I remember the first job where I had my own computer. I was so excited! It had Windows 3.1. No more DOS commands! I had Microsoft Office version 4.3. I could easily create files and folders and see them again! I had everything so organized. But then I found all these other files and folders I had never heard of or seen—like the System folder and a lot of files that had strange file extensions. Well, I knew these were not Word, Excel, PowerPoint, or Access files so I deleted them all. Yes, I deleted everything that did not have a doc, xls, ppt, or mdb file extension.

Can anyone guess what happened next?

My computer was hosed, as the techies say. None of the programs would run. I, being the brilliant computer expert that I was, thought I would reboot the computer. Surely that would fix everything.


Horrified I rebooted again. Same message. I read the message trying to make sense of it. Invalid system disk. How could it be invalid? I had just cleaned it up! It should thank me!

I walked slowly to the system-admin’s office, carefully avoiding eye contact with anyone. I explained what happened and she sighed, raised an eyebrow, and “told” me that I had just deleted the operating system. (Back in the days of Windows 3.1 you could do this.) It would take her hours to reinstall everything on my computer. She would have to reinstall Windows, reinstall Office, reinstall GroupWise, set up my email again, not to mention the time to try and recover all my files. As my punishment it took weeks to get my computer fixed and I had to use a typewriter to get my work done.

Needless to say, this was a learning experience and it is one that every person new to computers is afraid of happening. After all, no one wants to call IT and tell them “I have killed the computer.”

But luckily ten years have passed and technology has come a long way. And luckily no one at the library has to worry about killing the computer.


If you’ve been with PLCMC for long enough you have surely heard some variation of the word imaging. “Hi, I am here to image your computer.” “No problem, we will just re-image your computer.”

So what is imaging?
Imaging is a process where your computer is configured just the way it needs to be, all the programs are installed, everything is working as it should, and then a virtual snapshot is taken of the contents of your computer by IT.

That snapshot is compressed into an image file, and the image file is then stored somewhere. At PLCMC it is usually stored on the D partition of your hard drive. Images can also be stored on a CD.

Later, if you have a problem with the computer, the computer can be re-imaged. Meaning everything on the computer will be overwritten with the original snapshot that IT took. That is why it is important not to save files that you want to keep onto the C: drive of library computers. When computers are re-imaged the C: drive is erased and rewritten by the original snapshot.

I wish the company that I worked for ten years ago had used imaging. I would have been back up and running in minutes instead of weeks. When I teach Computer Basics to the public I am often amazed at how afraid people are of using computers. Often it is because they are afraid of breaking something just by using mouse and keyboard. As an ice breaker I like to tell them that unless they pick the computer up and drop it on the floor, there is really nothing to be afraid of. We have virus programs installed and updated nightly, we have security in place to prevent people from downloading and installing files, and after all we can always just re-image the computer!

Visit the following sites for more information on imaging:

Do you have a “memorable” newbie computer experience to share? Feel free to share by adding a comment!

About Lori Reed

Lori Reed, coauthor of Workplace Learning & Leadership: A Handbook for Library and Non-Profit Trainers, is a learning and communication strategist with more than twenty years experience in learning and development. A 2009 Library Journal Mover & Shaker and a 2010 "One to Watch" for paralibrarians, Lori graduated cum laude from East Carolina University with a Bachelor of Science in Communication. Lori is a certified Synchronous Learning Expert and a North Carolina Master Trainer and has traveled across North America speaking about libraries and training.

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