There should be an image here!My wife, Patricia, runs her own business and has her own dedicated business computer running XP, which I do not touch except to maintain. She might have ESP because recently she announced she wants to convert from her desktop computer to a laptop, so I started looking around for good buys. Then her computer broke — but that is getting ahead of the story.

Acer, ASUS, and Toshiba all had sales. For my consulting and tutoring, I have my own desktops (homebuilt and commercial) and one HP laptop. Maybe we should stay with HP — it serves me well. I read reviews and dithered for days, but this indecision proved unnecessary. She had made the decision to switch too late. Last week her computer froze while unattended for several hours. Nothing worked. So I tried a hard reboot. Windows failed to come up after POST. I tried again. This time the boot could not get through the POST. This is bad. The HD made funny sounds. From thinking she had a rather benign issue with Windows, which I could fix with a nod of my head and a reboot, I felt despair.

The problem was compounded by failure to back up for over a week. All her latest business records were at risk. Because she has a small desk for working space, she uses an internal drive for backup. I extracted both drives for testing. While taking them out, I noticed the CPU heat exchanger had separated from the CPU and was flopping loosely. That is not good.

With her C: hard drive as an external drive on my desktop, despair darkened. Windows could not read it. However, after some sweat, I was able to copy her personal data to my machine.

Her computer seemed to be only good for spare parts, but she needs a business computer. To get her back online immediately, we set her up with my laptop. Only here is the last hurdle: she used Outlook Express as her mail client under XP. She had resisted my attempts to convert to Outlook or anything else. Now she needed to move to Window 7 and probably Outlook.

In the backups, I had stored her addresses (wab format) and her email (dbx format) with the idea that I would learn how to convert them when the time came. The time came. Importing her addresses into Windows 7 was easy. Just open Contacts and import from the stored location.

Converting the dbx files was another story. Since we do not now have a computer with Outlook Express on it (which could read and export the files), I looked online for a solution and found a freeware app that recovered everything without hassle. The commercial applications that do the same thing cost between $30 and $70! Readers might know a way to do it within Windows, but I did not find it.

So the problem of getting her back online was solved, but at the expense of my loss of a laptop. Since a new laptop is an unbudgeted expense, we want to get the best buy that we can. In the newsletter I distribute to my clients, I asked if anyone would want to join me in a group purchase of laptops to negotiate a lower price for everyone. No one took me up on it, so I am still looking for a special sale. In the meanwhile, Patricia has a more powerful computer and all her data. She thinks Windows 7 is nice. She even lets me borrow my laptop from time to time.

[Photo above by James Vaughan / CC BY-ND 2.0]