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A warning on Windows 7

February 17, 2010 1 Comment

My newest computer (an HP Pavillion desktop, quad-core processor, 8 GB ram, 1 TB hd) runs Windows 7, which I find to be a significant improvement over Vista. However, I ran into a problem with it a week or so ago.

I was in the process of copying some files from elsewhere on my internal LAN onto my desktop’s internal drive — I believe I had two sets of copying going on, one from another laptop, another from a network hard drive. I was also downloading a new version of a particular software program that was already installed. The instructions for that program suggested uninstalling the previous version before installing the new one, so I started doing that as well. (Hey — Win7 is supposed to be a multi-tasking OS, right?)

The de-installation threw up an alert box stating that such-and-such a file could not be deleted due to permission issues. I clicked the ‘OK’ button (my only choice) and waited for the de-installation to complete or terminate.  It did neither, but pretty much hung without making any progress on its glowing green progress bar. I finally grew tired of waiting, brought up Task Manager, and killed the de-installation.

At that point, my desktop redrew itself, except that now almost all of the icons were missing. Uh-oh.

I keep most of my work in folders (not shortcuts, actual folders) on my desktop. Likewise, I tend to park files on the desktop until I decide where to to file them. l I immediately looked at the contents of “C:\Users\<username>\Desktop” and saw that it was empty. Completely empty.

I used a couple of different file recovery packages in an attempt to recover what had vanished. No luck. They found no deleted folders or files within the Desktop folder, and my efforts at doing more extensive scans ran for a few days straight — while still being less than 50% done — before I gave up. (Since getting the desktop, I had used it to collect vast file sets, move them onto external hard drives, then delete those sets. There were likely at least a few million deleted files with traces all over the 1 TB hard drive.)

Before you wag your fingers at me, I did have an external 1.5 TB hard drive to which I was running weekly backups. However, I had just a week or so before the glitch (and a few days after the last backup) moved my desktop system from the main floor to my office downstairs and had not re-attached that external hard drive. This means, of course, that I was able to recover the deleted folders, but the versions were about 10 days old. I didn’t lose a lot, but then, I’m not entirely sure what all I did lose.

Yesterday, I discovered that the same glitch had apparently emptied out the  “MyMusic” folder, wiping out my iTunes library. I restored much of that from my laptop (which had an older version of my iTunes library), but lost everything that I had purchased from the iTunes store and downloaded onto my desktop system.

I’m still not sure what happened. I did a fair amount of searching on the web for similar problems and found that other people had had the same thing happen to them. One posting suggested that my user profile may have been corrupted, but my efforts to fix things that way didn’t help.

I bought a second external hard drive for backups and plan to run them more frequently. I also rearranged things so that I no longer have actual folders within Desktop but only shortcuts to folders elsewhere.

Just a word to the wise.  ..bruce..

About the Author:

Webster is Principal and Founder at at Bruce F. Webster & Associates, as well as an Adjunct Professor for the BYU Computer Science Department. He works with organizations to help them with troubled or failed information technology (IT) projects. He has also worked in several dozen legal cases as a consultant and as a testifying expert, both in the United States and Japan. He can be reached at 303.502.4141 or at

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