I know, I know, you're all sick and tired of hearing my whine about my crash--I get it, I'm tired of whining about it. However, this post isn't about my whining (well, maybe a little bit) it's mostly about pointing out the things I've learned since this happened to me. So, here goes. Take it for what it's worth. As my friend Eric says "There are two kinds of computer users in the world, those that have lost a hard drive and those that will" I just hope it never happens to me again, or that I'm more prepared for it if it does.
1) Make a bootable back up. Many of us have a back up of some kind. The difference between a regular back up and a bootable back up is that you can actually run your computer off a bootable back up. If you lost your hard drive, you can then plug in your bootable back up and run everything just as you had it the last time you backed up to it. I'm now using a free-ware program called Super Duper (It's specifically for Macs) on my external hard drive (which was on my shelves, unused, for a year before I crashed. In 30 minutes I could have had a completely bootable back up system but it was too haaaaard, so I didn't use it. I'm using it now). This option stores data AND programs.
2) Have secondary back up. This can be a jump drive, or CD's or online storage of some kind. I'm now doing CD's once a month. If for some reason I crashed again and couldn't use my bootable back up, I could back up with CD's. This isn't a perfect form, as it won't retain program information and has a high failure incidence, but it will hold things like documents, pictures, movies, music, and other data that you will want to use.
3) Know how to use your back up options. I had subscribed to .mac for back up. I had problems figuring it out and so I settled for only backing up my documents. I'm very glad I did, but the way it worked was that it made a master back up and then saved anything that was changed every day. This is great, in that the back ups were fast (after the first one) and I didn't worry about it, but in order to restore my back ups I had 200 incremental backups I had to restore one at a time. I learned the hard way that the restore feature is very complicated, especially if you had to get a new hard drive and reroute the restore because the original location is not there. It took me hours and hours and hours, and I am still missing about 20% of my documents. I decided to recover those most valuble to me, but I know I will kick myself for many months as I remember another project I didn't restore. The problem is that there is no way for me to find a specific document other than opeing each of those 200 restores--which takes about 5 minutes to do. So, know how your back up works, practice restoring something so that you know how to use it. The mac back up program was very disappointing for me and yet I put my faith in it anyway. It also didn't back up my web builder pages because I assumed they were stored through the server that hosted them--not so. My website will stay as it is right now, but I have to completely rebuild my website before the next time I update it--which will take me several hours and I don't have the photos I used on there originally.
4) Subscribe to an online photo hosting program. Whether you use wal-mart, walgreens, shutterfly, or some other thing, having a seperate server to store your photos is a really good idea. I did a digital scrapbook last year, and thank goodness I did. It has a year's worth of family photos I'd have lost otherwise. I was waiting to do my 2008 photos until after the end of the year and lost all of them. I'm currenly working on downloading the 2007 photos back to my computer.
5) If you're crashed, don't keep pushing on the gas. When your car dies and you keep pushing the gas as you try to start it, you flood the engine. When your computer crashes and you keep trying to bring it back up over and over again, you burn up your head or risk jamming your spindles. My computer crashed on a Sunday, I googled a dozen ways to bring it back by myself and spent several hours trying over and over and over to bring it up. Whether or not this is why my hard drive is now inaccessible for basic data recovery is unknown, but it certainly doesn't help. I had no idea this was an issue until I got the estimate of $1600 to retreave the information because the head was bad on my hard drive. They tech reccomended that next time I even suspect I've had a hard drive crash, to leave the computer alone until someone can look at it. There's a chance that had I done this and my hard drive wasn't so burnt up by the time I took it in that I could have recovered my data for about $80.
6) Use Data Recovery experts. If you need your data recovered, don't waste time and money on a regular computer fix-it shop. Find an actual data recovery specialist. This might present itself a little more expensive, but they can more correctly identify what went wrong and reccomend the best way to proceed.
Anyway, there it is. I hope you and me both learn from my mistakes this time around.