Prepare for the worst – Make your own Mac Disaster Kit

Computer disasters can strike at any time. Likely random disasters can range from the gone in an instant doom of a coffee spill to the bumpy ride on the train slowly eating away at your hard drive. Making your own Mac Disaster Kit will prepare you for the worst. From performing minor repairs to troubleshooting / data recovery when the big things go wrong, you will be able to do it all. So, don’t worry about your Mac. Just grab a spare box or desk drawer and let’s build a Mac Disaster Kit!

Mac Disaster Kit – Tools

Large Regular (-) Screwdriver:

A large regular (flat-head) screwdriver is perfect for opening and closing the battery latch on the 2006-2008 MacBooks. It’s also invaluable for GENTLY and SLIGHTLY prying open the CD loading slot to release a stuck DVD/CD. This is only to be done if the CD/DVD itself will eject, only to be sucked back inside because it can’t clear the opening.

#0 Phillips (+) Screwdriver:

The #0 Phillips screwdriver is for removing the brace to get at the Hard Drive and Memory of the 2006-2008 MacBooks. It also allows access to the memory for the MacBook Pros as well as older iBooks and PowerBooks.

#0 Regular (-) Screwdriver:

The #0 Regular (flat-head) screwdriver is for releasing the keyboard lock on older iBooks. Even if you don’t have an iBook, this screwdriver always has some way of coming in handy. It’s highly recommended you have one.

Small Tweezers:

A small set of tweezers is great for when you’re clumsy and drop a screw somewhere you can’t reach. There are special electronics tweezers, however a regular small one is just fine for basic use.

Microfiber Cloth:

A microfiber cloth is all you need to keep that nice glossy display clean. For stubborn splotches, just dampen the cloth with water. Apple even bundles these with a new computer purchase, so don’t lose it!

Mac Disaster Kit – Software

OS X Install DVD:

Always keep the OS X install DVD that comes with your computer in a safe place. It’s necessary if you need to reinstall, create a bootable external drive, forget your password or want to troubleshoot your computer – Just boot and hold ‘D’ to enter the diagnostic utility.

Note: If Apple gives you a new hard drive or reinstalls OS X, you will lose your iLife (Garageband, iMovie, iPhoto, etc) installation. If you don’t have the Install DVD, you have to buy it.

Application DVDs:

Just like your OS X Install DVD, you should save any CDs or DVDs of purchased software – Microsoft Office, Games, iWork, etc. Just like with iLife, if Apple re-does your hard drive, you’ll have to reinstall anything you bought. If you don’t have the CD, you’ll have to buy it again.

Note: You should also save all license codes you have for your purchased software.

A DVD of your Downloaded Apps:

It’s also a great idea to have either a CD or DVD of all your favorite downloaded apps for easy recovery. Just burn all the downloaded .DMGs and Installers to a DVD and put it in your Mac Disaster Kit. That way you won’t have to immediately download everything if a hard drive crisis happens.

Mac Disaster Kit – Hardware

Bootable external Firewire / USB drive with easily removed drive:

An external hard drive is extremely important to a Mac Disaster Kit. With Time Machine, this can also be your backup drive. However, before letting Time Machine set it up, be sure to install OS X onto it to make it bootable. Here’s a quick tutorial on how to do it. The instructions to make an external drive bootable are the same whether it’s a USB drive or FireWire.

Note: Just remember – if it’s a USB drive, only an Intel Mac can boot from it.

Now, if your computer’s hard drive acts up, you can boot to the external drive and try to pull off your files before heading to Apple for repairs. Remember, Apple doesn’t back up drives – you will lose all data if Apple replaces your drive.

An external hard drive that can easily be opened and the drive removed is essential. If for any reason your computer dies and will not turn on, you will need something to read your computer’s drive for data recovery. Just remove the hard drive from your computer and place it inside the external hard drive to access it.

Note:Replacing the drive is also a cheap and easy way to upgrade your external drive in the future.

Firewire Cables:

If you have a FireWire Mac, which all are except the most recent MacBooks and the MacBook Air, get some Firewire cables for your Mac Disaster Kit.

If you have a just 6 Pin FireWire 400 ports, (one end flat, the other end pointed – not the square one), then you should have one 6 Pin FireWire 400 to 6 Pin FireWire 400 cable and one 6 Pin FireWire 400 to Firewire 800 cable.

If you have the FireWire 800 port, have a FireWire 800 to 6 Pin FireWire 400 and a FireWire 800 to FireWire 800 cable.

Note: MacBooks (the older model) have a 6 Pin Firewire 400 port. The MacBook Pros have a FireWire 800 port.

USB Cable:

If you have an external USB Drive, the cable with the drive is all you need. However, if your external drive is FireWire, have a regular USB cable handy just in case.

Mac Disaster Kit – Optional

Some optional things to consider in your Mac Disaster Kit is using SuperDuper! to create a system image on your external drive. This makes reinstalling super easy. For creating system images of your Boot Camp partition, WinClone is what you need.

Another optional consideration is ProSoft Engineering’s Data Rescue II. It’s commercial software that will run around $100 but it’s incredible for recovering data off a failed drive. Its much cheaper that going to a commercial data recovery service.

Just remember that in the case of a failed drive, there’s always a chance that not everything can be recovered. Furthermore, if the drive won’t power up or spin, there’s nothing this software can do.

This is pretty much all you need to do any basic repairs, troubleshooting and data recovery. Anything major, leave to either Apple or an Apple Certified Repair center to take care of.

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