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Macworld Advice: 4 Things Never To Do To Your Mac

Despite best intentions, people do bad things to their computers. An Apple guru offers four basic but important tips on protecting data, your machine, and your sanity.

Sharon Gaudin

January 8, 2007

4 Min Read

While a lot of Mac users could easily fit into the die-hard, they'd-never-use-anything-else category, that doesn't necessarily mean they're good to their machines.

Bob LeVitus, known as Dr. Bob to the readers of his tech column in the Houston Chronicle, says he's always amazed at how people treat their beloved machines—that is, how badly they treat their machines. To curb some of these bad tendencies, Dr. Bob is offering a session at Macworld Expo called "A Dozen Things You Should Never Do To Your Mac."

"People do all kinds of bad things to their computers," says LeVitus, who also authored the book Mac OS X For Dummies. "It's not necessarily confined to Mac users. Window users do a lot of things they shouldn't do, too People are taking their computers for granted. Perhaps they have somewhat cavalier attitudes about what to do and what not to do to their computers."

In an interview with InformationWeek, LeVitus offered up four of his tips for keeping your data safe, your computer out of the repair shop, and your IT workers from yelling at you.

1: Do not bump, drop, jostle, push, shove, jiggle, or do anything that even sounds like that to any apparatus that has a hard disk.

Now, this might sound fairly self-evident. Most users aren't normally dropping their machines out of windows or letting them bounce down staircases, no matter how appealing that idea may sound at times. LeVitus, though, says it doesn't take big trauma to cause trouble. Simply moving a laptop while it's running could cause a whole host of problems.

"I watch people all the time pick up their laptops while they're running and plop them down," says LeVitus. "If you're really careful, that's not usually a problem. But if you're doing it while the hard disk is being written to, it's more dangerous. I see people being careless and I think I wouldn't want to be the one to tell them it would cost $500 to $2,700 to recover data."

2: Never have just one copy of anything you can't live without. If it's important, have three copies in three different places.

Of course, this is something most everyone has heard before, whether a PC or a Mac user. LeVitus, however, says it's advice that largely remains unheeded. "When I do user group meetings, I ask how many know they should back up their data. One hundred percent raise their hands," he says. How many do it religiously? Maybe 10%, LeVitus says. "They're not stupid. They know they should do a backup. You should figure out an automated backup system that is painless and lets you back up without you doing anything."

LeVitus says the problem is that people forget that it's not an issue of if their hard disk will fail but when it will fail. That means people shouldn't only have backups, but those backups should be stored in different places, so one disaster doesn't wipe out the original and every copy.

"If you're a home user, take it to the bank and toss it in a safety deposit box," says LeVitus. Flood, fire, tornado could put me out of business. But even if my house was blown to Oz, I could still get back to work tomorrow."

3: Never add, remove, rename, or move items in the root level library or the root level system/library unless you absolutely positively know what you're doing.

For the most part, if people mess with stuff in those folders they easily can render the OS or a specific application dysfunctional. LeVitus notes that Mac OS X is the first of Apple's operating systems where this really matters. With the first nine Mac OS versions, users could put just about anything anywhere. "People have told me they were just tidying up," he adds. "Sometimes they move the folder into another folder and the Mac will likely think it doesn't have an operating system. Just don't mess with it."

4: Never power down or unplug any storage device without ejecting or unmounting it first.

This applies to external FireWire and USB hard disks, thumb drives, iPods, or any other storage device like Zip or jazz disks, says LeVitus. Any disk that can be ejected should be ejected before you turn the device off or unplug it. He adds that 80% to 90% of the time nothing bad will happen, but the other 20% of the time might spell disaster.

"People damage the media doing this stuff," LeVitus says. "A file could become completely corrupted. Depending on what's going on when you turn the power off, you might render it inoperable. You might not kill it. You might be able to repair it, but these are things you don't want to go through if you can avoid it. They're not pleasant."

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