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Technology Untangled: Remember this useful tip for fixing a computer

May 6, 2015

technology-bourThere is always so much new information to learn and absorb when utilizing and maintaining your computer. Sometimes, though, you can forget about some of the really good things you already know (or knew). After digging deep into a recent computer problem that appeared to be a major issue, I remembered to try an easy fix.

My problem started after I authorized an update to my QuickBooks Pro 2015 accounting software. While initializing the program one day, a screen popped up recommending that I download an update package. I clicked “OK” and walked away. When I returned, my laptop screen was black. The computer was dead because I had accidentally pulled the power cord and was unknowingly running on battery all day. No problem. I plugged in, started up and clicked the icon to open QuickBooks.

An ominous error message appeared: “Problem: There was an unexpected error reported while trying to run QuickBooks with company file. Error Code 80029c4a. Description: Error loading type library/DLL.” I have no idea whether this problem occurred because the computer powered down in the midst of the update, or if the update completed but was faulty. The error message did include a simple suggestion for a fix – restart the computer. That didn’t work.

My engineer brain kicked into problem-solving mode as I Googled the error code and was directed to a QuickBooks instruction sequence of 11 specific steps. I dutifully and carefully followed the steps to no avail. Another fix advised that some brands of antivirus software could inhibit the launch of QuickBooks. I didn’t use any of the antivirus products that were potential problems. I next wasted an hour grasping for a solution in various technical chat sites. I was desperately trying to avoid the only other suggestion proffered by the QuickBooks troubleshooting page: Perform a clean install of QuickBooks. This was not what I wanted to hear because I had not backed up my QuickBooks data to an external thumb drive for almost a week. (My own mistake, I admit). I was not looking forward to recreating a week’s worth of entered bills, checks, deposits, etc.

Then, I remembered something else to try: Windows Restore. I could attempt to restore my computer to an earlier time! As outlined in the Windows Help info, System Restore can resolve many system problems and is the best recovery method to try first. One Microsoft Web page advises the following: “If you think an app or driver that you recently installed caused problems with your PC, you can restore Windows back to an earlier point in time, called a restore point. System Restore doesn’t change your personal files, but it might remove recently installed apps and drivers.” Well, I was certainly looking to remove something QuickBooks had recently installed. I can’t believe I didn’t think of this fix sooner.

I found my way to the list of restore points and chose the one that was created just a few days before my latest troubles. A few clicks later and my system was correcting itself by reloading these older settings. This process, by the way, is not instantaneous. It takes a good five to 10 minutes. When it was complete, it displayed an encouraging message that said System Restore had completed successfully. I held my breath and clicked the QuickBooks launch icon. The program launched and all my data was intact! Be aware that if System Restore does not solve your problem, the process is completely reversible, and you can revert to the “today” settings with another click.

The trick to effective use of System Restore is to be sure your computer is set up to record restore points on a regular basis. Search the terms System Protection, System Restore or System Properties to find your way to the Restore Point settings. Typically, Windows computers are set up to create a restore point each time Microsoft pushes an update to your system, which seems like something they do at least once a week. Plus, many installation protocols for new software packages automatically set a restore point as part of their install procedure. You can also choose to set your own restore point manually at any time. It is a good idea to make sure your system is set up to retain more than just the latest restore point. As long as hard drive space allows, I would say you should retain a dozen or more points because some computer operational problems may not manifest themselves for weeks after a hardware or software change.

Working through this latest computer correction eventually revived a memory of another time I “forgot” to try System Restore first. Out of frustration, I was on the verge of following a multi-page instruction that included substantial modification to the System Registry, a procedure that is not for the faint of heart. Thank goodness I remembered to try System Restore.

Perhaps I should just tape a sign to the front of each of my computers that says “Try System Restore First!” so I do not forget again. I hope you will remember to use this tip the next time you are facing what seems like a major computer meltdown.•

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Stephen Bour (bourtech@iquest.net) is an engineer and legal technology consultant in Indianapolis. His company, the Alliance for Litigation Support Inc., includes Bour Technical Services and Alliance Court Reporting. Areas of service include legal videography, tape analysis, document scanning to CD and courtroom presentation support. The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author.

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