When your hard drive dies, you don’t need to lose all of your stuff. If you’ve got a good, up-to-date back-up, you can be up and running on new or repaired equipment very quickly. If you don’t have a back-up, you will need to reconstruct and re-enter everything.
Sadly, making sure you’ve backed up your all of your stuff can be tricky, since many programs store your data in unexpected places and you may store your data in odd places, too.
In general, most people tend to file their work in the “Documents” folder of their home folder, or on their desktop. Backing those files up is pretty easy, as you just need to pop in a flash drive and drag the files onto it. Get in the habit of doing that once a day or once a week and you’re good to go. Stuff that doesn’t change as often doesn’t need to be backed up as often.
When it comes to data like accounting, address book and calendar information, things are a bit more complex. Most of those programs store their data outside of the “Documents” folder, often in hidden locations or buried inside preference folders. With programs like that, look for an “Export…” option in the menus and use that command to export the program data to a location you can easily access, then back up that exported data. Often, you can simply “Import..” that same data if the need arises.
There are built in backup systems available on all major operating systems. Check out the one on your computer. Set it up and use it! Put it on an automated schedule! Don’t lose your stuff!