Pro Audio Files

Technology Is Going to Fail: Do You Have a Plan?

When was the last time you backed up your computer?

If your answer isn’t “within the past two days,” stop reading and go make a backup. If you don’t have a dedicated hard drive for backups, head over to Amazon and order one right now.

I recently learned (the hard way) about the hassle, frustration, and pain of having my studio computer suddenly break down.

Some of you probably know the agony of a similar experience. If you have never suffered through a computer failure, please take my word—it is not worth the nightmare and stress to risk it.

Make a plan today. It is not a matter of “if” but “when” your computer will fail.

Here’s my story:

Before this recent incident, I never had a major failure of any technology in my home studio. Over the years, I’ve been through several dedicated studio computers without any disasters.

I had heard people talk about going through computer problems, and their anal approach to backing up their machine as a response.

Personally, I never put too much effort into doing the same for my computer. I backed up my machine a couple times a year, whenever I remembered.

Several months ago, I started noticing some strange behavior with my computer. Certain folders on the internal hard drive started running really slow. It seemed bizarre, and didn’t make much sense to me. I made a single backup—just in case—but didn’t think about it afterwards.

I have an iMac from 2012 with the upgraded quad-core i7 processor. It has never had any problem running typical DAW sessions. Therefore, I thought it had a couple more years of life left.

One month ago, the computer was running really slow while I was surfing the internet. I decided to “restart” to see if it fixed the problem. When the computer turned back on, it went into an endless loop of shutting down, turning on for 10 seconds, and shutting down again.

Houston…We Have a Problem!

I powered everything down, and decided to leave it until the next day. Needless to say, I didn’t sleep much that night. I tried to think about all the ways to troubleshoot the problem. I thought about so many doomsday, worst-case scenarios. I knew I hadn’t backed up the machine for several months.

The problem of crashing continued the next day, so I set up an appointment with the Genius Bar and the local Apple Store.

Before I go any further, I have to give the people at my local Apple store a lot of credit and respect for their help through the entire process. Their technical support was professional and courteous. If you are in or around Nashville, I can give them a strong recommendation. I hope you have a similar experience at your local store.

At my first appointment, the diagnosis showed my internal hard drive had failed. Therefore, I had to have it replaced. I requested they put in a larger hard drive than my current model while they were taking the machine apart.

I learned Apple policy required them to install the same sized model as the current hard drive, but a 3rd party authorized dealer could install a larger drive. So I took my computer to a different repair shop to have them put in the new drive.

After this repair shop swapped out the hard drive, I took it home and tested the machine. Within five minutes it went into the loop of shutting down and starting up.

So I returned to the store again. Initially they thought a heat sensor could be malfunctioning. Then they changed the heat sensor.

When I took the computer home, the problem persisted. I went back to store, and they held the computer overnight to diagnosis the problem.

I was told every individual part on the computer functioned on its own, but didn’t work when put together.

Without knowing what to do, I took the computer back to the Apple Genius Bar. After all this, the tech support thought the power supply could be failing. So they swapped it out.

When I took it home, the computer kept crashing.

Then the tech support thought the video card could be the problem.

They replaced the video card, but the computer kept crashing.

Finally, they decided to replace the computer’s logic board.

If you’ve been keeping track, at this point every major hardware component of the computer had been replaced. It was essentially a brand new machine.

At last, I took my computer home and it seemed okay.

For the past couple days, I haven’t had it crash on me. I’m still keeping my fingers crossed and feeling the stress of hoping the computer won’t shut down in the middle of a session.

All of this to say, I’ve spent an entire month shuttling my computer to and from the repair shop. And I haven’t been doing anything productive in the studio.

This experience really put my reliance on technology into perspective. Additionally, I learned the practical lesson of backing up my work.

In conclusion, don’t wait until you go through a similar situation to make a plan. If you’re running an Apple computer, Time Machine is easy to use. Start using it.

Computer storage is relatively cheap. A hard drive isn’t as cool as buying another plugin, but it’s worth every penny.

Start saving money each month to buy your next computer. Even $5 or $10 a month can add up over several years. You’ll be happy you did.

Technology is going to fail. Be prepared, so when it happens you aren’t completely screwed.

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Eric Tarr

Eric Tarr

Eric Tarr is a musician, audio engineer, and producer based in Columbus, Ohio. Currently a Professor of Audio Engineering Technology at Belmont University in Nashville, TN.

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