What’s the first rule of using a computer? I’d wager that nine out of ten support staff would agree on this one. We might all think it’s a no-brainer, but for as long as I’ve been in this business (20+ years), rule number one was to save often. I’m amazed at how many people don’t. Here are some of the things I see.

I recently upgraded a bunch of computers in the office, and to accommodate busy work demands, I would swap the boxes after hours. More times than not, I would find that people went home for the day leaving any number of files open. Of course, when I closed them, I was asked if I wanted to save the changes. That can only mean that it wasn’t saved before that person went home. Some of them didn’t even have a proper file name, since I was asked if I wanted to save Document1, or Workbook1, or some other default name. Personally speaking, I never even walk away from my computer without saving, much less go home for the night without doing it. In fact, I seldom leave anything open when I leave for the day.

Someone approached me recently with a gripe about how Microsoft will sometimes automatically reboot his computer after an upgrade. I have these computers scheduled to check for upgrades late at night so people aren’t interrupted with it during the day. Of course, his gripe wasn’t really about the automatic reboot, but rather how he lost some work because of the files he left open — without saving. One question will put an abrupt end to that gripe: Didn’t you save your work before you went home?

Another person called me over not too long ago because, for some unknown reason, our primary application software, AutoCAD, threw a rare hissy fit and displayed an unrecoverable error message. Nothing was responding, and the only way to proceed was to end the task. Of course, this meant the file couldn’t be saved. When was your last save, I asked? The three-hours-ago answer she gave was a tough one to hear. However, all might not have been lost, I thought, since AutoCAD has a nice auto-save feature. But for some reason, the file created by that auto-save was incomplete. I’m not sure why, but it probably has something to do with how AutoCAD references different files and such. But for whatever reason, it just wasn’t there.

Okay, maybe this is all a minor rant, but after repeating rule number one — save often — over and over (probably into the thousands of times over the years), it’s still something a good number of people obviously don’t do. I have to wonder why, but the answer remains elusive.

Okay, one more minor rant: Someone asked me today why his e-mail was not getting out of his outbox. Just a hunch, I said, but perhaps it’s the 47 MB file attachment you’re trying to send!

P.S. I’ll be on vacation for the next week, so I’ll look forward to replying to any comments after I get back.