How to Survive When Your Computer Doesn’t

Note: This article originally appeared on my previous website back in 2014. I’m reposting it now because it’s still relevant. 

It is no secret that I rely on my computer to function; doesn’t everybody? Not only is it a core element of my daily life, but it is also absolutely essential to my business. Which is why I was becoming increasingly terrified when the brand new laptop I bought last September started acting…funny. It started about a month after I purchased it, and has continually gotten worse. Freezing, not going to sleep, not waking up, losing internet connection and lying to me about it. Yup, my computer would lie to me. It would say I had full connectivity, but my browser would tell me otherwise.  Can you believe the nerve of it?

I knew I should take it in, but finding a time I could be without my precious PC was next to impossible. Believe it or not, I work every day. So I put it off and put it off, just re-booting whenever I would encounter an issue. But then it flat-out refused to allow me onto the interwebs. It dug in its heels, crossed its arms, stuck its tongue at me and said: “Nah nah na-nah nah, you can’t go on the internet!” So I resigned and took it in to get repaired.

Thankfully, when I purchased the computer, I also purchased an extensive service plan that allows me a loaner computer while mine is being fixed. Which is great, except that the loaner comes empty. No software, no documents, no essential programs. Nothing. I might as well be without a computer for all the good having an empty loaner does.  So how am I managing to continue on with my daily business without missing a step? With the brilliance of free software, connected apps & the Cloud.

Here’s a list of some of the software that has enabled me to continue on without my beloved computer and why they are essential.

Office 365

Cost: $100 – $150 a year

The only software I require that actually has a financial cost, Office 365 has allowed me to have the integral Office programs that I need to survive. My loaner came with nothing. And as awesome as free software such as Open Office or Google Docs is, there are some compatibility issues with the actual MS Office suite of programs. For a power-user like myself, things like formatting changes are a HUGE problem. When I create a document, it needs to look exactly as I’ve designed it when my client receives it, otherwise, I don’t get paid. With Office 365, I have access to the software that is integral to my business, no matter which device I am using.

An external back-up drive with automatic backup.

Several years ago, I had a top-of-the-line Mac that literally cost me a small fortune (about $4,000). 2 years in, and it just died.  No reason, no explanation. It just died and took all my documents with it. (I later found out it was a defect in the model, and is the sole reason why I have personally boycotted all Apple products, but that is a post for another day.)

It only takes losing all your documents and pictures once to realize that having it all stored in one spot is kind of silly. So now I use a WD My Passport  external drive that is set to back up automatically every night. If your external drive does not have an automatic back up, Western Digital provides a download of their software HERE. Having a back up of all my files available at my fingertips means that I don’t have to wait for my computer to be returned to finish a project, or send it to my client. It also means that I don’t have to start from scratch, because all of my work-in-progress projects are backed up too. And having them backed up automatically means I don’t have to remember to back them up.

Cloud Storage Back-up

Not only do I keep a back up on an external drive, but I also back up to the Cloud. Overkill? Not at all. In my particular business, I need to make sure I do not lose anything. What happens if an electrical storm wipes out both my computer and the external drive? It may be highly unlikely, but it could happen.

Depending on which Cloud storage provider you’ve chosen to use, you may or may not have access to free, automatic back up, but HERE is a great article that can walk you through setting up a backup schedule.


I have posted about Evernote before, HERE, but I cannot express how much I LOVE this app! It is a combination of a notebook, scrap book, filing cabinet and junk drawer. It stores absolutely EVERYTHING you can think of: emails, webpages, sound clips, notes, documents, the list goes on, all in one place. And because it is a connected app, you can access it on any device, whether its your computer, your smart phone, or the crappy loaner computer you’re currently using. Everything that you’ve stored there is right where you left it, no matter where you sent it from.

Thankfully, I am pretty diligent about my backups, so I have access to the majority of my documents. But even someone as diligent as me can lose things. Seems I’ve procrastinated forgotten to include 1 folder in my backup schedule. 1 measly folder. But wouldn’t you know it, that’s the one I need most right now.

Serves me right for not utilizing my own advice.

How do you Back Up?