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FORTUNE: When Bad Things Happen to Good Computers

You’ve probably done nothing to deserve a worm, a blackout, or a lightning strike, but here’s how to prepare just the same.

Pessimism can seem a virtue after this year’s technology calamities — from the Great Northeastern Blackout to the plague of nasty computer worms. If you convince yourself that terrible things are going to happen to your computer, your precious data, and your expensive electronic gear, you may not be caught off guard when they actually do.
To get in an appropriately sour mood, start with this exercise: Unplug all your electronic toys, turn off the lights, and try to remember where you stored the candles and flashlights. (Wait. Bad idea. Turn up the lights just enough so that you can keep reading.) Ready? Okay, let’s go through some drills. Problem One. A lightning bolt scores a direct hit on your laptop as you paddle up the piranha-infested Amazon in a canoe, plunging it and you into the water. Naturally your first thought is, Yikes! My memoir is on the hard disk!
Solution: This one’s easy. If you survive, hike to the nearest pay phone and call DriveSavers (800-440-1904). The Novato, Calif., company boasts a 90% success rate in rescuing data from drowned, melted, gunshot, crushed, worn-out, infected, accidentally reformatted, and otherwise majorly abused hard disks. (The laptop shown in the photo above was the victim of a January house fire; its data were rescued. In the DriveSavers shop at presstime: a computer mashed by a car’s airbag.)
The service isn’t cheap, typically $1,000 to get your precious data back, depending on such factors as turnaround time and what operating system your computer user used. John Christopher, a data-recovery engineer at the firm, urges people to visit the site while they still can, to read such wise advice as “If your hard drive emits unusual noises (clicking, grinding, or metal scraping), turn it off immediately!” Trust these guys. But if you can, make a backup first.
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