Well, it finally happened. My computer's hard drive died, and took all my data with it. That was not supposed to happen to me. I bought a Macintosh...

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Well, it finally happened.

My computer’s hard drive died, and took all my data with it.

That was not supposed to happen to me. I bought a Macintosh to avoid losing my data to a virus or fatal crash like this. With a Mac, I would be immune to any disaster, I thought. Stupid me.

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So what happened?

Just before the crash, I was making a movie. The Mac sounded like it was working hard, but that was understandable considering the amount of video data it was processing. Then the application froze.

After restarting, other things went awry, causing me to quit and restart a few more times.

I have AppleCare support ($249 for two years) so I called, and a technician patiently stepped me through opening up the tower and locating a certain restart button he told me to push. Then we put the case back together and he asked me to restart.

Click, click, click. I put the phone receiver next to the computer. He heard it and told me to press the power button to shut down.

“Not good,” he said, kindly. He told me the hard drive was probably dead and to take it to an Apple service center, which might be able to revive some of my data. He said it probably wasn’t caused by software or anything I did, but that hard drives sometimes fail (even Mac drives).

Stoically, I lugged my heavy G5 to the car and drove to the repair center, where the technicians probed the inert machine to try to dig out the data. No luck.

All the way home, I mourned losing my 2,000 best photos. I worried about e-mail, column drafts and other vital stuff, but mostly the photos.

When did I last back up the data? It was several months ago. Shame on me — I didn’t follow my own advice to back up often. But I felt so safe with a Macintosh.

At home, I hunted for backup discs and files on other computers and found copies of most photos except the latest few hundred. That’s good, though it will take uncountable hours to organize the collection again.

A week later, I picked up my G5 with the new hard drive, which cost nothing with my AppleCare coverage.

The technicians were able to retrieve one thing from the old drive — my Seattle Times folder. That will save me a lot of work, so I’m extremely grateful.

Before leaving the store, I bought an external hard drive that will hold everything on my computer and more.

Two weeks later

I’ve managed to piece together most of my photo collection and put it in reasonable order. Plus, I’ve learned I can back up the iPhoto Library — with my organization intact, by clicking Share on the iPhoto menu and choosing Burn Disc.

It saves thumbnails, titles, keywords, comments and ratings along with the photos, so that next time (never!) I won’t have to reorganize all over again.

My music library on the new drive is empty, but rather than transferring songs from backup DVDs, I’ve decided to start over. I collect all the CDs in the house and begin importing tracks. Currently, there are more than 600 songs loaded.

Unfortunately, I can’t retrieve songs I bought from the Apple iTunes music store. Nothing comes up when I try to access purchased songs and later (after a little digging on the Apple Web site) discover purchased music can be downloaded only once. I could have burned discs or used file sharing to transfer those songs to another computer, but didn’t. Again, stupid me.

Reinstalling software is easy, but it is time-consuming to customize menus and preferences again in several applications.

Losing saved e-mail, including records of communication and new-product information, has been problematic. In some cases, I have to wait until the contact person contacts me again.

Luckily, I can fill the new address book with previous contacts by turning on synchronization in my .Mac account. That’s because synchronization was on before, so my Address Book was saved online.

My Safari browser favorites and other bookmarks also are synchronized, so they’re up and running now, too.

Backup drive

It’s time to set up a backup system with the 250GB Maxtor OneTouch II external hard drive I bought ($280 Mac/Windows). It’s about the size of a hardcover book, features one-touch backup and includes both a FireWire and USB cable.

To have it back up the hard drive when I push a button, I follow screen directions and the system starts copying everything on my computer’s hard drive to the external drive.

When it’s done, I double-click the Max 250 icon on the desktop to see the hard-drive folder and open that. Everything is there. Backup for this week is finished, so I eject and turn Max off to disconnect it from the computer. I plan to keep this data safe.

Write Linda Knapp at lknapp@seattletimes.com. To read other Getting Started columns, go to: www.seattletimes.com/gettingstarted