A Guide to Troubleshooting Your Pilot
I've now lost all the data on my Pilot at least five or
six times, and it's a painful experience to lose so much
personal information. Having my Pilot always with me makes
it a kind of memory extension for my brain, and losing it
can feel like losing a part of me. If you depend on your
Pilot and one day it goes haywire, here's some advice for
dealing with the situation.
First, remember that the most valuable thing on your
Pilot is your personal data. You may be tempted to take
your Pilot apart or otherwise try to repair the hardware,
but keep in mind that after all is said and done, you
will be happier with your data and no Pilot than with a
Pilot and no data. The Pilot is replaceable; the data
If you have backed up your data or performed a HotSync
recently, then your data is safe. You have very little
to worry about: you can be assured that your costs will
not exceed the price of a new Pilot ($200 or so). Otherwise,
your first priority is to retrieve that data.
Okay. So your Pilot has stopped working. I know from
personal experience that this can happen in many ways:
- It won't turn on. The screen stays blank.
- The screen is a solid dark blue, and stays solid blue no matter
what you do. (Yes, even the Pilot has a "blue screen of death"!)
- The screen shows a bunch of black vertical lines.
Here are some things to try.
- Turn the contrast dial on the side of the Pilot. This
might bring your display back.
- Try to HotSync your Pilot. Put it in a cradle, activate
the HotSync function on your computer, and press the HotSync
button. You may have to press it many times. Try hitting
the power button and the HotSync button several times in a
random order. If pressing any buttons or tapping the screen
causes your Pilot to make that familiar ticking noise,
it means your Pilot is running and your data may still be alive!
Be patient while trying to get a successful HotSync.
If the HotSync takes place, you may save your data.
- Reset the Pilot by pushing the end of a paper clip,
a pin, or a mechanical pencil into the "Reset" hole in the
back. (If you are lucky enough to have one of the original
Palm III pens, you can unscrew the top end of the pen to
discover a perfectly-sized reset-button-pusher there.)
- Give the Pilot a whack. Hold the body of the Pilot
flat in your right hand and smack the top-left corner of
the Pilot into the palm of your left hand. Or try it
in the opposite direction. Don't worry -- these things
are pretty sturdy. I can personally attest that in one
case, when the Pilot blue-screened, a firm whack suddenly
brought it back into perfect operation. (Don't overdo
it, of course!)
- Try applying a bit of torsion. Hold the Pilot face-up,
sideways, with your right thumb over the top edge (IR port)
and your left thumb over the bottom edge (buttons). Twist it
a little by pushing the right side away from you and the left
side toward you, or vice versa. Do this gently -- don't
shatter the screen! This has brought the Pilot back from
the vertical-bars state into correct operation for me before.
The following measures are guaranteed to destroy your data,
so only use them as a last resort (or after you are sure you
have a backup of your data). Do not try any of these measures
until you have tried all of the things listed above!
- Take the batteries out.
- Wipe the memory on the device by holding down the power
button while pressing the Reset button in the back.
- Open the case with a screwdriver, clean out any dust
or other gunk that may be inside, and reseat any loose
connectors or cards.
The above are only my suggestions, of course.
I disclaim any liability for what may happen to your
device or your data as a result of following this advice.
copyright © by
updated 1 May 1999