To be honest, I thought I knew what went on in my box. You know, an Intel such-and-such processor, Seagate that-and-that drive, gForce graphics card and so on.
Not good enough I'm afraid. You need to know the exact name (and model number) of your graphics card, network card, bios (don't ask), USB devices, keyboard, monitor, etc.
Not to win a "who-da-main-nerd" contest, but to restore your computer to a working state - if you have to reinstall the operating system, replace the hard disk or recover from disk damage.
In fact, thanks to Escom, at least two of my braai buddies provided priceless amusement by describing in explicit graphic detail how, after joining the ranks of the "previously lit" (alternately known as the "loadshed"), their computer's hard disks developed faults.
At first I wanted to point out that the fabled "hard disk crash" is an extremely rare event (I've seen less than 5 disc crashes in my 20 years in IT) and ALL of them was on technology older than 10 years), but considering that I don't have medical aid (or sick leave) I thought it prudent to let it slide.
The more reasonable explanation for disk drives "breaking" after a one finger salute from Escom is the data corruption that can be caused when a computer is not shut down correctly: To improve performance the operating system will delay disk writes (which are slow) until the machine is less busy. This means that disk updates may be kept in short term memory (RAM) for up to several minutes. When the power goes off unexpectedly these changes are irretrievably lost. This can be a Bad thing for your computer. (Notice the capital "B" in Bad).
Without going into too much detail, there are areas of your disk that control how and where all other information is stored. Something like a master index. Just one byte out of place in the partition table, the boot sector or directory structures and several files may be gone or corrupted. And I don't mean "undelete" gone. I mean: to-the-big-bit-bucket-in-the-sky gone. Permanently. Poof! Gone-Gone.
Depending on your karma, one or more of those damaged files may be hardware drivers:
In the context of your PC, a "driver" is a special software program that "drives" a hardware component in your computer. The driver software enable the operating system (windows / Vista) to use hardware devices like keyboards, network cards, USB slots, hard disks, video cards and so on.
Considering that a typical PC will have tens of drivers installed for pieces of hardware you did not even know was in your PC, it is obviously a good idea to back these little darlings up....because When (not if - and do notice the capital "W" in "When"), When you need them, then you REALY need them...
Allegedly every single one of the braai guys back their data up. Some say daily, others say weekly. None of them make eye contact when they answer my question.
Privately I think they just say so to keep me off their backs...but a time will come. I can just picture a piano hanging over their collective PC's, swinging slowly back and forth on a fraying rope...creak...creak...
Enough of that fantasy. Not even I will have the heart to rub their noses in it if they have a broken PC due to a lost driver - because I would secretly know that I was sitting under the very same piano.
But no longer:
I stumbled on this brilliantly simple (and free) software program called : Double Driver. You download it from http://boozet.org/dd.htm, install it and run it. It will present you with a list of all the drivers in your computer and give you an opportunity to create a copy for backup. At this point it will be an Extremely good idea to create a copy of all your drivers and write that copy to CD. The resque CD should then be carefully hidden with the second set of books you hide from the receiver...you know - in that safe place.
If only I had my hands on this little gem of a utility a few years ago! My blood pressure could have been normal today. But it is not too late for you. Download and use Double Driver: you never know when Escom will play with the proverbial toaster in the bath again...and fry your PC's toast.