While I regularly hear this question throughout the year, it seems seasonally appropriate to talk about this particular phenomenon. “My computer has a mind of its own,” or my favorite, “I think my computer is possessed,” could actually be an accurate assessment of the situation, but not in a supernatural way. A large majority of technology problems can typically be traced to something a human fouled up, but the interconnected nature of today’s technology means that this particular foul up doesn’t have to have been your own fault, or even someone nearby. Your computer issues could have arisen because of a mistake made by someone miles (and possibly years) away, which only makes the universe feel just a little more perverse than usual. In some cases, computer problems arise because of the irresistible second law of thermodynamics, which basically states that everything is slowly degrading over time, and if humans invented, designed, and/or assembled something, even infinitesimally small variations in quality can lead to the difference between your computer loading up properly or giving you the dreaded, “No operating system found” message.
The scary tech stories no one wants to hear…
“Your hard drive will fail.” This is not an “if” but a “when” determination. All hard drives fail – the trick is to replace them before they do, and to back up your data in the interim. Most modern hard drives do have alarms that will warn you that entropy is winning, but not everyone knows what to monitor, nor understand the data that is provided. While it’s true that spinning (traditional) hard drives have more moving parts than Solid State Drives (SSD), and thus is more subject to entropy than it’s solid state brethren, both can fail, and in fact HD’s are easier to recover in certain hardware failure cases than SSD’s because of how they work. Just because it’s SSD doesn’t mean you shouldn’t back up important data.
“Software updates are unavoidable.” Sadly, gone are the days of dodging Windows updates to keep your system and software running just like it did the day you installed it. Microsoft’s forced update cadence has most major software makers in lockstep, meaning that one can’t be updated without the other, and problems will arise if you aren’t marching to their tempo. And as is the case with everything humans do, some updates will cause problems.
“Your personal data is probably already on the internet.” You may not like to consider it, but there is a high likelihood that much of what you consider to be “private” is well known to both advertisers as well as less scrupulous elements around the world. Even so, this is no reason to be less safe with that data. Always challenge requests for this information, and consider the means by which you convey this data to the requestor, as well as who is asking especially if they are new to your circle of interactions.
“Using a single password for everything will get you hacked. Badly.” It may be the hardest to guess password in the world, but the fact that you have to enter it at all means it’s possible for someone to trick you into giving it up, and when that happens, they are on you like a horror-movie killer, and you won’t be guaranteed a Hollywood happy ending. Identity theft teams move at horrific speed and will make your life very unpleasant.
That’s probably enough scary stories for one Halloween. It might be strangely comforting to believe your technical issues are supernatural, as the reality is rather banal and depressing to consider, but attributing them to something otherworldly, while entertaining will only result in a real-world horror story that won’t be resolved with talismans, herbs or weapons.