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Help File: A belated fix for MacBook hard drives; a Windows patch gone bad

Sunday, February 21, 2010; G02

Q: The hard drive on my son's MacBook died after only 14 months. I've found articles online saying there has been a run of drive failures on MacBooks. Is there anything to that?

A: A reader asked this question in October 2008. Similar queries came around then from other readers, co-workers and even a family member who had lost data from MacBook drive crashes.

Last week, Apple provided an answer: a warranty-extension program covering MacBook laptops sold between roughly May 2006 and December 2007. Under this policy (http://apple.com/support/macbook/hd/repairextension), the company will provide a free replacement drive if the original disk fails and reimburse customers for repair expenses they have paid.

Apple will not, however, try to recover lost data or replace a hard drive that hasn't already failed. So if you haven't backed up your data, now would be an excellent time to do so.

Back when I was getting these reports about self-destructing MacBook drives -- which, in turn, followed published reports of manufacturing defects in certain models -- I asked Apple publicists twice for comment, but the Cupertino, Calif., company stuck to its usual silence. It did the same this week when I called and e-mailed to ask why it had taken so long to address this issue.

My PC won't start up anymore after I installed a security update from Microsoft.

A patch shipped for Windows XP, Vista and 7 this month turned out to cause repeated "blue screen of death" start-up crashes on PCs that had already been infected by a "rootkit" called Alureon.

Rescuing a computer in this situation is extremely difficult and requires either a Windows system CD or DVD or a specialized anti-virus repair CD. If you're in this position, you will probably need professional help.

Rob Pegoraro attempts to untangle computing conundrums and errant electronics each week. Send questions to The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071 or robp@washpost.com. Visit http://voices.washingtonpost.com/fasterforward for his Faster Forward blog.

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