Automatic file deletion results in swift action.
Over the past few days, Microsoft has found itself in an unenviable position: having to apologise to Windows users.
The October rollout of the much-anticipated Windows 10 Update was meant to run smoothly. Testing had been carried out with users on the Windows Insider program (Microsoft’s software testing program for pre-release builds), and Microsoft obviously felt that the update was ready.
Unfortunately, it was wrong. Very wrong.
Disgruntled users took to forums on the Microsoft website to complain that personal files had been deleted after having installed update number 1809. To its credit, Microsoft recognised the issue very quickly and subsequently paused the rollout, but given that Windows users are encouraged to keep on top of updates for a more secure system, it stands to reason that a fair few users would have been affected by this.
How Did It Happen?
Since pulling the update, Microsoft has released a blog post detailing the issue and how it came about. John Cable, Director of Program Management, Windows Servicing and Delivery, wrote that reports of data loss represent a relatively small proportion of users (one one-hundredth of one percent of version 1809 installs, to be precise), although he has also acknowledged that any data loss is serious.
So what exactly was the reason behind the data loss problem? Cable writes that prior to the release, a small number of users had already raised the file loss issue, which is a factor that has come to light in various media reports – Windows Insider users had actually contacted the company months before this release was given the go-ahead.
The issue itself surrounds so-called ‘known folders’, such as Desktop, Documents, Pictures, Screenshots, Videos, Camera Roll, etc. A process called Known Folder Redirection (KFR) redirects known folders from the default location to a new one – for example, if you have run out of space on the C: drive, you could choose to create a Document folder on the D: drive. Following feedback from the April Update, users that had enabled KFR had reported an additional, empty copy of Known Folders on their system. So, based on that feedback, Microsoft brought in code in the October Update to remove those empty, duplicate folders, unfortunately resulting in the deletion of the original folder locations and their content.
So, bye bye important documents and other files.
Microsoft has now tested various scenarios in which users could have been affected so that the original folder stays intact, and it’s currently handed its latest work over to Windows Insider users. Once everyone is happy, the official release of the October Update will be “worked towards”, according to Cable.
The company has also addressed the nagging problem that users had actually already raised this issue. To help better detect issues going forward, a new feature in the Windows Insider Feedback Hub will give Insider users the chance to provide an “indication of impact and severity when filing User Initiated Feedback”. The hope is that this will mean even when feedback volumes might be low, high-impact issues will not slip through the net.
As for anyone affected, they have been advised by Microsoft to call its customer support line directly or to visit a Microsoft store to try to recover any lost data.
Microsoft relies on the trust and support of its users, so this is an unfortunate episode to have beset the firm. Dealing with the issues swiftly and efficiently is the least it had to do as it tries to win back that trust from those affected, but questions will linger as to how such a serious issue managed to get this far down the process. The most important thing, of course, is that Microsoft has clearly learned from this error and has taken steps to minimise the chance of it happening again.