Sorry to hear that, what a waste...
1. You simply copy to hard disk
2. Depends on what delivery you want
3. On a MAC it can take long, depends on the MAC; on a PC, if properly configured, it is fast. (One of the side benefits of MAC, next to the price)
Yeah I'm going to try copying it to the hard disk just to eliminate the iMovie step.
I would want to be able to export it into a good file that will be able to play well on my computer and I would also want to upload it onto the internet and burn it to a disk without it losing any quality. Any suggestions?
The Copying of the files to the HDD will be the route with the AVCHD material. The processing speed and ease of editing that footage will depend almost 100% on the speed of your CPU, with the remainder being handled by the RAM and the I/O sub-system (your HDD's).
For an Export format, especially for the Mac, I'd look into the H.264 CODEC. That should work well too for YouTube.