Your laptop dies now what?

Last week my MacBook died. It may have just pulled a Rip Van Winkle on me I’m not too sure because I had no time to waste; I needed to get back to work as soon as possible.

After an hour or so of generally freaking out I learned I had the following options:

  • Have the MIT’s hardware replacement folks diagnose the problem, send out for parts and / or ship the MacBook back to Apple for repairs. Estimated downtime: 3-4 business days.
  • Apple store does warranty repairs in store. Their advice: go online and make a reservation at the Genius Bar. Um my laptop is dead, telling me to “go online” is rubbing it in a bit. (Turns out their best turnaround time was 2-3 days)
  • Take very expensive hunk of inert plastic to Tech Superpowers pay a little extra to move to the front of the repair queue, hope they have the parts in-house. Estimated downtime: 2 business days, if I’m lucky
  • Hope that it is just a hard drive failure, by a replacement and fix it myself. Estimated downtime: less than a day—if I can find a drive

So I find myself at home early Friday evening with a new 320gb hard drive and a MacBook that won’t even boot from a CD-Rom. Hmm. I’m not an expert but it sounds like the problem might not be restricted to my hard drive.
Next Day, Saturday
Now its Saturday, even less repair options. Its PodCamp Boston 3 weekend, and I absolutely need to be up and running by Monday morning at the latest. What to do?
“Hello Apple Store, have you met my friend American Express?”

  • 1.6 GHz MacBook Air, 2GB RAM
  • AppleCare
  • External Super Drive
  • USB Ethernet adapter
  • Extra power supply
  • While your at it throw in a new shoulder bag

TimeMachine Restore
This worked so well it was creepy. Boot up the MacBook Air with the TimeMachine external drive attached (good thing I got that USB one and not the FireWire one); restore from TimeMachine took 1 1/2 to 2 hours max (approximately 33 GB involved in the restore).

On reboot, the email I was in the middle of writing less than 24 hours ago was in my drafts folder, nearly everything was restored (lost my printer settings and some other minor things).
What could I have done better—what did I learn?

  • Backing up to TimeMachine and a SaaS like Mozy.com provided enough piece of mind, much more than if I used just one approach
  • I’m a fool for not using my IMAP email more effectively. I didn’t have mail stored on the servers beyond what’s was in my InBox (which I try to keep at zero)
  • I should rethink about using cloud-based services more. Using Google Docs, Zoho, etc.
  • I wish MIT’s Athena environment was more OS X friendly.
  • You can rent a MacBook from Tech Superpowers for $225 a week. If they are doing the repairs, its only $99 to rent for however long your equipment is being repaired.
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