My aging 27″ iMac, the system I use most for work, had been acting cranky lately but I was busy and ignored the symptoms–until I couldn’t anymore. On Wednesday evening, I tried to reboot it and it just sat there, twiddling endlessly. With enough patience, I finally got it to boot. I ran Disk First Aid verify, and when that failed, repair. Still no happiness. But, as you can guess from the headline, this story has a happy ending.
So first thing yesterday, I decided to make a clean backup before heading off for the Mac emergency room, a/k/a the Bethesda Row Apple Store. I had to postpone my Genius Bar appointment a couple of times because the backup took longer than I expected. When I finally got it in, the young woman at the Genius Bar ran diagnostics and told me that while the drive passed hardware tests and would probably be fixed by reformatting, it was covered by a free replacement policy Apple had put in place for a batch of flaky 1 TB Seagate drives that turned up in iMacs.
The Mac was ready to come home a few hours later, with a new hard drive loaded with OS X Mountain Lion. I went through the preliminary setup, plugged in my Time Machine drive and let the restore run overnight. I had to jump through a few additional hoops, such as reactivating Microsoft Office 2011*, but this morning, it was back to its old happy self.
This experience is the major reason why I continue to use Macs and to recommend them to others. Over the past 20-something years, I have suffered through the failure of many Windows systems and in every case, getting them fixed and rebuilt was a monumental time-suck of a do-it-yourself job. Even if you back up conscientiously, restoring from a Windows backup is a complicated job that requires both time and skill. At best, you might have a fairly recent system image that will allow restoration of the disk with applications and a more recent incremental backup to restore data.
And, of course, there is nothing like the Apple Store for Windows. Even if I had a convenient Microsoft Store–there’s no full-service store in the state of Maryland–they do not offer the range of services that Apple does. I probably would have spent a day and a half fixing the machine myself had it been a Windows box.
The Apple Store is a huge part of the reason that Macs (and iPhones and iPads) provide a vastly superior customer experience. If you doubt that, head for the Samsung Store or the Google Store the next time you have a problem with your Galaxy S or Nexus 7.
*–Reactivating Office could have been a real pain, because it required a product key, something that is becoming an increasingly serious issue as software is downloaded rather than purchased in a box that makes retaining the key easier. Fortunately (and unlike just about any consumer) I was able to retrieve a key from my Microsoft Technet account. Of course, this problem is caused by Microsoft, not Apple. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that my Adobe Creative Cloud CS 6 applications fired up without licensing glitches.