I stumbled on this story at random, but apparently it’s been a thing since the start of the month. The rumor is that Windows update 1809 can delete all your user data. Or at least, all your data under c:\Users\Username.
This article suggests that data loss happens to one hundredth of one percent of users. That figure comes from Microsoft and we all know how much publicly-traded corporations love owning up to destructive mistakes, so maybe that data needs a pinch of salt. You might remember that about two years ago I was one of the “very small number of users” who had their machine crippled by the anniversary update.
According to Microsoft:
[mass file deletion] occurred if Known Folder Redirection (KFR) had been previously enabled, but files remain in the original “old” folder location vs being moved to the new, redirected location. KFR is the process of redirecting the known folders of Windows including Desktop, Documents, Pictures, Screenshots, Videos, Camera Roll, etc. from the default folder location, c:\users\username\, to a new folder location. In previous feedback from the Windows 10 April 2018 Update, users with KFR reported an extra, empty copy of Known Folders on their device. Based on feedback from users, we introduced code in the October 2018 Update to remove these empty, duplicate known folders. That change, combined with another change to the update construction sequence, resulted in the deletion of the original “old” folder locations and their content, leaving only the new “active” folder intact.
On one hand, that’s a pretty unusual thing to do so I can believe that it doesn’t impact many people. On the other hand, this is a shocking thing for Microsoft to do. Why on earth would you EVER do a mass-delete on a user’s machine? Are you trying to save them hard drive space? How could such a move benefit Microsoft? Assuming this is something the OS needs to address, wouldn’t it be safer and more sensible to give the user a little notification, “Hey buddy. You’ve got xxGB of data in c:\Users\Username that you’re not using.”
Didn’t the mere suggestion of doing a mass-delete of “unused” user files make the entire development team panic? Shit, I get nervous anytime I write code to delete a folder. It’s just so easy to create regret when doing those sorts of things, and so hard to un-do them.
You’ll Never Get Away With This!
I’ve been reading comment threads about this and seeing people saying things like, “Microsoft won’t be able to get away with this shit for much longer!” That’s a nice sentiment, but I don’t see how it could possibly be true.
If anything, the world seems to be getting used to this horrible system of mass forced updates that break workflow and destroy data. Outrage is our only weapon, and we seem to be running out. Microsoft is obviously aware that they’re the market hegemon and many people are stuck here. There’s probably some software you need that’s only available on Windows. Maybe that software is a game. Maybe it’s something you need for work. Maybe it’s a bit of creative software. Let’s call this application WhateverWare.
- Stay on old versions of Windows 10? Not possible. The OS updates when it wants to. I’ve heard that the higher-grade editions of Windows 10 will let you control when updates happen, but even if I was willing to pay MORE money to Microsoft to escape a problem they created, you can’t forestall updates forever.
- Stick with Windows 7 or Windows 8? That won’t be a viable strategy forever. Sooner or later you’re going to discover that the new version of WhateverWare only runs on Windows 10. Sooner or later you’ll upgrade your hardware and discover that Windows 8 can’t handle it. Sooner or later the lack of ongoing security updates will get to you.
- Move to Linux? Yeah. Good luck with that. Odds are that WhateverWare doesn’t have a Linux version.
- Move to Mac? On the upside, WhateverWare might be available on Mac. On the downside, it’s not like overbearing corporate-mandated end-user sabotage is an alien concept to Apple. You might change platforms to discover you’re in the same predicament but now you’re paying twice as much for the privilege.
A lot of us are stuck on Windows, and Microsoft seems to be aware of this. I just don’t see what’s to stop them from continuing to “get away” with this. If they can nuke the
/documents folder and it doesn’t make the international news then I don’t know what will.
Apparently they’ve stopped the roll-out of 1809 for the time being. I’m not so much worried about 1809Updates are numbered in the form of YYMM, so 1809 means “September 2018”. itself, but about the next big update. Maybe update 1908 will break my Steam install or update 2002 will drop support for half my USB devices.
Ah well. At least I won’t run out of things to worry about.
 Updates are numbered in the form of YYMM, so 1809 means “September 2018”.
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