ATLANTA - Your computer is going to die.
I can even tell you how it will happen. Your computer will be purring along like the most loving of house cats and then, with no warning at all, sink its claws into you in a most painful way. It won't care that your business proposal must be finished by dawn, or that school assignments are due. Heck, it will revel in the fact.
Creating a plan for the day your computer dies can turn a disaster into a mere annoyance. Sweat a little now, or sweat a lot later. If you're willing to spend some time preparing for that ugly day, let's get started.
I'm going to make the crazy assumption that you have been doing regular data backups, as I've advised so often. If you haven't, nothing we do today will be of much help.
With that leap of faith on my part, it's time to begin our disaster planning.
Your salvation starts with a small box or empty desk drawer. Everything you need on that fateful day should be in an easy-to-find place. You are likely to be in a panic and that's no time to be searching the house for the discs and tools you are going to need.
Start by finding and assembling all the installation discs you will need. That starts with your copy of Windows, along with the activation code. Then add discs for the programs you use and their codes.
The original copy of Windows is especially important. It can be used to start your computer and sometimes repair the problem even if your hard disk seems dead. Now is the time to learn how all that works. So type these words into the search box for Windows Help: Startup repair.
When the information is on the screen in its own separate window, hit the print button at the top of that window. After all, if your computer dies you won't be able to reach that information. Click around on the various other topics that search also will display. You'll be able to read about how to use the repair tools on the disc. With a bit of luck, using those tools can straighten things out on the spot.
Once you have done your reading and printed out the information, create a disc that contains the drivers - the tiny programs that let your computer control devices such as scanners, printers and video cards. This disc saves you the hassle of popping in a series of discs to get all your external devices working again. And without the driver discs, which also will be included with the software that came along with the printer or video card, the device may not work.
This Web page - http://tinyurl.com/22rrqef - explains the procedure of collecting all the drivers in one place in great detail. It makes use of a program called DriverMax to do the job. The Web page offers a link to that program.
We talked about the need to print out information that can only be reached using your computer. Since we won't be able to depend on the computer if disaster strikes, it's a good idea to find the manual that came with your computer along with manuals for your other devices and to store them away in that drawer or cardboard box.
Now that we've assembled a drawer or box full of discs and reading material, there is still more that we can do.
In most homes a maze of wires connect your computer to all sorts of devices. Ethernet cables go from the modem to a router, hub and to the computer itself. USB cables connect printers, scanners and other devices. Then power cords go to electrical sockets and, if you are smart, to a UPS - an uninterruptable power supply.
It's likely that - when disaster strikes - you'll be unplugging and reconnecting many of these wires. Make things easier for yourself by labeling each wire now. I promise it'll pay off the first time you have to crawl under your desk madly tracing your way through a squiggle of wires.
With a bit of luck and some crawling around, you may be able to use the tools we've assembled to get the computer going again. On a day when fortune favors you, the Windows repair tools mentioned earlier may do the trick.
But things are sometimes even worse than they may seem at first. Your hard disk may be dead beyond saving and need replacing. Or the main circuit board on your computer could be french fried to a degree of doneness that requires purchasing a new computer.
Even then, the discs we gathered - along with the back-up copy of the data from your old computer - can turn a new hard disk, or a new computer, into a virtual clone of your old one. Once the needed purchases have been made, you'll be back at the keyboard as a sadder, and slightly poorer, person.
But you'll also be wiser. Because you'll know that all computers - no matter how powerful - are born to die.