Ask How-To Geek: Salvaging Data by Freezing Your HDD, Wallpaper Swapping, and Emailing Text Messages

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You’ve got questions and we’ve got answers. This week we take a look at freezer-based data salvaging, swapping out your wallpaper, and how to email text messages.

Once a week we dip into our mailbag and help readers solve their problems, sharing the useful solutions with you I the process. Read on to see our fixes for this week’s reader dilemmas.

Giving Your Hard Drive the Freezer Treatment

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Dear How-To Geek,

I’m in trouble, big time. My PC (HP Pavilion Desktop) seemingly has a hardware failure; it’s old, so this is understandable, but the hardware that failed happens to be the hard drive. I can get to BOIS, and sometimes boot to Windows, (in safe mode)but Norton Anti-Virus shuts the computer down due to instability after only five minutes.

I was wondering if you guys had some magic solution to saving all the data on the failing hard drive. I have tried the hard drive in another XP Desktop computer but it failed to recognize it (I used it as the slave, which is usually occupied by another hard drive, so I know that the connection is fine) If it involves using other hardware, I have two other XP machines desktop computers, at least one spare hard drive, two Windows 7 netbook computers and access to a Vista desktop Computer if need be. Please help if you can, it would be greatly appreciated.

Sincerely,

Dying Drive in Denver

Dear Dying Drive,

Hard drive failure is right up there with PSU blowout as the worst of the hardware failures. If the drive has absolutely critical data that cannot be lost (because you need it for a legal case or because if you lose it the IRS will kill you with a screw driver) we’d recommend first considering a professional data recover service. Professional data recovery services aren’t cheap but can you put a price on not getting stabbed by a G-man with a screw driver?

If the data is important to you but not important enough to spend $$$$ to get it back, you might try a more DIY technique that many people have reported success with: deep freezing the drive. It’s unconventional, it’s a last ditch effort, and it might not even work, but under the right conditions it can keep a drive alive long enough to save your data. Check out this guide over at Lifehacker.com to read more.

Swapping Out and Automating Your Wallpaper2011-03-28_152331

Dear How-To Geek,

Please explain to the novices among us how we can take advantage of all the awesome wallpaper pictures you’re always sharing! I know it’s novice level stuff but I’ve never changed the wallpaper on my computer and don’t even know where to look!

Sincerely,

Still Got Stock Wallpaper in San Francisco

Dear Stock,

We’re not going to give you any grief about it; everybody starts learning somewhere and not everyone has been a computer hobbyist for a few decades. We’re going to assume you’re using some version of Windows, likely Windows XP or Windows 7. You can read how to change the wallpaper images for Windows 7 here and Windows XP here.

While you’re at it we’d recommend grabbing some tools to take advantage of having a big wallpaper collection like John’s Wallpaper Switcher featured in one of our previous guides. You’ll go from stock wallpaper to wallpaper switched on the hour in no time!

Send Text Messages via Email

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Dear How-To Geek,

Is there anyway to email a text message? I have an application that can send out an email alert. I want to be able to receive the alert anywhere I am. I order for that to happen it has to be sent to my phone as a text message. Is there anything I can to do bridge that gap between emailing and texting? For what it’s worth my cellphone provider is Sprint. Thanks!

Sincerely,

PC Phone Home

Dear PC,

The majority of US carriers provide an email-to-SMS gateway for text messages. This means that an email address like 12345678901@cellprovider.net sends the email as a text message to the phone number in the user name portion of the email address. In your case you’d want yournumber@messaging.sprintpcs.com in order to reach your phone. Readers with other providers will want to check out our full guide here for more examples.


Have a question you want to put before the How-To Geek staff? Shoot us an email at ask@howtogeek.com and then keep an eye out for a solution in the Ask How-To Geek column.

Jason Fitzpatrick is a warranty-voiding DIYer who spends his days cracking opening cases and wrestling with code so you don't have to. If it can be modded, optimized, repurposed, or torn apart for fun he's interested (and probably already at the workbench taking it apart). You can follow him on if you'd like.