5 Ways To Ruin Your Computer (Tested)
So, recently I had a little whoopsie with my computer. Which happens; it's not a big deal. Thanks to my big, powerful brain, I can fix computer problems as they come up. But this time, something strange happened. My brain failed. I didn't fix the problem -- I somehow made it worse. And then again. And then again, one mistake leading to a blind rage, which precipitated a bigger mistake, which led to a somehow blinder rage, and so on. It turns out that a stubborn determination to fix something right now, fuck it, is not an especially good mindset when dealing with delicate, precision-oriented tasks.
"Nope, fuck it, we're not stopping now."
Because Cracked readers are heartless jackals who enjoy nothing more than laughing at other people's misfortune, I've decided to relate this story to you here. And because I shouldn't assume that you're technically minded jackals, I'll also helpfully explain some of the complicated technical terms as well.
Ready to laugh at my misery? Good. On to the first mistake.
Believing Something Is Easy
This story begins with me trying to update my system to Windows 10. I'd done this already on one computer, and it genuinely was a one- or two-click process. Utterly straightforward. Lovely, even.
It pains and confuses me to say it, but: Well done, Microsoft?
But on my other computer, which is a little bit of a mongrel, composed of surly, disobedient parts, this one-click process didn't work. I forget the exact reason -- there was an unhelpful error message involved -- but I repeated the "one click" a few times, in a few different ways -- left hand, foot, etc. -- with no real success.
Right about here I should have given up. I wasn't even that interested in upgrading to Windows 10. I just wanted to get rid of that stupid icon in the corner of my screen. If I'd walked away here, I would have been happy and healthy and would not have had my own hubris thrown back in my face.
But my computer had disobeyed me. That Could Not Stand. I was going to fix the problem, and to do that, I started Googling the unhelpful error message. I soon found a guide on the Internet that explained how to fix my problem. Now then, if you read the Internet ...
Normal Person Talk: The "Internet" is a network of computers. Approximately 70 percent of the Internet is pornography, with the balance taken up by idiots.
... you'll find many helpful guides explaining how to do various things with or to your computer, all of which make whatever you're about to do look incredibly easy. The thing about these guides is that they were written by one person, working on one specific computer. But because computers come in all sorts of shapes and configurations, the steps that worked for one person have an extremely high chance of not working for you. Oh, sure, they'll mostly work, but one critical step won't, and then you'll have to figure your own way around it. Any guide that promises a 20-minute process is in reality a portal to a nine-hour death march through the darkest parts of computer hell.
Nothing is easy. Never forget it.
Reckless BIOS Updates
So this hateful, deceitful guide told me that the error message I was seeing was caused by . And the solution the guide recommended involved updating my BIOS.
Normal Person Talk: A BIOS is a little chip that is the first thing to speak to your computer when it wakes up. It basically tells the computer that it is a computer and trusts the computer to figure out the rest from there.
"Hey. Hey, lady. You're a computer. Wake up. I need to play games on you."
Normal people will never need to update their BIOS. No one will ever need to update their BIOS. It's a totally unnecessary, kind of dangerous, wildly irresponsible thing to do. I had to find a separate guide to explain how, and even the author of that one felt kind of shifty about it.
"Caveat fucking emptor, pal."
But I went for it, because it was getting late, and I just wanted this thing to work, dammit. And it did work! The BIOS updated without a hitch! I was a genius and a hero.
And then my computer wouldn't start.
Maniacal OS Repairs
I managed to restore the BIOS to its previous version, but even then my computer still failed to start.
By now the whole experience was beginning to age me.
Among other things, the BIOS tells the computer which part of the hard drive explains how to be a computer ...
Normal Person Talk: The hard drive is the part of your computer that never forgets. Never anger your hard drive.
... and this was for some reason no longer working. I could still see things on my hard drive and start the computer into a recovery state. But none of the simple options from there seemed to work. Which left only a more extreme option, called "Repair." This sounded like exactly what I needed, even though it promised that all the programs I had installed would be removed. Which was fine with me -- reinstalling programs is easy (there's that word again). So I clicked "Repair." The recovery program chugged along, reinstalling Windows from a copy it kept on a rescue partition.
Normal Person Talk: A partition is a secret part of your hard drive. Anything could be in there and often is.
It didn't work.
"Give me back my youth!"
And then something else went wrong.
Foolhardy Backup Regimen
Backing up your data is a great way to show how little you believe in yourself. When Cortez reached the New World, he ordered his ships burned to better motivate his men. And that worked perfectly.
Except for the natives.
OK, I'm not that cavalier. Almost everything I do is already in the cloud in some way, and although that's not technically a backup, whatever, data nerds. What I had forgotten was that I, for some silly goddamned reason, had documents that I was working on saved in my Program Files folder. I had a solid couple days of work in there, just in files, not backed up at all. Which I'd just deleted.
Outside, a flock of birds takes wing, spooked by a primal roar.
OK. OK. Fine. I can fix this. Using my other, still-functioning computer, I created a rescue thumb drive and used it to get access to my old hard drive.
Normal Person Talk: A rescue thumb drive contains a bunch of programs and utilities that you use to help repair a computer broken by your own idiocy.
This thumb drive had file recovery tools somewhat more advanced than "checking the Recycling Bin." Without going into all the details, when you "delete" a file, it doesn't actually go anywhere, and with the right tools it's easily recoverable. Unless, I discovered, you delete the files of a goddamned SSD ...
Normal Person Talk: SSD stand for solid-state drive, a newer version of a hard drive capable of betraying you up to 10 times faster than conventional hard drives.
... which due to technical reasons will not allow you to recover files. They were totally gone.
Vigorous Power Cycling
Anyway, after causing the walls of my house to bulge out a bit from all my bellowing, I decided that this wasn't that big of a problem. I could redo that work. Everything else was safe; I just needed to get my computer back up and running, and everything would be fine.
So I took stock of my situation. My computer wouldn't boot. My one attempt to repair Windows hadn't worked. I turned the power off and on again, you know, just to double check. Nope, nothing. I turned it off and on again. And again. And repeated about 15 times with increasing rapidity.
It's possible frustration was affecting my judgment.
Among other things.
Here's the thing about the power button on your computer. You should press it, like, once. It's not an elevator button that needs to be pressed rapidly for the elevator to move. Once is enough. If you were to, say, hypothetically press the power button 15 times in a row with increasing rapidity, maybe to teach it a lesson, maybe to teach it that you are its master, that can actually cause your computer to explode. Or not explode so much as, say, fry a very important part of itself called the motherboard.
Normal Person Talk: A motherboard is ... you know what, fuck it. FUCK IT. FFFFFFFFFFFFFFFU-
No more booting, or BIOS, or recovery drives would work now. At that point, my toaster was a more effective computer than my computer.
Hey. Hey, toaster. Wake up. I need to play games on you.
Anyway. One restless sleep, one new motherboard, and one new Windows license later ...
Normal Person Talk: A Windows license is FFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFU-
... and I was back up and running. Nothing is easy. Never forget it.
Chris Bucholz is a Cracked columnist and endless source of good advice. His first novel, Severance, is incredible and available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Apex Books. Join him on Facebook or Twitter.
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