There’s nothing to be afraid of. Really!
Some time ago, after seeing one of the many questions that come in to Ask Leo!, one of my assistants asked “why is this person asking this question rather than just trying it out?”
Very often it’s because they’re afraid.
There’s just no need for that.
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Don't be afraid to try
Trying things out on your computer is faster than waiting for someone to answer your question, and almost always either completely benign or easily undone. Even when it’s not, a regular full image backup provides protection from even the worst mistakes you can think of.
Try it… or wait
Trying things is immediate, and typically gets you an instant answer or at least some progress towards one.
Asking? Asking itself takes very little time. Waiting for your answer is another matter. Regardless of where you ask your question, you’re now waiting for someone to a) decide to answer you, and b) take the time to so do, at c) some random time in the future.
In the case of Ask Leo!, the question form and the auto-response you get will advise you that it can often take several days before I can answer, as well as a number of conditions where I might not answer at all.
So, why not try, first?
Perhaps you’re afraid you’ll break something.
It’s extremely unlikely.
Sure, some things are more serious than others. But, for example, I assume you already know what “delete” means and know not to go about deleting things randomly, even in the name of experimentation, without taking precautions beforehand.
More common, though, is that there are so many things that are a very simple, “If I do ‘A’ will ‘B’ happen?”, where both A and B are benign and safe. These are things you could easily try, so as to get the answer you’re looking for without waiting.
Honestly, there are so many things that fall into this “Why not give it a try?” category, that I’m truly perplexed and sometimes quite frustrated at people’s unwillingness to venture out and experiment.
So much fear
So many people are literally scared of their machine; they’re scared of doing something to their machine. They’re afraid of their machine. They’re so afraid that they’re paralyzed in fear, unable to do anything they’re not already absolutely, completely familiar with.
Some are afraid that they’ll actually damage their computer… physically. Nothing you do in Windows or the programs you run will actually damage the computer itself. It’s all software, and at its worst software can be reinstalled. In most cases it never comes to that: whatever it is you might do can usually just be undone.
I find it incredibly frustrating at a personal level, but also very sad, because that fear is getting in the way of not just enjoying or even in some cases using the computer, but it’s also getting in the way of learning. Trying things out and experimenting for yourself is one of the best ways to learn how to do something.
That’s all very true when it comes to your computer and technology in general.
I know that things can go wrong. We all hear horror stories. Horror stories make for good headlines and gossip; they really do, but the fact is most of the time things work. Most of the time, things are not damaged. Most of the time, things are not damaged in a way that couldn’t be recovered, and often quite easily.
And yet, because we hear the worst, we fear the worst. Even though the worst rarely happens.
OK, OK. So most of the time things work but what about the rest of the time?
You already know my answer to that.
Protection from the worst is easy
I’ve been saying it for a very long time, and it’s another reason I say it again here.
That way, if you try something, and it really, really doesn’t work and somehow seriously messes up your computer — perhaps even to the point of not even being able to boot — the solution is simple.
Restore to the most recent backup. You’ve “undone” whatever experiment you ran, and you’ve learned something in the process.
Backups, especially full image backups, are that powerful and that conceptually simple.
Freedom to experiment and learn
Backing up gives you the freedom to experiment, to try things, safely.
Most of the time, everything will work just fine. Most of the time even if something goes wrong it’ll be something easily corrected or easily undone.
For those other times, you’ve got that full backup allowing you to recover your machine, your entire machine no matter what you’ve done, to the state it was in before whatever it was you did.
I encourage you to set up an environment where trying things on your computer is okay. In part, that means:
- Setting up backup so there’s really nothing to be afraid of no matter how badly things go wrong.
- Realizing that most of the time, things work, and even the mistakes we make are not catastrophic.
Try it on your computer, experiment with your computer, set up your computer so that you can use it, make mistakes, try things out, learn along the way, and have it not be the disaster that perhaps you’re afraid of.
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