The Norman Transcript

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July 13, 2013

What can you do when good computers suddenly go bad?

(Continued)

NORMAN —

For example, when I type the letter “Z” on my keyboard, boatloads of zeroes and ones start scrambling around inside my computer at an extremely high rate of speed, with the end result being that I see the letter “Z” on my computer’s screen.

It’s when these zeroes and ones go missing that computers start acting crazy. When a computer file somehow loses some zeroes or ones, that file is said to have become “corrupted.” Computer files become corrupted all the time.

More often than not, built-in error correction repairs the file without you even knowing that anything happened. When a file becomes so corrupted that the built-in error correction fails, then, like a car, your computer “crashes.” At that point, someone like me has to try to figure out what went wrong and make it right.

Where do these missing zeroes and ones go? Nobody really knows for sure; they simply vanish into the quantum theory black hole of zeroes and ones. At least we know how some files can become corrupted.

Conflicting programs can be a major source of corrupted files. I have repaired numerous computers that had multiple installations of various antivirus programs. This is a no-no on Windows computers. The general rule is no more than one antivirus program installed and running at a time; otherwise, your computer can sort of go insane.

Poor programming techniques also can contribute to file corruption. Shocking as it may be, not everyone that can write a computer program is a genius. There are many badly written computer programs out there, crashing computers around the world.

Power surges and failures also can cause file corruption. Hard disk drives can become “fragmented” (look it up), corrupting files, or drives can fail physically at the hardware level, yielding the same effect.

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