The computer error I was getting was something like "Can not load locally stored profile". The error goes on to say that a temporary profile will be used, but that any settings or files will not be saved. When I went to the 'My Documents' file, it was empty. This is where the panicked question of backups come in. All my pictures, music, documents, work files, etc. were missing. I'm sure they're on the hard drive somewhere, but who knows what all has been corrupted at this point.
Some googling later, it looked like the solution was to create a new profile and then drag all the files over. After setting up the new profile, I went in search of the missing files. I found them, plugged in the external hard drive, and started dragging them over. It looks like April 30th is the last time I backed up some files. Not forever ago, but long enough that I wasn't sure what was new.
When I tried to copy over the pictures and music, I was denied access. After more messing around, I may have it figured out. In addition to all the personal files, some of the programs were missing as well. I have no idea why Windows is set up this way. It seems I would need to reinstall programs in each profile. I assume it doesn't take up twice as much space, but who knows. I would also need to set up Outlook all over again to access my calendar and e-mail. Once I was relatively sure my files were safe, I decided to step away for a while.
My laptop has been running more and more slowly, so I should probably just wipe it clean and start over. If this is what I decide to do, it would be a waste of time to set up this new profile temporarily. I also need to track down the installation discs for all the programs I use. Some of the programs were purchased online, so there are no discs. I'm not sure how easy it will be to download them without paying for them again. I don't want to go through this more than once if I can help it.
The main reason I have hesitated is that I'm sure I would miss backing up some files and they would be lost forever. Much like the boxes of memories I've moved from house to house, some of the stuff I haven't looked at in a long time, but if it was gone forever I'd be missing a part of my history, a part of me.
So, sorry if I haven't returned your e-mails. I've done a poor job of visiting the online sites to check my various accounts. I'd like to say it has been nice being disconnected from the electronic tether, but I know that the backlog is building hour by hour.
Tomorrow (hopefully) an STP recap.