As shelter at home continues, it has become difficult, if not impossible, to find someone who can fix your computer. If your computer fails, do you have a plan?

COVID-19 cases requiring hospitalization are not expected to peak in Utah until April 24, according to the Health Metrics and Evaluation, a global health research center at the University of Washington. Preparations are underway across Utah health care systems to make sure there are enough hospital beds, equipment and staff to care for patients. Most counties, including Weber, Morgan and Davis, have advised residents to stay at home as much as possible to “flatten the curve” so that our hospitals can provide critical services when they are needed.

So you’re staying in and working from your home office for at least another month, which means there’s plenty of time for a computer failure, and unless you have a backup plan, you could be in trouble. Instead of waiting for Murphy’s Law to come true, take the following steps to ensure you’ll be able to quickly get your digital life back up and running.

You should have a second machine. Like a spare tire for your car, it doesn’t have to last for long, but it must be able to do the essentials that your current computer can until you are able to take it in for repair. If you have an old computer stashed in a closet, take it out and give it a test run. Make sure it works with any peripherals, such as a monitor, that you are using. Update the operating system to the most recent version that is compatible. If that’s older than Windows 10, which is the only system fully supported by Microsoft, you will want to take extra security precautions or consider buying a newer computer.

While no one wants to spend extra money during these uncertain times, this is a defensible expense. You may be surprised to know you can buy a decent laptop for around $200. Here are three to consider: ASUS 11.6” High Performance Laptop ($205.99 from Amazon with free Prime shipping), HP Stream 14 ($229.99 from Best Buy) and Lenovo IdeaPad 1 14-inch Laptop ($229.99 from Best Buy). You can save by choosing a refurbished or open box unit, all of which come with a warranty. However, I am noticing that the cheaper laptops are selling out quickly, so check for availability and shipping time that has become much longer than usual. At Best Buy (retail locations are closed to in-store shopping) and other retailers, you may be able to schedule a pick up at curbside.

The second piece of your disaster plan is storing your documents in the cloud so they are accessible from another device. While you can copy all of your documents to an external hard drive, using an integrated office software and storage solution such as Microsoft OneDrive or Google Drive means you can instantly access your work from your backup computer as soon as you are logged in. And in a pinch, you could work on your documents from your smartphone as you have the mobile versions installed.

With preparation, a computer that won’t start up won’t be a disaster. However, before you switch to your backup unit, check the obvious culprits like loose power cord connections and dead batteries. For me, I’ve learned that if my laptop won’t wake up in the morning (all I see is a black screen), it’s a problem with the external monitor. I unplug the power cord and the external monitor cord from the laptop and then hold down the power button until it turns off. Then I let it rest for 10 minutes. When it’s time to power it back up, I hold the power button down and count to at least 15 — any shorter and this won’t work — and the blue startup screen comes up and all is fine. You can apply this technique with any computer that has peripherals plugged into it. In fact, even if it’s on its own, this method may work.

Leslie Meredith has been writing about and reviewing personal technology for the past eight years. She has designed and manages several international websites and now runs the marketing for a global events company. As a mom of four, value, usefulness and online safety take priority. Have a question? Email Leslie at asklesliemeredith@gmail.com.

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