Crash! Boom! *Bah!*

It may be fresh out of the box, but assume right now that your hard drive is going to crash and take all your files with you. It may be 10 days or 10 years from now, but odds are, that drive is going to fail at some point. You should be prepared for this inevitability by having some sort of a data backup plan in place.

Why do hard drives fail? There are several reasons, from mechanical parts burning out to electronics issues. Even solid-state drives have been known to fail. So if your hard drive fails, what do you do? (Besides, you know, cursing and stomping.)

If you haven’t backed up and you totally need that stuff on that drive, you have a couple of options. You may want to start by taking the computer to a repair shop and having a technician remove the drive and try to revive it. If the demise was due to a logical failure, a repair shop can sometimes insert the drive into a new enclosure or a hard drive dock connected to another computer and pull the data off to a new machine — where it can be burned to a disc and put back in your eternally grateful hands. Disk repair software (like DiskWarrior) may help get files back sometimes, too.

If the drive went out in a flaming blaze of clicking and grinding glory and the hardware shop can’t revive it, you may need to resort to a data recovery service to salvage your files. DriveSavers is the big nationally known outfit here, and most cities have local services as well. Just be prepared to pay some big bucks because data recovery is usually way more expensive than that backup drive you never bought.

However, if you were backing up all along, you can have the technician swap out your deceased drive for a new one so you can restore all your files to the computer from the backup system. Apple’s free Time Machine software in Mac OS X makes this particularly easy. Windows 7 has its own backup software, and there are plenty of Windows backup programs that simplify things as well. If you’re feeling particularly do-it-yourself, you can also buy the new hard drive from a parts site or a storage-and-recovery shop, install it yourself, reinstall your operating system and files and pick up where you left off.

Because backup hard drives can also fail, some people are going the belt-and-suspenders route and now backing up to the cloud or burning comprehensive sets of DVDs to archive their most important files as well. No matter how you do it, though, just do it: Get a backup system in place and let it go to work. If you do ever suffer a fatal hard-drive crash, your photos, documents and music will be safe and maybe you can even recycle the dead drive into a little bit of tick-tock art.


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