire desktop turned blank purple. (I remember the days when it was the Blue Screen of Death, but apparently we now have the Purple Screen of Death too). I went to an alternate computer and Googled what I should do.

Tip #4: If your computer gets hijacked by ransomeware, try booting in Safe Mode and doing a system restore to the last point before the bad thing happened.

When I did this, I got my desktop and apps back, and everything seemed fine. For about twenty-four hours. The next time I booted up, I went back to the purple screen. That meant the virus was somehow still on there. Once again, I booted up in Safe Mode and did another system restore. Then I went looking for additional antivirus protection. If you want to go with a paid antivirus program, great. You’re all set.

Tip #5: If you want to use a free antivirus program, then based on my experience, you should consider using more than one (check that they’re compatible). First, I had Avast. I ran a full scan with it, but it detected no problems. Having already been fooled once, I dug deeper. I ran a free online scan with Bitdefender, which also detected no problem. Then I downloaded Malwarebytes, but it also did not find the virus. Lastly, I downloaded the Panda Cloud Cleaner. This one came with lots of warnings that it could actually remove critical Windows programs that can disable your computer if you’re not careful. But I was desperate. I knew that virus was lurking in there somewhere, and I had to make sure it was gone. So I ran Panda Cloud Cleaner, and what do you know; it found suspicious changes to my computer’s registry. I didn’t fully understand what this meant, but I grasped that it was really bad. I told the program to clean up the registry and then held my breath, waiting to see if I’d just zapped critical system files out of existence. Thank goodness, nothing catastrophic happened, and I got my computer back. I now do regular scans with all three installed antivirus programs.

Assured that I had gotten rid of the virus, I then researched ways to prevent stumbling into one online again. I was already taking the normal precautions—not hitting suspicious links, checking the URLs for safety ratings, etc.—but there was one thing I hadn’t thought of.

Tip #6: If you haven’t already, make sure you’re using Google Chrome 64-bit with your 64-bit computer, not the old 32-bit. There are instructions online for how to tell what bits your computer and your Google Chrome have. I just assumed that I had gotten the 64-bit when I updated Google Chrome. Apparently not, and my understanding is that the 64-bit is harder for hackers to get into. I don’t know if that’s true, but it certainly doesn’t hurt to make the switch.

Since I’ve gotten all these tech lifesaving tips from other people’s blogs and online articles, I thought it was time to pay it forward. How about you? Do you have any good tips to help others with their computer issues?

2 responses to “Tech Lifesavers

  1. Hugs for your pain! Losing hours of edits, ouch!

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