Right from the beginning, Apple Computer Inc. designed its Macintosh to be simple to use, with many of its inner complexities hidden from view. Even so, problems sometimes arise, most frequently in storing and managing data files on a hard disk. Files get lost or corrupted with bad data, computer viruses attack, and occasionally disks can simply "crash." For first-time computer owners, that can mean long calls to various help lines run by hardware and software suppliers.

Central Point Software Inc. in Beaverton, Ore., reckons it has a better answer for the average consumer. Its $49.95 Safe & Sound diskette can automatically identify 100 of the most common Mac hard-disk problems--and fix most of them by itself. All customers have to do, according to Central Point, is insert a floppy with the program when they encounter a problem with the hard disk and respond to its requests for information. So self-explanatory is the program that its manual is only eight pages long. But if Mac owners are still unsure about what to do, they can call Central Point's help line at no charge. Future versions of the program will diagnose and fix disk-related problems on IBM-compatible PCs running Microsoft Corp.'s MS-DOS or MS-DOS with Windows.

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