Sounds too good to be true, right?
I promise that’s all it took!
Well…it only took a simple keystroke to shut down my MacBook Pro last week when I saw the spinning wheel of color, always a bad sign that something’s stalled. I gave it a few minutes, but eventually decided I would just shut down and restart. Much simpler than waiting out whatever was going on with the inner workings of my Mac.
It wasn’t meant to be a momentous choice. But you know how these things happen: you never see disaster coming.
A few minutes later, I realized my laptop wasn’t restarting like it always does. My familiar screens weren’t coming up, and I got on the phone with Apple support in short order. I was blessing myself for buying the service plan, and confidently, even smugly waited for all to be restored.
The friendly Apple guy was confident too, at first. We tried this key and that key, shutting down, simultaneously holding down various combinations of alphabet keys. (I always think I’ll remember what the tech guys have me do so I can fix my problems myself, but I never do.)
Everything brought me back to the same thing: a message saying FileVault had been activated and I needed the encryption key to unlock the computer.
That would have been simple, except that I didn’t have the key, or password, or whatever I needed. I went through two technicians trying to find a work around.
But there was no healing my situation.
Yes. I had very cleverly protected my files from everyone, including myself.
It seems in the last operating system download, I authorized FileVault. I’m sure I was breezing along and agreed to whatever the prompts suggested, but I don’t remember setting up any secret password. And no password I use on a regular basis for the plethora of sites that I’m on worked to open FileVault.
Soon the cheerful tech was giving me my options…I could go to an Apple store and get assistance with reinstalling the operating system, or I could do it myself. It would just require this one small step first. I would have to erase my current operating system, and with it, all my saved files.
The conversation went something like this….
Me, getting a little excited: “I’m in Southeast Alaska with no Apple store in sight, or in my near future, certainly not before I need this laptop to work.”
Tech: “Well you’ll be ok, you can get your files from your back up.”
Me: “I haven’t backed up in about a year.”
Tech: “Oh my…well back ups certainly save us. From this point on you’ll have a back up.”
I could hear his opinion through the phone. I think it was something like: “you poor sad idiot!”
I had a few files saved on iCloud, and anything that I access from web-based programs is fine. I could import my photos from my phone or other digital sources.
But I lost a lot of documents and downloads, most of which I can’t replace. I download PDFs all the time…there’s no way I could backtrack and find all I had saved.
Worse, I’m not entirely sure what all I lost. I know there were lots of fonts and graphics, recipes, words of wisdom, quotes…so much I’d accumulated over the last few years.
You know all those things that you run across by happy accident and you save?!
Yeah, that’s the stuff I lost.
All my work files are gone. Some things I had shared via email I can get back. But like the other things I’m missing, I really only know categorically what’s gone, I can’t recall item by item what’s lost.
At least I still have the three books I’ve written. I’d saved through the Cloud, though I didn’t save all my writing, not by a long shot.
The new install gave me back lots of storage space, and a chance to reinvent my digital world.
I’m slowly re-downloading programs, and finding bits and pieces I can restore from a variety of sources. It’s a painful process.
But the up side is I cleaned out a lot of old stuff, too, and I’d needed to do that for a while. I just didn’t expect to do it in a rush with the click of a button.
Live and learn. I like to think I’m savvy, that I keep up with all my passwords and I save appropriately. This taught me I’m not as careful as I like to think, and even though my laptop didn’t crash, and I didn’t lose it physically, being locked out by FileVault was just as effective at wiping me out.
So, I have a clean, new, almost empty computer. And I did not enable FileVault on this install. It turns out I’m a lot less concerned that my files will be breached, more worried about getting locked out again.
I’m in familiar territory though, being a cautionary tale (seems to be one of my callings in life) to remind fellow computer users: Back up! Back up! Back up! Oh, and unless you have state secrets to guard, save yourself. Don’t activate FileVault.