While I was over ten thousand miles from home, my laptop started to get weird on me. First, it started to spontaneously power itself off, for no reason at all, while I was using it. Alarming! But then I eventually discovered that it only did so if I pressed the left Ctrl key. Confining myself to the right Ctrl key was a challenge -- I am hugely keyboard oriented and do Ctrl-S, Ctrl-B, Ctrl-C, Ctrl-V sort of things all the time without looking or to be honest even thinking keystrokes, I think Bold and my fingers do the right thing -- but I was able to do a whole presentation without it powering itself off. Then it started to get more delicate. Any pressure on the left side of the keyboard would power it down. And it got harder and harder to power it up. 5 tries, 10 tries, 20 tries... I did manage to power it up in the Jo-burg airport but it shut down while I was working and never did come back up again. I just slept instead of working and put it out of my mind.
When I got home, I confirmed it was still under warranty, next day on site service, and arranged a service call. Then I wanted my files back... I wasn't going to last all weekend without my files. Luckily the hard drives in laptops are delightfully standard things. For $13 Canadian, I bought a little wrapper that turns any 2.5" drive into an external USB drive:
I put the drive in it and ---ooooh, there are all my folders! Yay! But I can't see any actual files! Boo!
Turns out the power cycling and hard power downs (many many of them) had not been nice to the drive. So I got a little utility called File Scavenger from QueTek. I started with the trial version to prove to myself it worked, then got a personal licence and set to work bringing back everything I cared about -- the pictures I took while I was away, my Outlook PST file (yes I backed up before I left, but a lot happened that week) and a lot of work I was in the middle of. Phew!
The service call ended up stretching over several days ... replacing the motherboard, keyboard, palm rest, and hard drive wasn't enough, it also needed a new processor. But now it works again. And what do I get to do with my copious free time? Reinstall things. A lot of things.
Ah well, a good way to clear out junk you don't need any more. It was pretty much repaving time anyway, the machine had been kind of flaky for the last few months. And I'm ready to leave for SF and Vegas now... or at least my laptop is