When helping customers, I frequently run in to the problem of unknown account names, passwords, and license keys and unavailable program installation media or files.
If you forgot your password I can usually get you back in to your computer or at least recover data. It is not so easy on mobile devices or on-line accounts.
Mobile device security is generally much tighter on the assumption that a tablet or phone is easily lost or stolen. Be particularly careful about repeatedly trying different passwords, because some devices will permanently lock you out after a number of incorrect entries.
The only way to make the device usable again may to do a full reset. This will erase all apps, settings, and stored data. If you don’t have your pictures and other files backed up somewhere else, they will be permanently lost.
If you have an on-line account associated with the device, and you have used that account to back up everything, and you have access to that account, it may provide a way to recover without permanent data loss. Typically this involves connecting the device to a computer, running a program, logging in, resetting the device, then restoring from the backup you hopefully created.
The key is that you still need to back up and to know the credentials to log in to the on line account.
Most computing device problems are software problems. Some problems are easily found and fixed, but in other cases it’s like looking for needles in a haystack in the dark.
Many times the only practical method is to reload the operating system from scratch. This means all installed application software must also be reinstalled.
If you are using Linux, this is probably not an issue, since it is likely you are using all open source applications. They can be downloaded and installed directly from the program repositories using the built-in software manager or appropriate commands.
The same is not true on Windows or MacOS, or your mobile device. You may have downloaded and installed some free programs, but chances are you have purchased others. They may have been downloaded and installed, or on a computer installed from physical installation media such as a CD. Either way, you need to have the installers and the activation keys.
If you have the install media or file but no key, you are out of luck. If you have the key but no actual installer, you are out of luck. If you have purchase records that are only in email or a digital file you can’t access, you are out of luck.
Key point one is that you must have adequate records of all your user accounts, passwords, purchases, and product keys. This means write the information down and keep more than one copy of it in safe places.
Key point two is that you must save installation media or files. You must also do regular backups of any other important files. This means copying them to at least one other place, whether it is another computer, a flash drive, or on-line storage.
If you need assistance in sorting out your records and creating backups, you can call me at 315-376-8879.
Original newspaper column published January 2019