You may have noticed that I haven’t posted quite as much this week. The reason? I had a perfect storm of my iMac crashing and having to be in 3 different states over the course of a week. Yikes!

The new iMac is hear and running wonderfully, and before I hit the road for the third time this week, I thought I’d share some things I learned from this experience.

The Story

In case you missed it, I got a new 21.5″ iMac about a month ago. I had been running everything (my studio, HSC, etc.) off of a 3-year-old white Macbook. It still runs great, but it was starting to fade, so I jumped on a demo iMac from Sweetwater.

The first issue I ran into was a bad logic board (the firewire port was unresponsive). I took it to a local Apple repair place, and they fixed it in a couple days. No big deal. (And it was all covered under warranty.)

Well, a few weeks later the iMac decided to shut itself off…never to power on again. So weird. We think it’s a bad power supply.

A week later, I’m typing this article on a brand new iMac, and it’s working like a charm. This could have been a huge nightmare, but it was mostly just an inconvenience. Here are some tips I came up with six tips to help YOU, should you experience a crash in your near future.

1. Buy from a Reputable Dealer

I cannot stress how important this is. Like I said, I bought the iMac from Sweetwater. Yes, I used to work there. Yes, they are a sponsor of HSC. However, I personally buy my gear from them. Check out my review of Sweetwater here.

Having a relationship with your dealer (whoever it is) is crucial, especially when things go wrong. I can’t imagine what would’ve happened if I ordered this directly from Apple or from a big box store online.

As soon as I had problems, I called Sweetwater, and they handled it. Plain and simple. Since this was the second issue this particular iMac had experienced, they just sent me a brand new iMac. AND they paid to have the defective machine shipped back to them.

In addition to that, Sweetwater’s tech support helped me get my Waves bundle up and running on the Macbook. (Since I had upgraded to V7 for the iMac, my V6 plugins on the Macbook were no longer authorized. I upgraded to V7 on the Macbook, and Pro Tools would crash when I launched it. Sweetwater’s in-house tech support helped me out tremendously. No other dealer that I know of does tech support. Very cool. I was able to handle both issues with one phone call.)

2. Keep Your Boxes

I’ve written before about how you shouldn’t throw away the boxes your gear comes in, because you’ll need them when you have to move your studio. They also come in handy when you have to send something in for service. Had I thrown out the iMac box, I would’ve been up a creek.

Luckily, it was sitting happily in my attic. I just pulled it down and packed up the iMac. It took less than five minutes. I don’t even want to think about how much time I would’ve spent searching for another box.

3. Have a Backup Machine

This is obviously not always feasible, but if you can, have a backup machine for your studio. I don’t mean buy two computers, but if you replace your computer (like I did), don’t immediately get rid of the old one.

Had I decided to sell my Macbook on eBay, I would have literally been dead in the water until the new iMac arrived.

4. Keep Your Serial Numbers

This may seem obvious, but when you buy a new computer, you have to re-install all of your software. And unless your software is iLok authorized, you’ll have to re-enter your serial numbers. If you don’t have them, you’re in for a difficult time.

Almost all of my serial numbers have been emailed to me at one point or another, and one of the awesome things about Gmail is I can quickly and easily search my archives and find them.

Also, if you’re a Pro Tools user, you’ll need the activation code, which is normally printed on the inside of the Getting Started Guide. If you happen to lose that guide, like I did…ruh roh.

If you’ve registered your copy of Pro Tools, you can simply log into your account at, and your authorization code will be sitting there waiting on you. (Important note: Had I not registered my copy of Pro Tools, I would not have been able to find that authorization code…and I might have needed to buy PT 8 again. Or I would have at LEAST had to spend a day on the phone sweet-talking the folks at Avid into helping me out.)

5. Use External Hard Drives

I don’t need to tell you again that you need to back up your work. However, some of you may still be recording to your internal hard drives on your computers. Not good. Here’s why you should use external hard drives.

Since all of my Pro Tools sessions are on external firewire hard drives, I simply plugged in my Macbook and got back to work. Had they been on my iMac’s internal drive, I wouldn’t have been able to access them.

6. Take Advantage of the Cloud

I’ve gotten to the point where I rarely depend on one computer to handle everything. Using Dropbox, I sync up all my files, including my iTunes library, across both computers.

Simply move your iTunes folder to your Dropbox folder, then hold down option while you launch iTunes, it will ask you where the library is located. Simply navigate to the iTunes folder in your Dropbox folder and BAM! When I add a song to iTunes on the iMac, it shows up on the Macbook. Pretty cool, right?

As much as I can, I keep all important processes/information on the internet as opposed to a single computer. I host all of the content for the Production Club and Mix With Us on Amazon’s S3 service, so none of that was affected by the crash.

Also, since I use Gmail for email (and not a local email application), none of my important emails or contacts were lost due to the crash.


Whew indeed. It’s been a crazy week, but once I got my replacement iMac, I had all the software I need to run my studio AND HSC installed and running in just a couple of hours.

What tips do you have? I’ll need 15 comments before I start posting again next week.

[Photo by youngthousands]

  • I recommend a computer repair company.

  • Anonymous

    thanks a lot for sharing these methods for repairing a crashed computer…
    that’s useful

  • Brian

    Hey Joe

    Good post..I actually already thrown a lot of my boxes away wish I read this sooner.

    When you get the mac back and running properly I would love to see a post on how snow leopard has affect your plugins and recording. I have who got snow leopard recently and couldn’t use auto-tune. I am looking to also upgrade my old MacBook to a iMac hopefully this fall but do not look forward to snow leopard.

    Thanks Joe

  • Jac Mandel

    Great post. My last Imac was having problems, so I backed up the entire drive (in target disk mode) so I could do some tests to determine if it really was the drive. As soon as I finished backing up, the drive died. Same thing happened with my old Macbook. The lesson? back up often in case the drive computer gives no warning as in your case.

    • Yeah. Hard drives are fairly cheap, and a lot times their the first thing to go.

  • i’m glad to know your rig is up and running again, joe!

    in my experience, macs are unusually reliable -my 98 imac lived for about nine years. it couldn’t read dvds, and i couldn’t upgrade it to mac os x, but it had pro tools LE! digidesign had an 8-track-only demo version, and i still miss it, since there’s no demo version for mac os x…

    as far as tips to survive a computer crash, backup is key, both in data and customer support. sometimes, even a little usb pen drive can save your behind in a tight spot.

  • I’ve suffered a couple of drive crashes in the past, but fortunately haven’t lost a lot. /knocks on wood.
    Drive space is so very cheap now it seems a good external drive or two provides plenty of protection. I automate backups of my Win7 libs to an external drive and then a nightly Mozy backup grabs ’em too (over 170gb on Mozy, took forever and a day to upload though…).

  • steve513

    The Maxtor terra byte external drives are affordable and very reliable, so may I suggest keeping a back up of your system and all software & projects on it.

  • lil

    Great post~I could have save many tears and a great amount of time if i had read this eight years ago. Number 6 looks interesting, Cloud? Where can i get it?

  • ViscoelasticMan

    May I cheat a little to get you to post this week? 🙂

  • Rob

    Very useful tips joe, I particulary like the drop box tip… Think I’m going to set that up now! Have a great weekend!

  • christopher [chrisw92]

    its a good thing you have working imac again.

    I keep all my serials in my cubase box, its really easy to find them if something goes wrong (or I do a do a clean re-install of the OS).

  • Great tips, Joe. It was hard for me to splurge out on the huge external hard drive that I have for backup, but I’ve got piece of mind knowing that if something dies its not lost. Computers never inspire confidence in me, especially about hearing of what you’ve just gone through with your iMac!

    I bought both my Macs from eBay so I seem to have completely ignored your first tip, which is definitely a good one. Having no Warranty on any of my work machines is a little worrying, but since I got them in such good condition for such good prices (and they’re working perfectly despite being 3 years old before I got them) I seem to be doing alright so far.

    Fingers crossed, and on with the backups!

    • If you get a great deal on a used Mac, I think you’re still in good shape for 2 reasons:

      1. You hopefully paid significantly less than the cost of a brand new computer, so even if it does crash, you’ve made a smaller investment.

      2. If it’s a 2-3 year old computer and it’s working well, then chances are it’s going to continue to work well. It seems that most major computer issues happen early on in the life of a computer. If it’s lasted a few years, it’ll probably last a few more. 🙂

      • I’m about to add a MAC to my setup this summer and have been researching the used eBay market vs new. I think used may be the way I end up going, minimize investment & take chance that it’ll be burned-in. Think I’m only going to get one w/ Applecare on it though.

        • carlisle

          I’ve been thinking about going this route too let me know how it turns out. going from pc to mac.

        • christopher [chrisw92]

          if your getting an imac, get it soon because apparently they are going to change the specs so they try and get rid of the old stock first… that’s what happened to me, I went to get a mid-range macbook pro and when I got to PC world they said I could wait two weeks for the new version (with SD cards) or I could get the highest spec for the same price as the mid-range one was.

          • Well after a week I finally have everything set up. As a PC user, I’d love to tell you I had hacks to make, things to adjust…etc. But, to employ that annoying Apple phrase we PC folks hear: “it just works”. I installed my ProjectMix IO driver, got my Firewire 800-to-400 adapter and chained my PMIO at the end of my Glyph drive, and the Mac saw it fine. Then I installed PT and updated it to 8.0.1. I didn’t even have the “Bluetooth crashes PT launch” issue that’s talked about on the Duc’s OSX forums (perhaps my Bluetooth hardware or driver is newer or something).
            Amazingly, this transition is very smooth so far. Fingers crossed.
            CAVEAT: I haven’t recorded a single track yet, only opened/mixed something from Joe’s MWU class, but so far it’s GREAT.
            More to come – feel free to e-mail me direct if you have any transition questions.

            • one “hack” I did make was – I turned off Spotlight indexing for all my drives — I prefer to use the FindAnyFile app, this reduces disk drive i/o on my drives. Mac users should at least do this on their external recording drives for sure.

        • Jason Kusnier

          If you buy used Applecare is a must.

          • Much thanks for the advice Jason/Chris. I did indeed take the plunge as of last night: a brand-new 27″ i5 iMac is making its way to me by Sat/Monday.
            To illustrate how comfort-zone smashing this is for me: I’ve used Wintel for over 20 years (before Win3.1, believe it or not) and DOS for several years before that. I was a clone geek from my first NEC v20 12mhz 8088 style cpu through dual-core. Me ‘n PC go way back, and am friends-forever w/ my Win7 box. But the allure of that sexy aluminum chassis & OSX just pulled me in.
            Carlisle I’ll post an update later re: DAW transition etc.

            Thx all, rocking it multi-platform style now…

  • Thanks Jim. Hadn’t even thought about the serial numbers… I’m not the best planner for disasters. Only started keeping boxes with my most recent upgrade.

    • Sorry… Joe. Also not very bright before I’ve had my coffee. 🙁