Life without a hard drive

Life without a hard drive

For three weeks last year, I lived life without a hard drive. Overnight, my desktop computer broke down. My computer-savvy husband took apart my computer, declared that I needed a new hard drive, and ordered a new one for me. But it meant that I would be without my computer for over a week.


Of course, I still had Internet access to on a laptop computer and a tablet, and I could still check my email accounts, read online news, and browse the Internet. But I didn’t have easy access to most of my personal documents and photos.


For those of you who don’t understand why this is such a big deal, think about losing your smart phone for a week. Think about losing access to your contacts, your text messages, and your photos. Think about waiting in line with nothing to do except talk to someone standing in line next to you.


After days of anxiety and withdrawal, I started to breathe easier. I didn’t feel as tied to my digital “stuff.” I learned a few things about myself and how I relate to the digital world:


I learned that a lot of the paperwork, records, stories and poems I’ve written, and digital debris on my hard drive aren’t really important. They can be re-written, replaced, and recompiled. Those documents make me feel more in control of my life, but they also add clutter to my digital life.


I learned that photos and videos are important, possibly the most important things on my computer, but they are not as important as enjoying the present. Like souvenirs and mementos, they preserve happy memories – but I don’t need to reminisce about the past every day.


I learned that a big part of my life – the proof that I am me and that I matter – can be distilled onto a small, portable, easily displaced, fragile USB drive (one that will probably be unreadable in the near future). It’s scary and a little humbling.


Today, I have a new hard drive. It took me several days to reinstall my applications and setup my computer just the way that I like it. I was lucky; I didn’t lose any of my data. But If I had lost my digital photos and documents, I could have started over again.


How much do you rely on your personal computer, tablet, or smart phone? What would you do if you lost your hard drive or smart phone for a week?

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