Recover gadgets from Sandy (and other disasters)

(MoneyWatch) With the worst of Superstorm Sandy now behind us, the East Coast is switching over to recovery mode. While it'll certainly take time for the infrastructure serving millions of people to fully rebound, many individuals and businesses and starting to come to terms with the aftermath of water and electrical damage on their own property.

So what do you do if you come home to computers and other electronics that have experienced the wrath of Mother Nature?

Turn it off! Most of the usual advice for dealing with tech disasters still applies. If you find that one of your gadgets has had a close encounter with water, turn it off right away. If it was already off, don't turn it on to see if it still works. That'll probably kill it.

Dry with rice. If your iPod, iPhone, or some other piece of consumer electronics has been floating in a flooded apartment or just fell into your soup, briefly rinse it in clean tap water and then cover it completely with dry, uncooked rice and seal it in a container for a few days. If you have access to commercial desiccant bags -- like the ones that ship in new electronics packages -- all the better. You might also try a Bheestie Bag, priced starting around $15.

Forget the hairdryer. This should go without saying, but don't try to accelerate the drying process. Don't use a hair dryer, for example, or pop the back off your gadget and try to try the insides yourself.

Turn to the pros. If your computer (desktop or laptop) has been exposed to water or appears to be dead thanks to a power surge, there's not a lot you can do yourself. Professional data recovery services might be your only option, especially if you weren't diligent about maintaining a secure backup. PC World is reporting that both DriveSavers and DTI Data, for example, have special deals for people affected by Sandy. DriverSavers will recover data from weather-damaged hard drives for $500, which is half-to-a-third of the usual cost.

Prepare for disaster. For everyone who hasn't yet been hit by a tech disaster, you might take this as a shot across the bow. By investing in off-site online backup, such as Carbonite or Mozy, you can save hundreds or even thousands of dollars in recovery costs.

Photo courtesy Flickr user Martin

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