Yes you should've used the PS3's hard drive backup utility to backup your data onto an external. It would backup everything except your trophies which you have to sync on PSN.
I also bumped into another method the other day which I think would be better, you can use easeus.com/disk-copy/ to low level clone your PS3 hdd, this way, your PS3 would never notice that you replaced it.
CECHL 500GB: OFW 2.50 > OFW 2.76 > OFW 3.41 w/ dongle > OFW 3.55 > 3.55 kmeaw > Rebug 4.30.1 > Rebug 4.30.2
You can always use the Like
button if you think my post was useful
Off to my summer vacation, might be AFK for a while... Happy Summer!