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A bad computer day—readers inquire

Readers have emailed me lamenting their computer issues after reading A Bad computer day. I responded with the best advice I could give, based on many years of professional experience. Good luck to them, and everyone else who might be suffering from inexplicable problems.

A friend of mine asks:

“My question is...what do poor normal people (like me) do when all that $@()* happens to them!”

Good question! This is one reason to make it someone else’s problem, or at least try to—purchase a support plan such as AppleCare (Mac) or the equivalent if it’s (yuck) a Windows PC.

Here are some resources related to computer perplexities:

Error Correcting Code Memory
Uninterruptible Power Supplies
PowerMac Quad Sleep Problems
PowerMac G5 Quad Setup

Summary of approach to problem solving computer freezes, etc.

  • Is it bad memory? Buy only OEM quality memory, ECC memory if your computer supports it.
  • Consider an uninterruptible power supply, to ensure clean power to your Mac and the drives.
  • Install a fresh system on a newly formatted disk. This could be a Firewire drive or a spare internal drive. Boot off this drive and see if the problems recur.
  • Never put data on the boot disk. I dedicate an external firewire drive for the boot drive so that I can use the internal drives for data (only). I even make a symbolic link in my home directory for Mail to my data volume, so that I can pretty much wipe the boot drive at my pleasure. If an extra disk (< $200) is beyond your budget, then partition the boot drive into a “Boot” and a “Data” partition. These can be erased independently.
  • Be sure to run Mac OS X Disk Utility to check that the volumes are good, and use “Mac OS Extended (Journaled)” when formatting a disk.
  • Don’t install programs that require drivers or other specialty software that can destabilize the Mac OS X kernel. This includes screen savers and anti-virus (for Mac, PC users must use anti-virus). Someone will disagree on the anti-virus, but FUD is the rule for anti-virus vendors.
  • Test for reliability before putting a new RAID or disk into production use.

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