Imperfect end to an imperfect week

I couldn’t even get myself to post yesterday, I was just done. This last week was the shit week for computer troubles. After spending the first half of the week struggling over my wife’s computer, and Thursday reformatting and reinstalling Windows on a coworker’s computer, Friday was the kicker.

The hard drive in the boss’s computer at work died. Yeah, the Boss. I get to work Friday morning, find a note on my desk: “Computer says ‘Disk boot failure, insert system disk’ since last night.” Ohhhhhh, how I hoped the problem was simply that there was a disk in the floppy drive.

There wasn’t.

Nope. Machine won’t boot; hard disk clicks when it has power. That’s never a good sign. Can’t usefully boot to the floppy; the bootable floppy disk I have is for Windows 98 (yes, almost all of the computers in the office are still running Windows 98), and this is a newer eMachine running Windows XP, so the Win98 boot disk can’t recognize the NTFS partition. Contemplate for a moment running the restore CD, but that will wipe out all the data on the drive, and that can’t happen.

Of course, like all good, responsible IT persons, I make sure any critical work and files in the office are on the network, right? Right. And the network data is backed up to tape every night, right? Right. So, there really should be no problem, right? Just restore Windows XP (though it’s a bad drive, remember, and really should be replaced), and all the data is safe, right? Well, almost.

Friggin’ Microsoft Outlook stores all of its data—emails, contacts, events—in a single .PST file on the local machine, not on the network. Uh-oh. And for the Boss, email is the lifeblood of communication in the company; he’ll send out 40-plus emails in any given day. Double uh-oh.

But no, wait, hold on: like all good, responsible IT persons, I have batch files running on individual workstations that back up the Outlook data files to the network daily, so that they’ll be backed up to the tape each night. This was instituted months ago, after the CFO of the company suffered a major email loss and we identified Outlook as a Major Point of Weakness in the company’s data integrity.

Whew! Run to the network, open up the appropriate user folder where the Outlook data file should be, check the timestamp on the file.

Time freezes.

Somewhere nearby, a cat meows in slow motion. A trillion water molecules in the Deschutes River ricochet off one another in a brilliant cacophany of sound not unlike that of billiard balls on the break. Deep in my brain, a synapse fires and a single drop of sweat languidly rolls down my spine.

January 30, 2004.

Not April 1, 2004. January 30. I have never in my life wished more for something to be an April Fool’s Day prank.

So what happened to my carefully crafted plan of a batch file running at a scheduled time each night?

The Boss shuts down his computer each night before it can run.

And that, of course, is the punchline. The rest of my day at work—literally, all but about an hour of it—was spent trying in vain to access the hard drive, just to pull the email from it. No love. A computer place in town that does data recovery was able to see the drive, sort of, but were unable to pull anything from it. The only option left is to shell out up to two grand and have a professional data recovery outfit like Ontrack retrieve the email. I don’t know if we’ll go that route, though.

By the end of the day, I felt I was about to stroke out. Visions of myself convulsing on the floor seemed oddly appealing. The saving grace of it all is that it was Friday, and the kids were being watched so my wife and I were able to go out to dinner and a movie. We saw “Secret Window,” which was pretty good.

I’m hoping next week will be better.