8 Stages of Terror When Your Computer Dies


Other than the loss of a family member, losing one’s computer is probably the most traumatic thing a young person will be forced to endure. Yes, death is something that we all have to deal with. But having to deal with it doesn’t make it any easier when that dreaded day eventually comes. As our computers become extensions of ourselves, having a computer crash inevitably causes our minds to shut down to some extent as well.

Here are the thought processes you can expect to go through when that awful day arrives.

1. “Did I back up everything?”

Hopefully your computer has been giving you clues that it’s not long for this world. Whirring sounds might be taken as screams for help. But even if this came out of the blue, you’ve still been doing a good job of backing up all your data—right? Or even installing a program that would do it for you every day? If you have, great! (If not, take a second to do it now.) Fat lot of good it’ll do you, however. Until you see those files safe and secure, you’re in a state of panic.

2. “What if my backup failed, too?”

This is the point where logical thought begins to flee the mind and emotion begins to take over. It sure feels like your world is imploding—and it wouldn’t feel that way if it wasn’t, right? Yes, this is hysteria-logic, but it’s all you have at the moment. There’s no rational reason why losing your computer would cause your backup to fail as well, but the possibility that some sort of personal technological macro-failure event is occurring can’t be dismissed. There is, after all, real evidence that this is precisely what’s happening.

3. “Do I need to buy a new computer?”

Tech friends will be glad to offer off-the-cuff diagnoses. You will not be in a position to distinguish between the likelihood of these various scenarios. You want the situation to end now, you want things to go back to how they were just yesterday—remember way back then? Yesterday? Things were so much easier then. Happier times! The existential crisis of buying a new computer when the old one might still be salvageable will start to prove overwhelming.

4. “Can I afford a new computer?”

Unexpected purchases seem exponentially more expensive than they actually are. And the thought of putting a computer on a credit card feels absolutely absurd for some reason. Even though computers are cheap to make and produced by the literal boatload—and even though you’ve already bought one—buying another one will feel like taking out a mortgage.

5. “What if I buy the wrong one?”

Sure, you only use your computer for some accounting, writing documents, and the Internet. And basically any machine built even ten years ago would still have far more functionality than you will ever need. But in your mind, the possibility exists that you’ll go to the store and buy the “wrong” device. Maybe it’ll only be able to operate in Cyrillic for no reason whatsoever. (And given that absurdity, you won’t be able to return it or revert it to English.) Hey, it might happen! After all, today is the day your computer died, and nothing makes sense anymore.

6. “Should I have switched between Mac and PC?”

Every tech friend of yours will view the death of your old computer as an opportunity to switch to a new OS. Regardless of your previous machine, any crowdsourcing for advice will result in arguments for Linux, Mac, Ubuntu, and PC, each proponent speaking as if their perspective was indisputably true and all others “obviously” wrong. You will be unable to wrap your head about any of this, because it is like being taught to dance while still in crutches.

At this point you manage to get to the store and come home with a brand spanking new machine at a surprisingly reasonable price. The panic has started to subside a bit—but only to a point. Until you’re up and running like you used to, you still won’t be able to be totally calm. That’s because the terror of setting up the new computer must now begin.

7. “Why does everything look slightly different?”

Your desktop will have a new background. Programs you knew intimately have been rearranged with additional functionality. You will feel a sense of terror that things don’t work the way they used to, as if cut and paste have been replaced by something new that will be impossible for you to learn. Let’s not get started on the program icons. The fact that they’ve changed colors is a signal that they will be completely incomprehensible in perpetuity!

8. “What if this new computer dies, too?”

We’ve all been trained to think that if it rains it pours, and maybe this new computer will be a lemon fresh out of the box. That kind of thing happens, right? And of course, it’ll happen to you, given all the rest of the bad luck you’ve been having.

Except it probably, almost certainly, won’t happen. It’ll take you a few days getting everything set up like you want, examining the new features, and familiarizing yourself with your new workspace. And having done that, you can set up all the precautions you need for the inevitable day when this worst-of-all-things happens to you again.