Computer Crash photo from ShutterstockThe computer has changed the way we do business and work. So when a computer crashes, it becomes nearly impossible to work. This is what happened to me when I woke up last Friday morning and my computer wouldn’t boot. After a couple of blue screens, I determined I’d need to take it in for repair. The problem for me is that as a freelance writer, blogger and online entrepreneur, nearly all my work is done online. Without a computer, I wouldn’t be able to work and make a living.

Even if your business or job isn’t 100% virtual, a crashed computer can severely impact your ability to work. Here are some tips to preparing for and surviving a computer crash.

Preparing for Computer Doom

The best way to survive a disaster is by being prepared. Here’s how to be prepared for when your computer crashes:

  1. Back-up your computer on a regular basis. Backing up your computer means you have all your documents safely stored in case they can’t be retrieved off the crashed computer. Ideally, back-up to an external drive or online storage service, which makes your information easier to retrieve and restore to your computer (as opposed to backing up on your computer).
  2. Have a back-up computer ready to use. A week ago I went out of town, so I pulled out my laptop, updated everything and added resources I’d need to work while I was away from my desktop. Thank goodness I did because now I have a slow, but useable computer to work with while my PC is being repaired. From now own, I’ll be sure to keep everything up-to-date on the laptop so I can easily resume working, if necessary, in the future.
  3. Keep your serial numbers with your software in case you need to install programs on a back-up computer. The audio editing software I use for my podcast isn’t on my laptop, but I have the software disk and the all serial numbers filed together. If you download software, make a backup copy of the install file and the email with any passwords or serial numbers needed to install and activate the software. If your computer can’t be restored and instead is reset, you’ll need these to re-install all your software.
  4. Use web-based services that aren’t dependent on a specific computer. I’m working on a book. For the most part, I write on my desktop (the one that crashed). But on occasion, I like to work at the local java joint, so instead of saving the document on my PC, I save it to Drop Box. Now I can easily access the document on my other computer. My blogs and websites are built on WordPress. I use Gmail and Google Calendar. All of these resources are web-based, allowing me to work anywhere I can get online.

Surviving a Computer Crash

A computer crash can seem like the end of the world, especially if much of your income is dependent on your ability to get online. Here are tips to making the best of a bad situation.

  1. Don’t panic (unless you’re not prepared). If you’ve done the steps above, a computer crash is just a hassle, not a disaster. As annoying as it is, you don’t need to waste time freaking out. If you’re not prepared, it will be difficult not to panic, but you still want to stay calm. It’s difficult to problem solve if you’re thinking doom and gloom. Staying calm will help you think clearly on the next step.
  2. Try to undo the last thing you did. Depending on what you’re computer is doing, sometimes undoing the last thing you did will get the computer running again. Or, use your PC’s restore feature to reset the computer back to a time before the problem occurred. If you have a blue screen or can’t get to any programs that would let you make changes, don’t try anything unless you’re a tech expert.
  3. Get help. Most people I know who have had to take their computers in for repair were without their computers for at least a week. My estimated repair time is two weeks. If I didn’t have a back-up laptop, I’d be scrambling right now (see above on being prepared). The point is, the sooner you get help, the sooner you’ll be back up and running. Before your computer goes bad is the best time to research computer tech companies. Once something goes wrong, get in touch with your expert right away to get the computer running again.
  4. Make a plan to get your work done. Your boss or clients will sympathize with your problem, but they also expect you to get your work done. A computer crash isn’t an acceptable excuse for a professional. For example, I do a podcast interview each week. Fortunately, the names, dates and times, and email of each week’s guest are on my web-based calendar. Unfortunately, their bio and other items I need to do the interview were downloaded to my crashed PC-based email. The answer is that I’ll ask for the bio and material again when I email to confirm the interview. Find a way to get the materials and resources you need to get your work done. If you don’t have a back-up computer, go to the library or see if a friend has a spare one (you’d be surprised how many people have old computers sitting around).

Like death and taxes, a crashed computer is inevitable at some point. But you can minimize the impact by being prepared and taking action when your computer goes on the fritz.