After two friends lost all their hard-earned data in two separate incidents back in March, I was frightened enough to buy an external hard drive and start using the Macintosh "Time Machine" feature. Since then it has been making hourly backups of my entire system state, usually done so quietly that I don't even know it's happening.
I didn't think I'd ever need to USE the backups...until my house had a brief and sudden power outage yesterday morning. You know how some outages sound BAD, like they've involved some sort of surge? This one was like that.
Shortly afterward my Mac began to slooooow doooooooooooowwwwwn. Every action took several minutes to complete, and woe to the user who tried to multitask. I spent all afternoon trying to diagnose the problem...I ran hardware diagnostics, I repaired the hard drive. Meanwhile my poor belaboured computer was showing a "broken folder" icon every second time I tried to boot it.
I finally decided that the power outage/surge had scrambled my hard drive. Or something. I set the system to restore itself back to its previous good state, and three hours later here I am, with all my data still intact and a computer that seems healthy enough. If I hadn't had steady backups enabled I would have needed to reinstall EVERYTHING: the operating system (and updates), the hardware drivers for all my gadgets, the software I use constantly...I would have needed to LICENSE all that software again. And all my music, writing, and other essential projects? Gone.
So please let this post frighten you. Spend a bit of money on a hard drive, and if you've got a Mac, simply enable Time Machine. It will save your bacon someday!