What keeps you awake at night?


Maria Helena Brenner Kelly (PLD member)  

PLD_tech-cornerIn my case, it’s thinking that the technology environment I use for translation will fail. And I don’t kid myself. I’ve been around technology long enough to know that eventually it will fail. The clock is ticking, and according to Murphy’s Law, it will happen at the worst possible moment.

Back in the dark ages, when I started working in the financial services industry, there were some systems called “Fault Tolerant”. All their components were duplicated. If one of them failed, the spare component would take over. Those included the host computers for ATM networks, for example.

The concept was actually much better than the reality, but I would still love to have one of those “fault tolerant” mammoths right in my living room.

Fault tolerance: a journey with many, many small steps

Unfortunately, I can’t have my very own “fault tolerant” host computer, but I have been on a journey to make myself as fault tolerant as possible, and I will tell you a little bit about it in a series of posts.

I should preface by saying that I am a Windows user, so my entire infrastructure (as well as my knowledge) is Windows related. Some of the concepts apply to any OS; others are more specific to Windows (like the one I describe below).

As scary as it may sound, any hardware or software component in your system can fail: your screen, hard drive, any software (OS or application), the networking environment (read Wi-Fi), and even the Internet connection, which is the easiest to solve with free Wi-Fi in the coffee house. Therefore, fault tolerance, or its more up-to-date counterpart, disaster recovery, has many layers. Some address potential hardware failures, others deal more with the software side of the issue, and still others address both. Here I discuss one related to software.

What is the point of restore points?

The very first and easiest thing you should do in your fault tolerance journey is to create/be aware of restore points. Though they are life savers, many people don’t even know they exist.

Restore points are like snapshots of your system, but not of your data, and include all your programs, configuration and more obscure elements like the registry. They are excellent tools in several situations, and these are my top two:

  • Making new software go away. We have all been there. You install a new version of one of your favorite programs and it doesn’t work properly. Or you install a piece of software you want and it brings with it a load of software you don’t want.
  • Making malware go away. When your computer catches some form of malware (e.g., a virus), a restore point can help to take your system back to a time when it worked properly. It doesn’t always solve the problem, but it is very easy to do and it might be the first thing you want to try.

Windows creates restore points regularly (about once a week), and whenever you install new software in your computer. You can also create restore points, and you should do that whenever you change the system configuration (I actually create them before installing any software, just in case Windows doesn’t do its part) or when there’s any other action that you consider a critical change to the system.

Creating a Restore Point

Click the Start button (Windows 7) or go to the Start screen (Windows 8), type “restore point” in the search bar, select “Create a restore point” (Windows 7) or Settings (Windows 8), and click the Create button. Just double check whether the drive selected is the one you have your OS and programs on. Then, you give the restore point a name and click Create. That’s it!


Restoring your computer

When you decide you want to restore your system to a past state, you should get to the Restore Point screen through the steps described above, and select “System Restore”. Windows suggests the last restore point it created, but you can pick an older one if you click on “Choose a different restore point”.

The “Undo” of your system configuration

While System Restore doesn’t always solve the problems, it can act as the “Undo” button when you want to go back to an earlier configuration. Your data won’t be affected by it, so you won’t lose anything. Restore points are very easy to use and the restoration process is fast, so it is always worth a try when you have a system problem. Go ahead and create a restore point right now!


Maria Helena was born and raised in São Paulo, Brazil. She holds a bachelor’s degree in statistics from the University of São Paulo, a graduate degree in business administration from Fundação Getúlio Vargas, and a certificate in translation from New York University. Her work involved both the areas of finance and IT for 25 years, ten of which at IBM in the US. She is a freelance translator and lives in the state of Bahia, in Brazil.

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