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Essential Mac Survival Toolkit

The other week I spent a very frustrating morning cloning a failing internal hard disk onto a new hard drive. The client had spoken to me a few weeks prior about their unstable Mac but for one reason or another they hadn't given me the go ahead to proceed with the repair as they wanted to discuss it with someone else. So during this 5 hour period of boredom my mind started thinking "what would have avoided all this frustration?" Here are my five essentials that all Mac owners should have in the Mac survival toolkit to prevent a Mac issue turning into a very costly crisis.

1) Act promptly. if you suspect your Mac doesn't feel right - react to it immediately. You are the one that is sitting in front of your Mac all day long so trust your instincts. If you delay in responding to a potential problem you could risk data loss.  Often a hard drive will have read/write errors before it eventually fails, this will show itself in a general slowness as the computers tries to re-write or re-read data to and from the drive. Doing a complete clone of the hard drive at the first signs of problems will at least ensure you have a backup to fall-back to if things worsen.

2) Purchase a mobile hard drive for backups and use it to create regular clones or for TimeMachine backups. Programs such as Carbon Copy Cloner or SuperDuper will allow you make a bootable clone of your drive onto an external hard drive. This should be done regularly or at the first sign of problems.

3) Ask someone who has experience of solving Mac issues. Often we have to pick up the pieces from previous attempts to fix Mac problems. Valuable time has been wasted and often things are that little bit worse than the original problem, making it even costlier to fix. The contact details of your friendly Mac support organisation (such as as us) should be on a Stickie attached to your Mac. However, don't be offended if we ask you "have you got a backup?"

4) Purchase a cheaper, second hand Mac. This will act as a backup machine should yours need to go away for repairs or is out of action for a number of days. With a bootable clone of your hard drive (see item 2) you can start-up pretty much any other Intel Mac and carry on working as if you are sitting at your usual machine with all your data and Applications available to you. It doesn't have to be as highly specified as your main Mac and it can sit in a cupboard for years but it will keep the wheels turning should you have a problem. Dejac offers a selection of second hand Macs for just this purpose and we are happy to advise which model would be an appropriate substitute for your main Mac.

5) Purchase an AppleCare Protection Plan (ACPP) if your Mac is within its first year of life. In my opinion this is "must have" as the cheapest replacement Apple part is often dearer than the cost of the AppleCare Protection Plan. The Plan will extend the Macs warranty for a further two years thus covering you for unexpected hardware repairs as a result of manufacturing defects that develop during this period.

Whilst on the subject of Apple's warranty and the ACPP, both these Apple services will mean that you will have to take your faulty Mac to an Authorised Repair Centre and leave it there for them to diagnose the problem and subsequently repair it. Apple do not offer a while-you-wait service and your Mac could be away for days if the part is not readily available. Apple's obligation is to fix the hardware without charge to yourself. They will not recover your data or give you your faulty hard drive back. If you don't have a backup, then you will lose your data.

Thank you for taking the time to read this article and should you choose to act upon some or all of my tips I have no doubt that you will be able to avoid the worse experiences of any Mac issues that will befall your machine in the future.

Darrin Charlton