The Apple Genius couldn't start up my laptop, either. He and I watched as rows of little icons popped up on its screen as he ran a diagnostic test. All were green and good... except for the important one, the one for the hard drive itself. That one showed a red alert sign. That meant it was dead.
"Did you recently back up your data?" he asked. The answer was no. I never back it up myself. It's supposed to back up wirelessly via an app called Time Machine. I texted my husband to make sure that was still happening. He texted back to say that, since we've been having many problems with our wifi, there were no guarantees. He also said that he'd been urging me to back-up to an external hard drive for months but that I'd ignored him.
My husband doesn't lie, so perhaps I never heard him, or he's misremembering, or thinking wishfully. I have tons of Sabine family research that I'd have been happy to copy to an external disk for safekeeping. I like doing backups since my storage disk makes most of the decisions for me. But I couldn't remember the last time I'd done it (usually only before I take my laptop overseas) since Time Machine was supposed to be doing a magnificent job all by itself. Now it occurred to me that I hadn't checked it in many months, either. So who knows if it had been working.
It was possible that I'd lost a great deal of data. Not my photos, since they are on my phone and in the Cloud, but everything else. The Genius suggested I wait to authorize the repair until I knew whether I needed to keep the dead drive to take elsewhere for data recovery, which is expensive and always iffy. (And for some reason it costs another $50 to get your own dead drive back from Apple.)
I thought of Wallace Clement Sabine, who once tossed out many months of exhausting and ridiculously meticulous acoustical research, performed in the wee hours of the night in a stuffy sub-basement room on the Harvard campus, simply because he'd failed to record when he'd had a recent haircut. I decided to be philosophical and patient, like him. (But perhaps not as obsessive.)
I could repeat what must have added up to a few hundred hours of research on his family since I discovered them in May: finding, capturing, and labeling files from various online archives and other sites. I could do it. I could retype and reformat my resume, too, even if I can't remember how to use InDesign anymore. I could reconstruct my tax records, list of passwords, recipes, and so on. I could ask clients to send me copies of the writing I'd done for them. Why do I keep thousands of old emails anyway? Perhaps I was about to experience a massive, involuntary digital decluttering that would be liberating. I stayed philosophical.
When my husband got home, he opened my backup drive with his own laptop, and it said my last backup was on November 4, 2014. Oops. So, depending on Time Machine, I might have lost 13 months of data. Deep breath. Then he called Applecare Support (which, mercifully, is free for even old equipment these days because it's holiday time) and spent a very long time trying to locate my last Time Machine backup. I fed the cats and cleaned up, philosophically, as I waited to know my fate. I couldn't remember the last time I'd checked in. Last spring? What an idiot I am, and how much it costs me in so many ways....
Finally it loaded and dates appeared. The last backup was yesterday! Phew. But take a lesson from me and back up your computer today. I can't wait to do it when I get my laptop back in a few days. Yes, you can be philosophical and stoic, too. But it's no fun, trust me.