In the old days (including right up until now) it could be a nightmare when a PC failed. Not so much in the future, with cloud computing.
In the past, when a computer slowed up and finally quit, documents, often EMail contacts, drivers, and applications were lost or needed to be reclaimed IF they had been backed up, and after a lengthy reinstallation of of Windows applications and documents. You needed an external drive if you did back up files and it took a long time to transfer them back.
No more with the cloud. My documents are saved on the web in Dropbox. My music is newly stored on Amazon. Pictures on Picasa Web. Contacts and appointment calendar in GMail. When I start up anywhere most of my apps (word processor, presentation apps, etc.) are available on the web.
My bookmarks are synchronized so that wherever I log in to GMail, I have my bookmarks. Much is also synchronized with the Apple + iPad and iPod Touch (an iPhone without the contract).
So, when my old computer gives trouble, I just go to another computer and everything is there for me. Nothing is lost.
With my prototype laptop from Google, if it fails, I don’t even need to reload the OS, just restart it. The basic software is always up to date, since it runs on a distant server. A very cheap computer thus does the job, since everything runs remotely anyway.
Using the computer is also getting simpler. Wherever I have a microphone (really almost anywhere) I do voice searches now with Google Chrome or Dragon Search. My voice goes up to the cloud and comes back rendered into text. There is less of a need for a CD or DVD Drive or extra memory any more.
New laptops with solid state drives are now about to make laptops really portable without risk to the drive, and with the cloud, most of the data is not on the drive anyway.