back to article The safest place to save your files is somewhere nobody will ever look

Friday is that special time of the week when clocks seem to slow to a crawl and software giants drop their buggiest code. It is also the time when The Register pokes a talon into the sack marked "On Call". Today's tale from the front line comes from a reader we'll call Jack, who worked for a publishing company. No, not us. …

  1. Oengus Silver badge

    Been there. Done that.

    I had a manager who complained to me about running out of space on his PC and I did exactly the same thing. The only difference was the manager still had his documents but no longer had his "backups" of old files... so he didn't lose everything.

    1. big_D Silver badge

      Re: Been there. Done that.

      I had one user, she judiciously saved her document, before printing it and starting on the next one...

      Only process was: Type text into "Document1", save, print, select all text, delete text, type new text, save "Document1", rinse and repeat... Then surprise, when she couldn't find all of her text, because she had saved each document!

      Thankfully she had printed everything. But it was still a painful learning experience.

      1. LewisRage

        Re: Been there. Done that.

        In my days as an MSP worker I had to look after a managing director at a new client. He had a *proper* freak out on me because I changed the sort order of his documents folder and 'he lost all his files', they just weren't in the order he expected and he was so technologically illiterate he didn't comprehend what was happening.

        And when I say freak out, I really mean it. Red in the face body vibrating spittle from his mouth shouting within seconds of seeing the screen.

        This same guy had a finite number of excel documents. When he wanted a new spreadsheet he'd find an older one that he no longer needed open it, delete what was in there and start again. Same file name.

        I didn't even bother trying to show him how to create a new one.

        1. PickledAardvark

          Re: Been there. Done that.

          "He had a *proper* freak out on me because I changed the sort order of his documents folder..."

          When investigating a Windows user profile or application problem, almost the first thing I do is change the Explorer View settings to unhide System and Hidden files so that I can see what is really there. And I have to remember to restore the View settings, which doesn't happen quite as often as it should.

          Over the years I have been amazed by the number of second line support people who don't realise that they should be looking for hidden stuff or files with strange ACLs.

          1. mickaroo

            Re: Been there. Done that.

            Same as when people apply filters to large, shared spreadsheets and forget to reset them when they exit.

            So the next person along opens the spreadsheet and goes into cardiac arrest because a thousand rows of data have disappeared.

            1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

              Re: Been there. Done that.

              Shared spreadsheets. Thousands of rows of data. Yup another Excel use case that should have been replaced by a database.

              1. Snapper

                Re: Been there. Done that.

                Had a fashion design client who put several dozen full size high-res photos into Excel spreadsheets to show investors, then complained bitterly that they could not email them or that the investors could not open them!

              2. Tom 7 Silver badge

                Re: Been there. Done that.

                TBF most Excel use cases have been replaced by the Trash folder.

            2. Marshalltown

              Re: Been there. Done that.

              Shudder. I had my boss ask me why his data "wasn't right." What kind of data was it? Oh, a regular database in ... Excel. What was in the "data base?" Company accounts. He couldn't get them to square up as they should. Filters, filtering filtered data reiterated several times over. We got a couple of days off over that while the boss and his partner straightened out payroll and withholding for the entire year to date. They actually hired an accountant after that.

            3. bpfh Silver badge

              Re: Been there. Done that.

              Or hide columns .... same hissy fit :)

              1. TRT Silver badge

                Re: Been there. Done that.

                Or "add another column" because someone needed to make more notes, until you end up at column FQ with sixteen columns added by sixteen team members each with their own opinion about which line item was in scope or out of scope.

                1. Unicornpiss Silver badge

                  Re: Been there. Done that.

                  Also fun is when someone links multiple Excel sheets--and the links point to local files on the user's hard drive, which are of course inaccessible to everyone they shared the main sheet with. Or in one case, where they were accessible by an administrative assistant, until her boss traveled, at which point I had to tell her she'd have to wait until he landed and hooked up at our other facility there so this mess could be fixed.

            4. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Been there. Done that.

              I had someone who opened an Excel file to find a blank screen... no columns, no rows!

              Turned out she managed to get the sheet into a window then somehow dragged the window so it was no longer visible... View > Arrange All and it popped back into view

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Been there. Done that.

          Posting anon as this relates to my current employer.

          One of the VERY senior people relies on the order of the icon on his desktop to find things and we had to find and install software to restore the desktop if anything gets changed.

          To anyone else there is no logical order, so if you sorted by name/date/file type it would lead to a serious toys/pram/floor incident.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Been there. Done that.

            Y'all need to google "Sales Guy vs. Web Dude" and watch the ancient video. Caveat: NSFW. Always take a screen shot of users' sort order and remember what was at the tip, because that must be most important.

            1. Muscleguy Silver badge

              Re: Been there. Done that.

              In my documents folder on this Mac things are alphabetical by name but it might not look like it because some items are at the top because I gave them a space as the first character which makes them sort first. Very useful feature that which also means if I sort by date to find a recent file it all goes back again when I sort by name.

              I have all the hidden system files showing because it's MY laptop and I'll see them if I want to.

            2. Frank Marsh

              Re: Been there. Done that.

              Thank you! I hadn't seen that video in years. Well worth the re-watch.

          2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            Re: Been there. Done that.

            "To anyone else there is no logical order"

            To you there may not be. But it may well be a case of things that are associated are grouped together. That sort of grouping is not likely to correlate with date, name or file type. Or it maybe simply muscle memory that helps him find things. You need to understand how users use computers. You are not alone in this. Too many desktop managers seem to have been written but developers who are similarly afflicted.

            1. Dog11

              Re: Been there. Done that.

              Functional grouping of icons. I do that myself. With 88 desktop icons, you need a system. Security, utilities, video editing, sound editing, graphics, communications all have their own cluster. No digging through layers to find them. Besides, if I don't have the icons in front of me, I forget I have the programs, some of which I might use only once a year. It's like desk drawers, anything that goes into a drawer leaves the known universe. And yes, I do have a program (I will NOT call it "an app") to restore the icons to their proper positions after Microsoft randomly rearranges them.

              1. Tim Hines

                Re: Been there. Done that.

                I can recommend Stardock's "Fences". Lets you group icons on the desktop into logical (and named) groups.

            2. gcla72

              Re: Been there. Done that.

              Microsoft Bob

          3. gerdesj Silver badge

            Re: Been there. Done that.

            KDE (a Linux desktop window manager thingie) has an option to lock desktop widgets, which includes icons. Killer feature for me, well actually the wife. She can't drag and drop (off the edge of the world) whilst double clicking.

          4. Nifty

            Re: Been there. Done that.

            r.e. Desktop sort order.

            This why whenever I reinstall my Wifes PC, I make a screenshot of the desktop so I can put the icons back in the same order...

        3. JimboSmith Silver badge

          Re: Been there. Done that.

          Novell had an undelete function called Salvage I believe. It worked on files saved on the servers and was very handy. The feature was very handy for people who accidentally deleted files. However there was always somebody who didn't understand what it did. I was told to find the files deleted first off the desktop and then from the recycle bin. I sad I'd need to use some different software to recover the files and was told:

          "No you just use the "right click software""

          I said that only worked for files saved on the network not the desktop but he was having none of that. Someone else in the IT support team tried by remoting in to the dedktop and doing it with recovery software. Bloke said:

          "Stop, you're doing it wrong."

          My colleague said:

          "Do you want my help or not?"

          His reply was just as stubborn:

          "If you're going to do it wrong then no thank you."

          So we left him to his own devices and waited for him to be big enough to admit he was wrong. One of his colleagues came back from lunch and backed us up but....Incredibly he decided he would redo the work rather than admit he was wrong.

    2. macjules Silver badge

      Re: Been there. Done that.

      I had a poor benighted Under Secretary of State who knew everything there was to know about computers and about Windows 95 and emphatically told myself and other support staff that she did not need any help whatsoever in how to use her new shiny Compaq laptop thank you very much.

      Much later on I discovered that instead of using her lovely newly-installed copy of Microsoft Word she continued to use MS DOS Edit to create and save text documents.

      Horse .. water .. drink ..

      1. Chairman of the Bored Silver badge

        Re: Been there. Done that.

        @macjules, when you say, "Horse .. water .. drink ..", I think what you meant to say is, "You can lead a horse's ass to knowledge but you cannot make him think."

        1. Imhotep

          Re: Been there. Done that.

          I hate to be the pedant, but I believe the actual saying is: You can lead a horticulture, but you can't make (acceptable pronoun) think.

          1. Nick Kew

            Re: Been there. Done that.

            It's not a saying. Just a witticism from Dorothy Parker, when challenged to make a joke with the word "horticulture". And Parker of course used the obvious pronoun.

            1. David 132 Silver badge

              Re: Been there. Done that.

              Ah, the wonderful Dorothy Parker.

              “Oh, life is a glorious cycle of song,

              A medley of extemporanea.

              And love is a thing that can never go wrong..

              And I am Marie of Romania.”

              1. David 132 Silver badge

                Re: Been there. Done that.

                And of course, while I’m polluting this thread with DP witticisms:

                “I like to have a martini, two at the very most.

                After three I’m under the table,

                After four, I’m under my host.”

        2. bpfh Silver badge

          Re: Been there. Done that.

          Currently you can lead an account executive to a solution but you can’t make them think...

      2. Suricou Raven Silver badge

        Re: Been there. Done that.

        EDIT was probably faster to load and a lot more stable than Word, especially in the 9x era.

        1. Nick Kew

          Re: Been there. Done that.

          More to the point, EDIT would save your file as plain text, whereas Word would give you lots of proprietary bloat dealing with formatting and appearance. Word for writing a letter; EDIT for a program.

          Though ISTR using a vi clone called pcz in preference to EDIT.

          1. ricardian

            Re: Been there. Done that.

            Used PCZ to edit C code for the Aztec compiler package on the very first IBM PC. Never discovered that PCZ was VI until several years later!

      3. RayG

        Re: Been there. Done that.

        I can easily imagine choosing to use MS DOS Edit in preference to Microsoft Word - from a position of fairly considerable expertise with the latter. Perhaps this undersecretary was wise after all?

      4. Guy Geens

        Re: Been there. Done that.

        I had a college professor who religiously used DOS Edit, well into the Windows 95 era.

        Most of the time, he was editing LaTeX documents, so he wouldn't have used Word. But still, there are a lot of text editors I'd prefer over EDIT.

    3. bpfh Silver badge

      Re: Been there. Done that.

      Had a friend who store all his dates (pre-tinder, pre-mobile even) in his Outlook Express, and all emails with photos went into his trash folder “for safe keeping”.

      After having a slow pc, probably due to his surfing on very questionable dating sites, he found that the magic bullet could be deleting temp files, emptying the trash and emptying the outlook deleted items folder then defrag the hard drive. Bye bye 2 years of sex friends, and after a defrag, nothing to even attempt to restore...

      1. Dog11

        Re: Been there. Done that.

        Back in MSDOS days, I had a client who was a neatnik. He deleted all the junk files, including the ones named "." and "..". It had never occurred to me that would even be possible.

    4. ro55mo

      Re: Been there. Done that.

      I have seen this as well but in Outlook. The user had created a whole folder structure under "Deleted Items" instead of the "Inbox".

    5. Locky

      Re: Been there. Done that.

      Outlook contacts stored in the To dropdown quick pick list

      "I've lost all my contacts after you gave me a new laptop"

      "You saved them in 'Contacts, like I told you last time, right?'

      Rinse and repeat.

      1. Adam JC

        Re: The Need For Speed

        To be fair, anyone with half a clue includes the NK2/Autocomplete lists in any data transfer/migration :-)

    6. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Been there. Done that.

      I've got the opposite problem. The CEO at one of my clients stores his private iTunes folder and photographs going back to 1995 in a folder that goes to the company backup. Wouldn't mind, but he takes up 25% of the whole backup.

  2. Chris G Silver badge

    Endless recycling

    I have had a couple of clients who didn't understand the concept of the recycling bin, perhaps the bin image doesn't quite register with them.

    I had another who kept everything in one folder in My Docs because he then knew where everything was!

    In his defence, he was over 70 and struggling to run a small business.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Endless recycling

      I've spent a lifetime applying this principle to physical desks. It's known as the one heap system. "I know where it it. It's in there."*

      The problem with that it that sometimes manglements tried to apply a clear desk policy** so the whole lot periodically got dumped into a pocket of a filing cabinet. At that point stuff was truly lost because after that had been done a few times I wouldn't know which pocket it was in.

      *The same applies to a large extent to the desktop on my computer. It's one reason I prefer KDE - I can do that, something Gnome devs, obviously empty deskers, try to make difficult and, unlike some others, it's easier to setup so that stuff stays in the same place.

      * *Believers in this policy keep saying things like "A clear desk means a clear mind." whereas I think "An empty desk means an empty head." usually applies to them.

      1. cantankerous swineherd Silver badge

        Re: Endless recycling

        a tidy desk is the sign of a sick mind.

        1. TrumpSlurp the Troll Silver badge

          Re: Endless recycling

          A tidy desk is a sign of a very recent purchase.

          1. Tom 7 Silver badge

            Re: Endless recycling

            A tidy desk is the sign of post xmas drinks sex.

      2. Nick Kew

        Re: Endless recycling

        Working from home, I used to make extensive use of FBFS[1] working under that principle. Less so since my 2013 house move to somewhere it wasn't my only available space, but my recent house move demonstrated how much still lives in the PBFS[2].

        [1] Floor-based filesystem.

        [2] Pile-based filesystem.

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: Endless recycling

          A floor is just a big desktop.

          1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Re: Endless recycling

            "A floor is just a big desktop."

            No, it's the swapfile.

          2. David 132 Silver badge

            Re: Endless recycling

            “What we’re talking about, in privy terms, is the very latest in front-wall fresh-air orifices, combined with a wide-capacity gutter installation below.”


            “You mean... you crap out of the window?”


          3. Jimboom

            Re: Endless recycling

            "A floor is just a big desktop."

            Unless you have pets or small children.. then it may as well be a to shred/destroy pile.

        2. rcp27

          Re: Endless recycling

          I abide by a very important principle: A place for everything, and everything in its place. One place, for everything.

          1. theDeathOfRats

            Re: Endless recycling

            I've always used the "each thing knows it's place" standard approach. Works fine if you don't let disruptoCats|SWMBO|PHBs enter the room.

        3. iGNgnorr

          Re: Endless recycling

          Back in the day when printed dumps were the way to debug a program, I found that making extensive use of the office floor was an excellent substitute for having a very large desk (which was in any case already in use for filing.) Really useful to be able to look at variables, logs, and [printed] compiler listings at the same time.

          1. John R. Macdonald

            Re: Endless recycling


            I had a former colleague who liked using that technique. We soon got used to seeing her lying on the floor with a core dump, file printouts and source listing spread out. Fortunately she wore pants as she was prone to kicking her legs to assist thought.

            1. CAPS LOCK Silver badge

              Re: Endless recycling

              English English vs American English issue here...

              1. TrumpSlurp the Troll Silver badge
                Paris Hilton

                Re: Endless recycling

                Although the same applies for the English(UK) version.

        4. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

          Re: Endless recycling

          "[2] Pile-based filesystem." I refer to it as a piling system, or a stratified filing system if I'm feeling verbose. Woe betide anyone who "tidies it up", because all is lost no matter how "efficiently" they have filed it.

        5. Glen 1 Silver badge

          Re: Endless recycling

          Pile Based Filing System sounds an awful lot like a stack.

          Occasionally you get a stack overflow.

      3. VonDutch

        Re: Endless recycling

        My previous employer had a clean desk policy. That's fine for documents but it doesn't work for a lab.

        At the end of every day you were expected to clear everything away which was not practical when you have samples that have to cure and shouldn't be moved.

        Put away sensitive documents but a constantly clear desk looks like you're not doing any work.

        1. GlenP Silver badge

          Re: Endless recycling

          Put away sensitive documents but a constantly clear desk looks like you're not doing any work.

          Some years ago the CFO of the American Corporate was visiting the UK office. Insistence from manglement that everything had to be clear, nothing on desks or cupboard tops, etc.

          He walks into my tidy, but with in use kit around, office and says, "Nice to see someone works around here!" We got on very well after that.

          1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            Re: Endless recycling

            One of the inflictions of the Civil Service was having VIPs, usually political, being shown round. At one time all benches would be cleared so that display boards could be set up. Fortunately the display boards were amongst the things lost in the fire (some good had to come out of it).

            1. bpfh Silver badge

              Re: Endless recycling

              Was the fire deliberate? BOFH’s need to know!

              1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

                Re: Endless recycling

                I'm not sure there was ever an official explanation. There had been a lot of fake incendiary devices seized in the previous week and brought in for examination. My suspicion is that one of them wasn't fake and not recognised as such.

                I was taking an OU field trip that day and hadn't listened to any news. The first I heard of it was when one of the students mentioned it.

        2. baud Bronze badge

          Re: Endless recycling

          > constantly clear desk looks like you're not doing any work.

          That's the reason why I always keep a small stack of useless/outdated document on my desk, to give the impression that I'm doing something. Sometime one of the page will get used to doodle something or as scrap paper, but that's it.

          1. Mark 85 Silver badge

            Re: Endless recycling

            That's the reason why I always keep a small stack of useless/outdated document on my desk, to give the impression that I'm doing something. Sometime one of the page will get used to doodle something or as scrap paper, but that's it.

            There' s a name for that... "The Look Busy Kit". Bosses tend to think (a stretch on the "think" part) that a pile of blueprints and papers meant that someone was actually working.

            1. Imhotep

              Re: Endless recycling

              The reason why you need an office with a door. It's a rare business where you're allowed to sit and think, no matter how much they are paying you to do just that.

            2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

              Re: Endless recycling

              "The Look Busy Kit"

              Includes a clipboard for when you have to go out of the office.

              1. Martin an gof Silver badge

                Re: Endless recycling

                Includes a clipboard

                I find a fistful of network cables does the same job, particularly if you are juggling a screwdriver in the other hand :-)

                Bonus points if you are carrying a precarious stack of dead power supplies or similar when someone tries to intercept; "sorry, can't stop to look at that now!"


                (note to my employer - previous place of employment, not here. Always genuinely busy here!)

        3. Mark 85 Silver badge

          Re: Endless recycling

          My previous employer had a clean desk policy.

          The only place I ever worked that really enforced that was one doing highly classified government work. Even a post it note with something like "buy beer on the way home" had to be removed. After that, when I interviewed, if the desks weren't "messy", I didn't want to work there.

      4. Chairman of the Bored Silver badge

        Re: Endless recycling

        File it? Oh, no... your empty deskers are doing it wrong. When I want a clean slate, I take all my crap, stuff it into interoffice envelopes, and mail it to staffers chosen totally at random. Maybe 50pct of the work ends up getting done, but that is better than average...

        1. ricardian

          Re: Endless recycling

          Just put one document in the photocopier and leave the folder on top of the machine. They will soon disappear

      5. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

        Re: Endless recycling

        I recommend the Now and Never filing system based on the times when work normally gets done. The "Never" filing cabinet is a round metal thing under the desk which appears to have infinite capacity.

        1. NXM

          Re: Endless recycling

          That's WORN - write once, read never

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Endless recycling

            Shirley you meam a WOM -- write-only memory.

      6. short a sandwich

        Re: Endless recycling

        That's known as a piling system hereabouts. It's my job to ensure that these don't get out of hand.

      7. Dave559

        Re: Endless recycling

        My desk is very much a horizontal storage space for computers, stationery, snacks, semi-random sheets of paper, and the like...

        ...but, on the other hand, my actual computer filing system is immaculate (well, -ish...), and I don't even enable files on the desktop because I'd never be able to see them behind all of my program/terminal windows anyway.

      8. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

        Re: Endless recycling

        My desk is cluttered, but I can find things I need.

        Clean it up, it lasts for a day or two before reverting back to its natural state. :)

        Manglement have abandoned hope with me. :)

      9. swm Silver badge

        Re: Endless recycling

        Where I worked I had dozens of piles of paper all over my office floor. I knew by position where things were (which stack and one inch per month of last use). The company initiated a clean desk policy which I ignored. A few months I came across a piece of paper left by a security auditing team member with check boxes where I had failed. Since all boxes were checked including the "passed" box I ignored it.

        My boss said my office was secure - no one else could find anything there.

      10. TRT Silver badge

        Re: Endless recycling

        I also have that system. A kindly administrator bought me an in out pending tray. I sat it on top of the pile.

        1. Chris King Silver badge

          Re: Endless recycling

          I used to have a three-tray system...



          SOD IT

          Some things never even made it to "SOD IT"...One former colleague kept handing me lots of useless paper to peruse. I solved this by feeding it through the Special Fax Machine right in front of him.


          1. Ted Treen

            Re: Endless recycling

            Mine was similar:-



            LBW (Let the Bugger Wait)

      11. Ken Shabby Bronze badge

        Re: Endless recycling

        I tell them, my desk is arranged as any computer scientist would, using a heap sort algorithm. The comparison is urgency, whatever is urgent ends up at the top of the pile.

      12. Muscleguy Silver badge

        Re: Endless recycling

        Me too, memory works quite well in terms of how long since you last looked at something so it will be about here in the pile.

        Works better than trying to remember what I might have filed stuff under.

        I did use my filing cabinet but some things were hard to file reliably so they went in the pile.

  3. Dave K Silver badge

    I'm thankful I've never had this issue myself, however I have seen a university professor who didn't know in Outlook Web Access (2003) that you could click through to pages 2, 3, 4 etc. of e-mails. Hence when he was at a lab PC and using OWA instead of Outlook on his main PC, his method of accessing an older e-mail was to delete things until the old e-mail came into view on page 1, then restore the e-mails again from Deleted Items when he'd finished.

    It was really, really hard to maintain a straight face as I told him that clicking the right/left arrow icons would allow him to move to page 2, 3 and beyond of his inbox...

    1. Killfalcon Silver badge

      Gotta feel for a the guy a little.

      If someone in 2003 had told me "this website is so bad, they put the stuff in a paged view and then only show you page 1", I think I'd probably have believed them!

      Just a little, though.

    2. JQW

      I used to work with a clunky E-mail system which would only show the 200 most recent E-mails in any folder. Everything else was effectively invisible until you deleted or moved particular messages. This affected both the standard bundled DOS application and the several third-party Windows applications that appeared. Perhaps this chap had used that one in the past?

  4. brotherelf

    ISTR that in a stroke of UX genius, OS/2 named it "shredder" instead of faffing with retaining/undeleting.

    And my workplace has seen customers who do this with their shared mail accounts. Until somebody new joined the team and had "empty trash on exit" enabled on their Outlook.

    1. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

      Heh, at least you know where you were with the "Shredder" in OS/2

      Drag and drop any object over it, and it vanishes. Good times.

      I wished for a proper undelete function in OS/2, because we do make mistakes.

    2. Trygve Henriksen

      And they had the sound to match, also.

      If you dropped one in, you knew instantly what you had done.

      1. John 110

        "...f you dropped one in, you knew instantly what you had done..."

        AFTER you've done it - how useful!

        1. Zippy´s Sausage Factory

          Well there's no better teacher than experience, right?

          1. stiine Silver badge

            The first time? Or subsequent times?

            1. Zippy´s Sausage Factory

              Clearly, you went to a different class of school than I did...

              I'll get me coat.

    3. BinkyTheMagicPaperclip Silver badge

      It was better than that. In the early days of OS/2 2.0, the shredder would delete anything. This included essential desktop objects that could only be re-created from the command line.

      1. PerlyKing Silver badge

        Re: essential desktop objects

        Including the mouse driver, which I managed to delete by fat-fingering Delete and then Enter - the default in the "Do you really want to delete this file forever?" dialog was "Yes, of course I do!" X-(

    4. LDS Silver badge

      Actually, files deleted by OS/2 Shredder could be restored, at least in OS/2 3.0. Just, there was no GUI and you had to use the command line, which shown only the files name/path, and not any file date...

    5. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

      Office shredder went missing

      Some witty employee stuck a post-it where it used to be: "Please use the network shredder instead."

    6. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      We had a customer complain once when they changed email server, that a lot of emails had gone missing from their Trash. Well yes, it's set to delete stuff older than 30 days, "But we need some of the emails in there". They were cheerily informed to keep them in a folder then, not in the trash.

  5. sbt Silver badge

    A tale as old as time

    Should have switched to WINE

    or Macs, at the least.

    1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

      Re: A tale as old as time

      Yeah, that UI where you ejected the disk by dragging it into the "trashcan" was a stroke of usability genius! $deity forbid that you could have an actual physical eject button next to the drive...

      1. paulf Silver badge

        Re: A tale as old as time

        I can remember at university (late 1990s - Electronics) we had document scanners in the Library but they could only be accessed through a Mac. I felt like such a N00b when I had to ask the Library media assistant how the merry fuck I get my floppy disk back out of this ruddy Apple thing. Having failed to find the mechanical eject button that was so popular on the networked Windows machines I was about to grab a screwdriver from my bag to resolve the problem directly, and with extreme prejudice...

        I guess I wasn't the only one as when I got a MacBook Pro in 2010 (old skool with optical drive!) it included an eject button on the keyboard and dragging the CD icon turns the trash icon on the dock into a big eject button.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: A tale as old as time

          yep really annoying when you powered the Mac down without ejecting the disk then have to power it backup again just to get your disk out, or bent paperclip it!

      2. PickledAardvark

        Re: A tale as old as time

        Apple didn't design the 400kb floppy drive in the first Macs. Sony determined that it shouldn't have an eject button. Software determines when the disk is accessed for read/write, so it makes sense that software determines when a disk is ejected. I think HP were the first people to use the drive mechanism outside Sony, and they didn't have a problem with the absence of an eject button.

        The desktop metaphor of dragging a removable disk to the trash icon was a lousy idea. And almost everyone at Apple thought so at the time.

  6. fozzy73

    Almost got fired on my second day of work over emptying the bin of one of the firms bosses. My Tech dept Boss at the time had very "hard" words for me after being told to fire me immediately: "don't you ever do that again! Had to say this, let's go grab a coffee, and don't worry, he's an idiot" :)

    1. Little Mouse

      A user put in a complaint about me for doing the same thing - except I had been nowhere near the desktop, or even site, in question - and fortunately could prove it.

      It turned out that one of our desktop contractors had done the deed, and on twigging that the user was none too pleased with the result, he'd told her he was me before buggering off. What a nice chap.

      1. vulture65537

        He's been learning from Richard Attenborough.

      2. Dave314159ggggdffsdds

        I once worked with a complete idiot who was also an absolute arsehole. He told us very proudly how he got rid of all the tickets he cba to deal with by reassigning them to John Smith, because in every big company there's a John Smith.

        He was such a complete idiot that he told the story without knowing the names of everyone in earshot. Yes, John Smith was standing right there.

      3. keith_w

        Upset Desktop user: "DO YOU KNOW WHO I AM?". Contractor: "No. Do you know who I am?" Upset Desktop User: "NO." Contractor: "Good"

        1. Cederic Silver badge

          Overheard on Saturday, "Do I have to play the 'Do you know who I am card'?"

          It was the event organiser reassuring the doorman that the people he was escorting into the building should be allowed in even though they didn't have a wristband. Comically the event organiser did have one - but he wasn't in full dance performance outfit, and they were.

          The people working the door have to complete a report after their shift that includes details of any attempted unauthorised entry, so I suspect that incident made the report. Which is shared in person with the event organiser.

          A friend once had to complete the report with three "Attempted to enter with no wristband" incidents. One was the company founder/owner, one was the event organiser's husband and one was the event's chief technical person that does all of the sound and lighting. He had much fun pretending he didn't know who any of them were and just describing them to the event organiser..

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Deja Noooooo!

    I swear I've seen this story before. Or maybe I've lived this story before. Can memories be accidentally undeleted? I think I'm going to tiptoe outta work early.

    1. Nick Kew

      Re: Deja Noooooo!

      I'm sure it's featured before now in this very column.

      Though nowadays, why not "Who, Me"?

  8. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

    I'm lucky never to have encountered this pitfall in my IT career.

  9. GlenP Silver badge

    Been There...

    Office supervisor who should have known better stored her "dealt with" emails in Deleted Items 'cause then she only had to press one button to "file" them.

    That's why we now, in addition to the DR mailbox database backups, run a granular Exchange backup (CodeTwo for the record) so we can find and restore individual emails even if they have been deleted completely.

    1. Psychomech

      Re: Been There...

      I have a sales director that does exactly the same thing. He currently has over 18K emails in his deleted items folder.

      He also has 657 emails in his outbox. The reason for these? They are all addressed to him, on delayed delivery, as reminders to himself!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Been There...

        TBH I use my "Deleted Items" folder for all the thousands of automated emails I receive ever day.

        It currently has 65000+ emails in it which get automatically deleted every 60 days so I have 2 months worth of "well yes we did get an email alert for issue x, y and z" but they don't clog up anything else and I don;t have to deal with the crap of Outlook struggling to load each and every message into memory when you select them all to delete...

        Anon because I'm sure I'll get flak for this

    2. Keith Langmead

      Re: Been There...

      I've seen many many customers do this over the years. Amazingly I've actually seen a customer with a complete folder structure in their deleted items. I assumed it was due to them deleting the folders but then discovered they'd manually created them and used Deleted Items in Outlook for storage, sorting their "archived" mail into specific folders.

      First time I saw it was years ago, migrating a customer between mail systems. Due to the size of the folder + limited storage and upload speed we opted to exclude the Deleted Items content, thinking it was deleted so no longer required, and no point spending time transferring it. Customer was not pleased when they found their "archived email" missing, and just couldn't get their heads around why that wasn't an appropriate place to store messages.

  10. coconuthead

    kind of makes sense, actually

    Of *course* she didn't use "My Documents" - the computer is clearly saying anything in there belongs to it, and not her. It would be rude to even look, and anyway she's not working on "documents" like birth certifcates, but whatever it was.

    The story would be a lot more interesting if we learned the user's mental model. For example, she might have thought "Recycling" meant reclaiming wasted space and somehow compacting her files for long-term storage.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: kind of makes sense, actually

      Makes more sense than you think, I am amazed to get this far into the comments without ONE person saying how dangerous it was to leave anything valuable in the OS created "My" folders.

      Every single possible repair option for when the OS screws up, corrupts its own files and wont boot (which Win95 did a LOT), wiped the files in all of them.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: kind of makes sense, actually

        I got so sick of every single program creating its own personal folders and files under My Documents that I created a Real Documents under it, and put all my stuff in that!

        1. Martin an gof Silver badge

          Re: kind of makes sense, actually

          Real Documents

          That was one of the (many) things I found frustrating about the 3.1 / 95 / 98 series of Windows, which was in use at work when comparing with RiscOS which I used at home. At the time it seemed as if Windows was very "application-centric" - all Word documents have to go in this and only this folder, and all Excel documents have to go in this other folder. Every time you opened a "file save as" dialogue it defaulted to the same blasted location, and if you dared to put files anywhere else you'd spend the next 30 seconds navigating through your folders to find the correct location.

          RiscOS on the other hand seemed to be "project-centric". Applications did not have their own file select dialogue boxes; they would simply put up a small window with a draggable icon, which you then dragged to an open filer window. You would create a folder for a project and all the files from all the different applications for that project would save in the same, one place. Easy.

          I still find the file-save dialogue as used in current versions of Windows and most Linux desktops to be a ridiculously clunky way of saving files, particularly if you have a habit of keeping files on separate partitions or (heaven forbid) discs. At work (KDE), if I haven't remembered to pre-mount the NTFS discs in the machine, they don't even appear in file-save dialogue boxes.

          And don't get me started on the "active window must always be on top" paradigm, which makes dragging-and-dropping files into application windows frustrating on all but the very largest of screens or two-screen setups.


          1. keith_w

            Re: kind of makes sense, actually

            Really? I don't beleive I have ever seen this behaviour since starting using MS Office in the mid-90s.

            1. Martin an gof Silver badge

              Re: kind of makes sense, actually

              First, I was talking about the mid-90s for the worst offences. Second, yeah, still get it to an extent - create a new file, click to save, at best the software now assumes you want to save in the same place you saved the last file. Use several bits of software, use several discs, partitions and a nested folder structure and you find yourself click-click-click-clicking to the same location half a dozen times. This is a pain for me because I tend to be working on two or three projects at the same time, each stored in a separate folder, and each requiring the use of several different applications.

              Under RiscOS, open the filer window once. Everything else is just a drag-and-drop.

              After the first save, yes, they're equivalent. Clicking "save" saves the file where you put it.

              Or did you mean the mounting thing? I think it's a problem with NTFS discs under (in my case) OpenSuse / KDE. Linux native discs mount no problem, but NTFS discs (the machine is dual-boot) need an admin password and won't mount on boot. A bit like putting a USB stick in doesn't auto-mount.

              If you have forgotten to pre-mount the disc you want, the file-save dialogue box very often doesn't even give you the option of mounting - I have to close the dialogue, go back to Dolphin, mount and try again. This is a problem because most of my working (project) files are on NTFS discs so that they are available in both Windows and Linux. I do keep some on a NAS which helps, but that's not really suitable when dealing with large video files.

              If you have a way around this I'd be interested to know!


        2. Terry 6 Silver badge

          Re: kind of makes sense, actually

          I am pretty allergic to having user documents and data anywhere near programmes or settings. If it's not on a network share it should be in a data partition.

          I don't understand why Microsoft invented the system of mad virtual folders that placed the actual document folders buried down inside the works.

  11. PickledAardvark

    Mysteries of the Desktop Folder

    When Microsoft designed Windows 95 with a trash can, there was a single desktop folder for the system. If you dragged files from a floppy disk to the desktop, the files were copied to a folder on the hard disk. When you formatted the floppy disk, the files you had dragged to the desktop were still there.

    Every Macintosh HFS disk had its own desktop folder. If you dragged files from a floppy disk to the desktop, the files were moved on the floppy disk. When you formatted the floppy disk, poof! the desktop files disappeared.

    1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

      Re: Mysteries of the Desktop Folder

      This has always been a problem with drag'n'drop. Sometimes it means "copy" and sometimes it means "move", and unless you understand the underlying storage structure you're never quite sure which.

      1. heyrick Silver badge

        Re: Mysteries of the Desktop Folder

        That's just because it is a lousy UI that does different things at different times. A drag should always mean copy and modifier-drag should always mean move. Or vice versa, it doesn't matter so long as it is consistent.

        1. Paul Shirley

          Re: Mysteries of the Desktop Folder

          ...except when it really means 'open' or 'create a link' or 'add to a list' or 'mail me' etc.

          It's still unfortunate (sometimes) that file dnd between partitions behaves differently to within a partition in Windows.

        2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: Mysteries of the Desktop Folder

          "should always mean"

          Alternately it could pop up a menu asking if you want to move, copy or link unless you use a modifier.

      2. Paul Shirley

        Re: Mysteries of the Desktop Folder

        It's a little weird drag and dropping video files onto avidemux to open them and seeing 'copy' hovering over the drop point in Win10. Not sure why I'm seeing it either.

      3. Terry 6 Silver badge

        Re: Mysteries of the Desktop Folder

        A special curse here for whoever develops Onenote for Android devices. Until a short while ago there was a choice of copy or move a file between folders. e.g. a file used as a template could be copied to another folder for use.

        Now there's only a "move to" icon and they put a little tick box for "create a copy" to be used in tandem with this if you want to make a copy in the new location- providing you notice it and remember to tick it.

  12. John70

    Editing Docs from Email

    Many many moons ago, once had one where the user could not understand that when they edited and saved a document from an email attachment, that all their changes have "gone" when they reopen the email attachement. I had to train them to save the attachement in My Documents first, then edit the document and if they needed to edit the document again to use the one in My Documents, not resave the attachment then edit it...

    1. Killfalcon Silver badge

      Re: Editing Docs from Email

      A lot of people seem to implicitly assume that attachments are references rather than copies of the item. The number of times I've seen an email "can everyone update the attached sheet please" like they relished the job of copy-pasting a dozen versions together.

      1. Dave314159ggggdffsdds

        Re: Editing Docs from Email

        Er, Excel will quite happily collate the copies for you. Not stupid, they just know what the software they're using can do.

    2. Baldrickk Silver badge

      Re: Editing Docs from Email

      The biggest problem I have is a user opening an email. Opening a document, clicking Save (yes, they know to do this!) and then having no idea where it is, because they just clicked the save button in the SaveAs dialogue without changing where it was saving to.

      So a file for task A will end up in the directory for task B because task B was the last thing saved into the right location.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Editing Docs from Email

        Aggravated by the situation that some dialogs will default to save to the last user selected directory whilst others will default to something application determined such as Documents, Downloads or wherever.

    3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Editing Docs from Email

      "I had to train them to save the attachement in My Documents first, then edit the document "

      That seems long-winded. If you can edit the document from the attachment you can then Save as from the editor and cut out an operation.

      1. doublelayer Silver badge

        Re: Editing Docs from Email

        That's dangerous. The user could edit the document, click the normal save button rather than save as, and have the file saved in the temp directory. And then you have to answer the question "Why didn't it tell me it wasn't saving in my folder?" If you make sure they know to save immediately, thus changing what document is being edited, there's less of a chance they will totally mess up what you said once you've left. Still a chance, but a smaller one.

        1. Martin an gof Silver badge

          Re: Editing Docs from Email

          Also, once you've saved it in its "proper" location, auto-save works properly to protect you from unexpected application crashes, power cuts etc.


    4. Slow Joe Crow

      Re: Editing Docs from Email

      Microsoft eventually figured this out and from Outlook 2013 on you can only edit an attachment after it was saved to disk. This caused much wailing and gnashing of teeth among clients upgrading from Outlook 2007 and 2010. Then again we also had a lot of wailing over migrating to Windows 10 and separating the bitter clingers from Windows XP usually required either a crowbar, or a threat to terminate their support agreement.

    5. StephenH

      Re: Editing Docs from Email

      There have been quite a number of occasions when people have thought they emailed me a document or worksheet but what they have sent me is a shortcut to the file on their local desktop.

  13. Will Godfrey Silver badge

    Worse than that

    Confusing users by hiding file extensions, and having generic icons so they think they've got multiple copies of the same file - no wonder the poor peeps make a mess of things.

    1. Terry 6 Silver badge

      Re: Worse than that

      Yes, a lot of Windows file management seems to be about obfuscation. Hiding what and where files are seems to be axiomatic.

      1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

        Re: Worse than that

        The whole file interface in Microsoft Office has gone bad too. It now takes a scan around arbitrary locations on the screen to work out where the office application is intending to save the file, then if this not acceptable or to confirm this, it's a few more clicks to try and define or to set the correct location. The local computer browser in file explorer has also been murdered of course to make it as hard as possible to find drives (local or network) and to instead force the user to scroll and expand through a semi-duplicated list.

  14. Ali Dodd

    Mac/Linux user

    I think you'll find that Jack calls the 'Recycle bin' IS the Recycle Bin and has been always on windows - Trash is a Mac artifact.

    Yeah met more than one company director who used their email DELETED ITEMS as their filing system... Morons.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Mac/Linux user

      If it is any consolation, and it probably isn't, I can reliably inform you that a number of directors many of their fellow directors to be morons.

      Brief conversation with MD once:

      "You haven't asked me yet why XXX is still Production Director."

      "Well, it isn't my place to be asking that."

      "Why not? Everybody else on the Board does."

    2. katrinab Silver badge

      Re: Mac/Linux user

      The trash can is a Mac thing, yes, but where do you think Bill Gates got the idea from?

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Mac/Linux user

        Xerox, just like Jobs did.

  15. Tim 11

    Welcome to America - the land of free speech

    Back in the 90's the sales demo machine for one of our apps suddently stopped working and started generating very scary INGRES error messages. On closer inspection, it couldn't connect to INGRES because there were no database drivers installed.

    On finally getting hold of the person who had set up the machine in the first place, it seems he'd seen fit to install them in a directory called C:\TEMP which had then been deleted by a subsequent user who assumed that the contents of that folder would be a good candidate for purging to free up disk space

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Welcome to America - the land of free speech

      >On finally getting hold of the person who had set up the machine in the first place, it seems he'd seen fit to install them in a directory called C:\TEMP which had then been deleted by a subsequent user who assumed that the contents of that folder would be a good candidate for purging to free up disk space

      One of the first line helpdesk people I worked with thought it would be a good idea to remove the contents of C:\windows to clear some space. All was fine until the server needed a DLL that no longer existed and collapsed into a steaming pile. Typically, it was the main DC for the site and domain, so all the FSMO roles were owned by it too...

    2. Cassini

      Re: Welcome to America - the land of free speech

      I had a similar experience, but with so-called experienced UNIX systems administrators. They had put all their admin scripts in /var/tmp and were furious when I cleaned said directory up for space.

      I soon found out that their incompetence went even beyond that!

    3. Terry 6 Silver badge

      Re: Welcome to America - the land of free speech

      Anyone who has ever come across a programme (Like MS Office!) that has been installed via .msi and couldn't be updated,reinstalled or removed because it needed a file that was nowhere to be found because Windows' msi had been placed it in a tmp location long since emptied will know the sheer awfulness of this. Apparently whoever writes the .msi scripts doesn't understand that the contents of a temp folder are meant to be, er...temp(orary).

  16. chuBb. Bronze badge

    Exact same thing happenend to me

    only the users logic was different, as it was files she reused often, figuring reduce, reuse, recycle

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Finally forced to get a new work laptop

    due to mechanical retirement of old one - so I think what the hell, I will try using the My Documents folder for .. saving documents. Then comes an office territory war which I lost, and I was relocated to an external office without direct access to the work network, which didnt concern me much - except My Documents were on the network i wasnt on.

    There are fixes I just cant be f*cked to implement, but the solution is to save local. Where windows wont loose them.

    1. LewisRage

      Re: Finally forced to get a new work laptop

      I'm not sure you can lay the blame for that at windows door when it's clearly a load of political fuckery thats caused the problem

      1. Nick Kew

        Re: Finally forced to get a new work laptop

        I wouldn't've read that as blaming windows.

        And he'd've had the same problem if he'd had an NFS-mounted $home on *X.

    2. Electronics'R'Us Silver badge

      Re: Finally forced to get a new work laptop

      Some years ago I was working on a major bid and the technical volume alone was several GByte; loading it from the network was painful so I saved it locally to work on it and upload it at the end of the editing session.

      Just as well; I had saved the file after some major editing and was asked if the latest version was available for review so I did a save (rather than drop a copy of the save I had just done) to the network share. At some point in this save, the network went out and M$ Word broke spectacularly.

      As Word (at least then) removed the old version before attempting to save the latest update, the version on the network was totally corrupted; my local save meant I did not lose almost an entire days work.

      1. Will Godfrey Silver badge

        Re: Finally forced to get a new work laptop

        Am I missing something?

        I thought Word always broke spectacularly.

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: Finally forced to get a new work laptop

          Don't you mean routinely?

      2. Imhotep

        Re: Finally forced to get a new work laptop

        I always remember the email from IT Support, apologizing for the extended outage (days) of our network drives which they hoped to have back on line soon and reminding us that files should never be stored to our personal PC, only the network drives.

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: Finally forced to get a new work laptop


          1. Imhotep

            Re: Finally forced to get a new work laptop

            No, so more than one business then.

            1. No Yb

              Re: Finally forced to get a new work laptop

              Thanks to a version control system (check out entire source onto a different network drive), when one of our network drives failed completely, we could just restore it from backup. When devs checked the changes back in, all the previous changes were "automatically" included because they had the full sources. No work lost, just some change history missing for a few days.

              This seems much more sensible than relying on just one network drive for the whole business.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Finally forced to get a new work laptop

        "As Word (at least then) removed the old version before attempting to save the latest update"

        Which is thoroughly and absolute bonkers. Same cubed knowing how often Word went titsup.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Joys of sales people and Outlook 2003

    Yup, one of them was using the Deleted Items folder as a full on filing system for her old email.

    The only problem was that it had reached 2GB, the size limit for a mailbox at that time...

    1. LewisRage

      Re: Joys of sales people and Outlook 2003

      I came across a similar one once, there was a quota for all mailboxes at 1gb or whatever and I found a handful of users in an office with ~5gb mailboxes... very strange, only to find that the deleted items folder wasn't included in the quota and someone had found that out that moving everything to deleted items when they got the warning got rid of the warning but meant they could keep their stuff.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Joys of sales people and Outlook 2003

        As a contract Project Manager I work on many client sites. One enduring issue which consistently p*sses me off is arbitrary limits on mailbox sizes or ridiculous expiration periods.

        When I'm working on the IT side of the fence I'm usually running technology projects so have ready access to exchange admins and can normally get it resolved after the 'how big is your mailbox' conversation. When I'm on the business side I'm normally stuck with a 2gb allocation as ICT can't possibly make any exceptions. Its typical for the types of implementation / migration / business integration projects I manage to take over a year to complete. I interact with all levels of the organisation and tend to have contacts with hundreds of stakeholders.

        Email is a prime tool for me and having to archive mail then search across archives as well as the online mailbox is a major pain and a constant waste of time. I'll probably get down voted for this as'you should organise things better' but the number of times I have had to not just reference signed off documents but send the original email confirming a decision back to someone who wants to reverse it during acceptance testing a year later will make me run out of fingers. Its the same in sales, customers challenge agreements at the last minute or even post contract signature and having access to the original mail (oftern 2 or 3 years old) can often defuse something which can spiral out of control very quickly otherwise. There are many roles where the default mailbox size is perfectly adequate but there are also niche roles where we may need 2 or 3 times the default to do our jobs efficiently.

        1. gryphon

          Re: Joys of sales people and Outlook 2003

          Back when doing BAU I never really had a problem with larger mailboxes on a 'by exception' basis.

          I tended to use various tiers and users just had to log a ticket to move with an explanation why. That way I could justify more disks / servers etc. to higher for capacity planning.

          More of a problem with Exchange 2003 and even 2010 to some extent was the number of items in the primary folders. For the former there shouldn't be more than 10,000 for Inbox etc. and 5,000 for calendar if I remember correctly. It was really hard to explain to users that they were actually causing a bottleneck for the system because of the high counts and that they needed to 'folderise' stuff.

          The biggest problem is that e-mail use and message sizes exploded exponentially over the years and it is always hard to get CAPEX for BAU type stuff rather than projects when the initial 'guesstimates' of usage were way off.

          For example in one company everything over 6 months was archived to an Enterprise Vault equivalent. The vault containing about 7 years worth of Exchange 2003 data, which also included years worth of migrated Exchange 5.5 data came to about 4TB I think. The separate vault for Exchange 2010 about 5 years after we upgraded to it was on the order of 16TB, and that was de-duped data. The company numbers had also been vastly reduced compared to the EX2003 days.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Joys of sales people and Outlook 2003

            Many years ago, with my first email system (Microsoft Mail on Netware 3.1x) we made all users sign a usage form that said we could delete emails after 30 days... and we had to thanks to the size of the disks (200MB IIRC).

          2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Re: Joys of sales people and Outlook 2003

            "about 5 years after we upgraded to it was on the order of 16TB"

            If it's anything like our company, all staff are subscribed to the marketing email list and can't get off it. Marketing send many, many emails which consist of A4 hi-res graphic images, even if all they want to say is a few lines of text, but more often is multiple A4 pages of useless bumf intended for customers.

            1. Nick Kew

              Re: Joys of sales people and Outlook 2003

              Well, if I had ever been your customer, your marketing would've rapidly driven me away.

              1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

                Re: Joys of sales people and Outlook 2003

                That's BAU for marketing.

            2. the Jim bloke Silver badge

              Re: Joys of sales people and Outlook 2003

              At least they arent using Powerpoint (yet)

              Where I work we get daily "site notices" with all sorts of information, relevant to anybody who might idly glance in the direction of something thats going on, plus the touchy=feely HR bits, and the corporate indoctrination.. all required to be presented on Powerpoint.

              As a contractor - I was working across 3 sites, so triple the joy.

        2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: Joys of sales people and Outlook 2003

          "I'll probably get down voted for this as'you should organise things better' but the number of times I have had to not just reference signed off documents"

          No downvote from me but it does seem to be a case for having a document management system of some sort. In fact, many of the tales of woe on here seem to be a result of trying to push email systems into becoming something they really aren't, much the same as using spreadsheets where a database would be more appropriate.

        3. Binraider666

          Re: Joys of sales people and Outlook 2003

          This is a classic case of the IT folks telling "us" what we can't do, but not what we can. I'm obliged to retain information on critical decisions for anything up to 50 years. Saving old mails as separate files is one way to do this, albeit decidedly time consuming. Dumping out an annual PST - rather more convenient from user perspective, for both me as the author and other users importing it back in to search through the content.

          Techie authors would do well do consider the uses for technology and write applications for those uses. Email is a great tool for a great problem. It's not really suitable for archival comms for specific assets spanning 50 years+.

          I am quite fond of Jitbit, which retains the messaging history (voice, image, text), support ticket history, and asset base in one organised format that survives through corporate re-orgs and staff movement. More tools like that would go a long way to replacing the inappropriate use of email.

      2. jtaylor

        Re: Joys of sales people and Outlook 2003

        I discovered something similar on the VAX at university. Files on SYS$SCRATCH didn't count towards my quota. The heavens opened and I compiled some really useful software.

        But then, I also wasn't surprised when the scratch disk occasionally got cleaned up.

        Hey, if someone says NO you can't do your work, it's fair to negotiate.

    2. phuzz Silver badge

      Re: Joys of sales people and Outlook 2003

      I had a manager at my old job who would do this. His reasoning was "Urgent stuff that needs working on I leave in my inbox, I have a few folders for the rare email I need to retain for a long time, everything else gets deleted as soon as I've read it". Of course, he told me this after I'd empted his recycle bin.

      The terrible part of this story is that he was my boss, the head of IT, and otherwise a very capable person.

      Name and shame time: I hope you're learnt a better way of filing your emails now Malc ;)

  19. defiler Silver badge

    I'd be surprised if anyone *hadn't* hit this...

    I've had a user store important emails that he needed to keep (some for regulatory purposes) in his Deleted Items in Outlook. His mailbox was huge (presumably because he didn't delete anything, or it'd be all mixed up in his important messages), and I suggested emptying his Deleted Items to a look of absolute horror from him. He explained what he was doing to a similar look of absolute horror from me... I showed him how to make extra folders to put his stuff into, but I don't think he changed his ways.

    On a more physical, tactile note, my dad left a folder of important project progress reports lying on top of the bin in his office one day and forgot about them. When the cleaner took them overnight he wasn't best pleased. I was drafted in to recreate the reports from the project management software. Funnily enough, on that (nepotistic, I guess) job, I also had to prepare weekly reports for the client meetings. We had a shitty little copier in the site office, but the client (oil company, rhymes with "sleepy") wanted better copies so asked us to use their big copier. Until they realised that we were running off 20 copies (at their request) of a 40-page report every week, most of which were probably never looked at. Al, their safety guy, met me coming out of their copier room with a massive bundle of A3 and A4 and was shocked. Next day we were instructed to only make 4 copies and they'd share...

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: I'd be surprised if anyone *hadn't* hit this...

      "I've had a user store important emails that he needed to keep (some for regulatory purposes) in his Deleted Items in Outlook."

      I'd be surprised if a regulatory audit would accept that as meeting the requirement.

      1. defiler Silver badge

        Re: I'd be surprised if anyone *hadn't* hit this...

        So would I, but officially the client files were in a document management system linked to the client database. When the FSA came a-knocking I could show them how it linked together, what our file permissions were like, backup procedures etc.

        The actual admin of the files was outwith my remit - I assumed that they were all complete (or fairly so), particularly when FSA auditors would pick a couple of dozen to be shown and be left to assess them - never any problems. Shows what I know - there was an "event", and FSA enforcement appeared. Strangely a huge number of "sophisticated investor" declarations were absent...

    2. Sssss

      Re: I'd be surprised if anyone *hadn't* hit this...

      Lol! I thought this might be about somebody hiding their files in a sealed USB up their but, maybe to get around the us seize and copy laws at airports. That would be an interesting one to explain to security after they scan you.

  20. Matthew 3

    Similar story

    In my old job we used an archiving tool to free up space on our Exchange servers. It stuck old emails into a database on another server and replaced them with a shortcut. This ran on all user folders except the 'Deleted Items' folder. So we had at least one user who used 'Deleted Items' for their entire email filing system, just as a way to opt out of archiving.

    This was discovered when we instigated a policy which automatically deleted old content from users' Deleted Items folders...

    1. Nick Kew
      Thumb Up

      Re: Similar story

      Hehe. Worth a chuckle :)

      The thing about a policy like that is, you really need to tell people in advance. The ones who need it most will likely ignore you ("more irrelevant nonsense from IT"), but then you've at least covered your arse.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Similar story

        And on first pass backup the contents of the Deleted folder before deleting. The restore will be very difficult, take at least a couple of weeks and if departments are charged for IT services, cost enough to require higher level sign off. Any BOFH should be able to do this and spend the cash in the "branch office".

  21. Shez


    Around 2000 I did a desktop rollout in a hospital, after the first few I got the first call to say a user had lost their favourites in Internet Explorer, could I go back to have a look. I had been backup up the favourites (for it was merely a folder in the user's profile or my documents folder) so wondered how it had been missed as I walked through the maze of corridors to the consultant's office.

    Upon arrival I checked the favourites and sure enough, nothing there, I went to the back up from the old machine and checked favourites... still nothing. I asked the consultant to show me how she accesses her favourites. The consultant opened the browser, clicked the down arrow at the end of the address bar and pointed at the blank list that dropped down.

    Possibly the most worrying thing is that I only have 6 bookmarks (as they're called in Chrome) because I do the same thing and my attempts to remember to save URL's in browsers properly have repeatedly failed.

    1. Kevin Johnston

      Re: Favourites

      Mea Culpa

  22. Outski

    Soft deletions

    Domino mailboxes have a default setting of 48 hours before soft-deleted emails are purged from the Trash. Some users at the firm I work at have realised that this setting is editable for the mailbox owner, and have naturally extended it. I think the most egregious extension I've seen was up to about 11,000 years (they put all the 9s in). Shame that soft-deleted items don't get carried over when you move a mailbox to a different cluster.... mwuhahahah

  23. LewisRage

    This was the filing system employed by the PA to a CEO of a national UK business:

    The 25K unread count was the tip of the iceberg, there were well over 120K items in there. Lots of rubbish but also lots of vital bits of information. Given her tenure there I was always suspicious that she probably was holding the only copy of some important docs in that deleted items folder.

    1. gryphon

      I think the worst I ever had was:-

      ~250K item mailbox

      ~110K items unread in main inbox folder mainly stuff she'd insisted her team CC her on, which was pretty much every mail they sent. She had a sub-folder for stuff she actually cared about.

      Total size about 25GB shortcutted - most of our mailboxes were below 5GB.

      Total size unshortcutted when I had to transfer mailbox to another company which didn't have access to our vault - about 110GB

      Total number of folders about 25

      Unfortunately she sat opposite the CIO and would bend his ear about the slightest little thing. His opinion that it was better for his mental health if he just let her do what she wanted size wise so her quota was turned off.

      Also had a guy who only had about 30K items total but they were distributed amongst ~10000 folders if I remember correctly. Made it massively time consuming when it came to moving his mailbox between Exchange databases which is just as much a function of folder count as it is of item count or item size.

      1. Down not across Silver badge

        ~110K items unread in main inbox folder mainly stuff she'd insisted her team CC her on, which was pretty much every mail they sent. She had a sub-folder for stuff she actually cared about.

        Must be quite recent. Not that long ago Outlook would barf if you had more than 65535 mails in inbox.

        No. Don't ask me how I know.

        1. Terry 6 Silver badge

          There is a good rule of thumb for keeping any kinds of file or resource. (Including real 3d items).

          If you have so much kept for so long that you can not put your hands on it within a reasonably short amount of time it's best not to keep it.

          And for people who mutter "search" or "indexing" I always ask whether they can actually identify a search item that would locate the file they need. If you can then it fits the criterion for retention anyway.

          But it starts with - stuff that's worth keeping is worth filing*. Stuff that's not worth filing isn't worth keeping.

          *Saving isn't filing

  24. SteveCoops

    Similar Similar Story

    Same here - I have a good few people on my Exchange environment that use 'Deleted Items' as a proper folder, one even has a folder structure within 'Deleted Items' ffs

  25. Stuart Castle

    A friend of mine had a boss who routinely put everything in c:\windows. Everything. Every program, every document. He even decided to have a little tidy up and move the Windows system files into that folder, then my friend had to go in and sort out the mess when Windows suddenly started failing.

    This was in the days of Windows 3.1 when there was no concept of administrators and standard users.

    1. whitepines Silver badge

      To be fair, in those days Windows was considered a program of sorts running on top of DOS, so it may have made some logical sense to keep the "Windows" files in the "windows" directory of the DOS system underneath.

      This of course presumes the user had been an avid DOS user before Windows was installed...

      1. Trygve Henriksen

        No, an Avid DOS user would understand what a PATH was and that some programs would require files to be in specific locations.

        What you were thinking of was a DOS Monkey. Probably even had a hand-written list of 'useful commands' taped on the wall, too. (Monkey see, monkey do. No concept of when something is appropriate or not)

  26. mr_souter_Working

    been there, got the t-shirt

    from the users that store files in the recycle bin, to the staff member that was upset when I imposed a policy to empty the deleted items from the mailbox after 14 days, she complained that she used that to store the important emails....................................

  27. storner

    Okay, 'fess up

    How many of us IT pro's do something similar - keep tons of files in odd places?

    Personally, I tend to hoard all sorts of stuff in my Downloads folder - so much so that I have subdirectories there. Bloody annoying when working from home without my company laptop because this folder is not synchronized to OneDrive.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Okay, 'fess up

      "Personally, I tend to hoard all sorts of stuff in my Downloads folder - so much so that I have subdirectories there."

      Yes, but only downloaded stuff.

    2. Gonzo_the_Geek

      Re: Okay, 'fess up

      I do the same thing, Linux ISOs, installers, tons of important stuff...

      Cleared it out yesterday, got it from 48GB down to a more managable 21GB.

      1. phuzz Silver badge

        Re: Okay, 'fess up

        In order to get around this, I have folder on my work computer called simply "Dump", which mostly consists of previously downloaded files that I've decided to keep. In my defence there is a system of sub-directories (like 'ISOs', because I never know when I might want that copy of Ubuntu 12.04 Desktop edition). Also, it's backed up regularly because I'm not a complete numpty.

        1. Terry 6 Silver badge

          Re: Okay, 'fess up

          Yeah. I had a folder called "stuff".

          It held all the err stuff that didn't fit into neat categories, that I didn't know if I needed to keep or not or just didn't seem to have a purpose but someone had given/sent to me for no apparent reason.

      2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Okay, 'fess up

        48? pushing 54 & I did clean it up a little while ago.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Okay, 'fess up

      I try not to do this but having the download folder choice set as a GPO by some admins does mean that it happens. Ironically I'm working at home today and one of the jobs I have not been looking forward to is to go through downloads saving things to appropriate locations.

      This should be in SharePoint but IT have not linked Exchange to the new cloud based SharePoint implementation. This means every attachment I need to save into SharePoint has to be saved somewhere else then uploaded to SharePoint. The chance of me getting through even that simple task before being interrupted by a call or urgent email in about 50% so a backlog of emails to upload ends up on my desktop and download sit in my downloads folder until I work from home for a day.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Okay, 'fess up

        You could probably automate it with powershell

    4. Nick Kew

      Re: Okay, 'fess up

      Downloads is fair.

      I'll sometimes do a bit more there. For example, if I download a package that I'm not hacking on but perhaps just running through a test suite or installing as-is but from a tarball, I might unpack and build all within Downloads. But I always know things there are fair game for freeing up space: anything that matters from that package got installed in /usr/local.

  28. Mike Groombridge

    Way more common than it should be

    back in my Hell desk days this was way more common than i care to admit.

    even with users who knew better when i asked why. i generalling got a knowing wink and i'm hiding them from my (PA/ staff / n e other) as it contains confidental information she/he/they won't think to look there.

    they all had home drives i even offered separate private network shares but "my "pa/staff/n e other" has my password/needs access to everything else.

    great until 3 months later when i got a call if there was a way to recover from an emptied recycle bin. Finance manager deleted budgets cue sending the disk for recovery. and the creation of a senior manager share.

    1. Aussie Doc

      Re: Way more common than it should be

      Maybe still on topic, but a couple of years ago my daughter-in-law was organising a big birthday bash for her hubby (my lad) and was contacting many of his old school mates.

      In order to keep it all under wraps she had all the info, invite template and other 'stuff' stored in a folder on the desktop, aptly name 'Vanessa Tax Stuff' (she worked full-time and the home PC was a shared one).

      The folder was never opened by hubby!

      1. Anonymous Coward Silver badge
        Paris Hilton

        Re: Way more common than it should be

        I usually find that the "Tax Stuff" folder contains the user's porn collection.

        First place I look.

  29. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    It seems such a counter-intuitive thing to do and yet is so widespread. The only explanation I can think of is that users learn it from each other. But why don't they learn good habits from each other instead?

    Hmm. Just emptied my KDE wastebin - definitely not being used as a filing cabinet. Over 400 meg!

    1. Benson's Cycle

      But why don't they learn good habits from each other instead?

      This one is extremely simple. Intelligence travels at the speed of thought - which, given its weight, is actually quite slow. Stupidity, having no mass (because there is so much of it that, if it did, the universe would collapse) travels at the speed of light.

      1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

        Do you mind if I copy that and use it once in a while?

        And have one ---->

        1. Benson's Cycle

          Why not? I did. To paraphrase T S Eliot quite a lot, medicore commenters plagiarise, great ones borrow.

      2. WonkoTheSane Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: No lineage?

        That sounds... Pratchett-y?

        1. Benson's Cycle

          Re: No lineage?

          No. Great as he is, Sir Terry (decd) did not think of everything.

          1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

            Re: No lineage?

            Definitely great as well as a very decent human being. I have an autographed book by him (I was notified by the staff of a bookstore I used to frequent that he would be doing a session).

          2. TRT Silver badge

            Re: No lineage?

            I'm afraid you're wrong. PTerry did think of everything. What let him down was the finite speed of capturing it all on paper.

        2. Nick Kew

          Re: No lineage?

          Older than Pratchett. Can't place it right now, but I'm sure Wilde was one earlier comic/witty writer to use it. Going back much further, Newton's shoulders of giants sounds like a man familiar with the remark.

          1. TSM

            Re: No lineage?

            The "no mass" → "speed of light" connection requires that it's long enough after 1905 for the basic principles of relativity to be well known.

      3. tfewster Silver badge

        Stupidity has mass. That's what Dark Matter really is.

        1. TRT Silver badge

          Stupidity is real. Intelligence is artificial.

    2. The Indomitable Gall

      " It seems such a counter-intuitive thing to do and yet is so widespread. The only explanation I can think of is that users learn it from each other. "

      The most underestimated force in UI design is the path of least resistance. Deleting is one of our quickest actions (thanks to having a dedicated key) and if deletion is (initially) non-destructive, the apparent continued availability makes it seem like the most efficient means of archiving.

      If we also had an "archive" key on our keyboards, more people would archive properly.

  30. caffeine addict Silver badge

    Not "documents" as such...

    C:\Documents and Settings\Dad\My Documents\faxes\sent faxes\


    Ah, the days when Windows didn't secure people's user directories and we had to resort to trying to hide our... "downloads".

    1. No Yb

      Re: Not "documents" as such...

      Big Corporate IT departments frequently have a transparent proxy with logging built in. Sometimes the log is available to anyone who knows about it.

      The number of people browsing porn online at work was easily checked.

  31. Roger Kynaston

    Desktop folders

    Back in the NT desktop days there was a folder called my briefcase. I think it was for moving files between PCs - frankly, I don't remember now but one user with whom I was friends cheerfully announced that she used it for storing files. Another support guy (quite well lubricated) got into a massive argument with her about how dreadful it was to use this. I steered well clear as my friend was not one to brook dissent gracefully.

  32. rfsdfhsfdghsdfghsfdghsfg

    Back in the early 2000's I worked at a small company with a guy who said he knew everything.

    Anyway: I had just started at this company (Probably within a day of starting) and I get a call from the Owner asking me to come in to his office and help him access his files which were incredibly slow to access. I sat down at his computer and open up the file share...... To find.. that the company was storing all the files (all 80,000 of them or some very stupidly large but still 'legal' for the time number) in the root folder of the server file store. I pointed out that this wasn't really the best way of doing things and if he stored them all in sub folders then the data would be easier to find and keep organized. He yelled at me saying that he didn't need me to tell him how to make things work (clearly he did) He had worked as a computer tech way back in the 60's and wasn't going to to take no lip from a new up and comer. He knew how servers worked and he didn't need to be told what how to do things. He added that putting them all in the one location made them really easy to find. Then he yelled at me more and asked why the new server they had just brought which "was a wiz bang top of the line server" wasn't making things go faster because the old one had been too slow. Pro Tip: they had brought the new server on the second hand market and it was pretty slow already. Not that that would have helped with the 80,000 files in the root folder.

    The rest of the staff, many who had been there for many years, just accepted this insanity and other examples and turned up to work each day.

    1. Killfalcon Silver badge

      "The rest of the staff, many who had been there for many years, just accepted this insanity and other examples and turned up to work each day."

      As the great poet Bugs Bunny often said "Eh, it's a living."

  33. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge

    Basic Aptitude

    This just reinforces my belief there should be a basic aptitude test before being allowed anywhere near a computer.

    No passee, no usee.

    1. Nick Kew

      Re: Basic Aptitude

      As a software developer, I regard it as my business to make software usable.

      The smart user understands it - with use of regular tools like Google as appropriate. The user who can't do that should fail gracefully, not have illusions of mastery.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Basic Aptitude

        "The user who can't do that should fail gracefully, not have illusions of mastery."

        Not too gracefully, otherwise the illusions won't be shattered.

        1. Nick Kew

          Re: Basic Aptitude

          For values of "fail gracefully" centred around Give Up Trying Before Getting Into Trouble.

      2. Benson's Cycle

        Re: Basic Aptitude

        Cars are pretty usable, but you still need a test to weed out the complete idiots.

  34. Dr Dan Holdsworth
    Black Helicopters

    Reminds me of a tale of espionage

    Way back in the days of the Cold War, it was well known to absolutely everyone who mattered that Soviet soldiers were amazingly tough individuals who positively thrived on not having any luxuries whatsoever. As a result of this knowledge, the Soviet forces on exercise in various Eastern Bloc countries would sally forth unequipped with any form of toilet paper.

    The actual forces themselves, however, were actually quite used to the concept of toilet paper and of wiping one's backside on completing one's business in the privy and bitterly disliked this paperless policy. As a result they got into the habit of using any old waste paper they could get their hands on, and this tended to include even quite highly classified military documents. Digging into an old latrine pit one day, someone with connections to Western intelligence noticed the abundance of printed pages and forwarded them, suitably decontaminated, to a spying organisation.

    Thus were born a couple of the worst Cold War jobs in history: dunnykin diving for documents, and processing said treasures to produce a readable output cleaned of the *other* output which could be photocopied and sent off to Western spooks.

  35. ColinPa

    The little book

    My father in law used to keep a book of all of his video tapes, so tape 1 was "Star wars 1" etc. When this was overwritten, he would cross out "Star war" and put the new title (and date) on the page

    When he got a computer, he reused the same system. He had a page for each file, so the page called "file1" had "operatic society accounts" with the date, then later he put a line through it, and called it "Pension" with the new date.

    Unfortunately he filed things in different directories, and was surprised when "file1" was still operatic society accounts, or "Pension" depending how he looked at the file.

  36. chivo243 Silver badge

    Ever found a user's important files in the strangest of places?

    In the Trash? Temp folder created by Notlook? That's a good one!

  37. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    To tray or not to tray

    It always surprises me that people often quite easily grasp the concept and usage of physical real-world 'in/out/to file' trays that they may see on someone's (or their own) physical real-world desk, but when it comes to the 'inbox' in their email program all logic heads out of the window. The result being that, if you want to help them find or recover a lost email reply containing something important the boss mentioned in passing from a decade a go, it'll be somewhere deep in their... inbox?? FFS.


  38. Peter X

    *Exactly* the same thing but with the Exchange/Outlook "recycler"

    I had the exact same thing but with users storing important stuff in the "Recycle-bin" of Outlook. I had to do something with their account, and it was easier to delete it and recreate it... and then I got a call asking where their documents had gone.

    No idea if it was technically possible to undelete them from that situation, but I know I didn't try; I was sympathetic, but I wasn't taking the blame on that one.

    Verdict: user error!

  39. AustinTX

    I've always felt uncomfortable with this statement

    I had a W95 toughbook from a user who worked out in the field which had somehow gotten a virus. Field workers had admin rights on their toughbooks. By pure chance I noticed that some of the items which appeared to be in the Start menu, which I took as "recent" items, were not in My Documents. He was putting the documents in the actual Start menu folders.

  40. cirby

    Desktop. Just desktop.

    I've run into a number of people who keep all of their files on their laptop's desktop, "where I can see them." ALL of their files.

    There have been a couple with so many files on the desktop that you couldn't see the wallpaper or read the actual file titles.

    Each time they wanted to open a file, they opened the appropriate program and skimmed the names...

    Yes, this was horribly inconvenient and slow, but they never seem to want to change to something rational.

    1. TRT Silver badge

      Re: Desktop. Just desktop.

      And impossibly slow with roaming profiles.

    2. LucL

      Re: Desktop. Just desktop.

      One of my student did the same with PDF files. His desktop was completely covered.

      I asked him to clean that mess.

      A couple of days later, I see him smiling at me. I go to his desktop and he shows me proudly the piles of PDF he made, thematically sorted.

      First, I thought the guy was stupid (I was expecting folders and subfolders).

      Then it occurred to me he had another way of thinking but it was perfectly fine.

      Lesson learned.

  41. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge

    Users At One Contract.

    Desktop Folder called Backup....

    Containing a folder for the previous year "2011", containing all documents, desktop downloads for that year, the year prior, the year prior etc etc.

    Also with folders repeating the same for "2010", containing all documents, desktop downloads for that year, the year prior, the year prior etc etc.

    Also with folders repeating the same for "20009", containing all documents, desktop downloads for that year, the year prior, the year prior etc etc.

    All the way back to the late 90's.

    YOU LOST ALL MY DATA!!!!!!!!

    User 1 - Files gone post hardware replacement - Password protected files on his own network share that he's forgotten about on the original device (Fortunately still on the network & was able to recover the password from the user).

    User 2 - Kept Excel, Word etc etc files in "C:\Program Files\Microsoft Office\root\Officexx" because that's where the programs are!

    Have you not heard of My Documents?

    Whats that?

    Very simply sir, its a place to store your documents so only you can access them or you could store them on the network to ensure they get backed up.

    Meanwhile at another place in Calgary......

    ..the top dog legal secretary, had her desktop completely (Literally not a inch of desktop real estate, with folders as close as they could be without being dragged\dropped into its neighbour) filled with folder of every single contract that was ongoing or kept for legacy\retrieval.

    A single HDD failure would have effectively wiped out this former subsidary company of Brutish Gasoline, ohhh boy she really didn't like hearing that & refused the new hardware possibly over the time it would take to copy everything to the network & then create nice shortcuts on her desktop because "I" might lose everything. I mentioned it to the Project manager as a very real concern but moved to a new contract sometime after & the desktop still hadn't been replaced.

    I have to admit I was very very glad not to be further involved with that ladies hardware replacement.

  42. irrelevant

    Disc space

    Ah, early days of the Internet, we'd find certain customers that had shared folders on their NT server suddenly running out of room. We quickly determined that a search for large files across the users' home folders would often provide us with a lot of large, very-not-work-related, movie files. Often in senior management folders, after all, they had both the time to spend and nice private offices to enjoy them.. But nobody ever complained when we fixed their space problems by deleting the files.. We'd find it fairly easy to sell them an upgrade later on, though.

  43. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Real trash cans too

    I know a guy who used to have so many paper files that he ended up stacking some on the floor around his desk.

    Then around and even on top of the physical trash can.

    As you guessed, one morning he came back to see that there were no longer any stack of papers left anywhere near the trash can...

    The cleaning lady only did her job!

  44. Luiz Abdala Bronze badge

    Outlook PST files larger than 2GB.

    Oh the joy of Outlook... 2000 I think.

    So it was the era of Powerpoint attachments to mail. Some guys had PST files for just the funny PPT's.

    I quickly learned that:

    - Exchange had a pretty limited inbox size back then. Only Managers had a 20MB space on the server. All the PST files were instructed to wipe the server and keep them offline on the luser machine. So everybody had PST's running.

    - The file only shrunk if you deleted the mail, cleaned the trash bin, and then use an Outlook tool called something like COMPRESS or OPTIMIZE, that actually shrunk the PST file. Otherwise, even the trash folder was still encoded there. Off I went, using that tool to save most sluggish Outlooks from keeling over.

    - The file still worked up to 2.1GB. Guess how I learned that. You couldn't click anything besides emptying the trash, or Outlook would freeze. Guess how I found about that either.

    Eventually the problem got away.

  45. Zarno Bronze badge

    I have a folder called "nuke" for storage of random things on the work machine

    It gets deleted about once a quarter, and so far no issues.

    Till recently I had a ramdisk setup that would auto-nuke on reboot, but that caused system instability due to a driver update, so it went dodo.

    Keeps my clutter of "What the bloody fluffy bunny is this PDF doing here???" to a minimum.

    Never seen deleted mail used for storage though... That takes the cake.

    Icon because folder names.

  46. Picky

    Quicker backups ...

    In the days of 10/20 MB drives with 3 in drives .. I was supporting a group of 12 local newspapers. They were all shown how to "backup" the editors PC weekly to disks after sending to the central printers,

    Each babkup took a box of disks a week. However the Editors charged with this onerous task started running out of blank disks and decided to improvise by a new disk compression/reduction method - they kept reinsertinhg the same didk when prompted for next one. Hey prestto the 1 .44MB dsk holdong a 20MB backup - NOT.

  47. pstones578

    Special kind of C level Exec

    This story reminds me of a place I used to work that had someone high up who was very "special" and for years saved critical emails in his deleted items in his mailbox. This became new news to me when we implemented a policy to delete items from deleted at a certain retention period threshold. We had to restore the whole exchange DB just to get his emails back. The other bit I will never forget is that absolutely no one had the minerals to have a word with him so we had to work around his interesting way of managing email.

  48. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Shreddy McShredface

    Heard of a case where a FTSE listed company failed an audit, because someone found down the back of a desk recently vacated a mobile phone hooked up with a USB-LAN adaptor and wall charger set up as a hotspot. Turns out the previous occupier had been using it so the "Secure" company network could connect to their big screen laptop which had non working LAN and contained a wireless card from last century that only supported WPA. Yes, WPA. At least it was MAC locked.

    They could have just made it disappear but they chose to face the music and pay up rather than facing more problems later, recall the fine being six figures.

    The laptop did eventually get found, audited, forensically analyzed and then destroyed, just in case.

    FFS (facepalm)

  49. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    We used to have people save files to their desktop so that we did not "mess them up".

    I had a very senior person lose a half written training manual because, when he had his laptop replaced, we had to wipe the old one for security purposes. Fortunately there was an old copy of the book on a different computer.

    Several years later, at the next hardware refresh, he did it again but we had warned the person doing the replacement and they backed it up to a subfolders in his network share but not told him.

    By the time the user noticed, the technician was having a day off. On return, they were able to prevent a few nervous breakdowns by pointing out how they had followed policy and saved stuff.

    We now redirect user desktops to a subfolder in their network share. They can save it to their desktop but it isn't really...

  50. Unicornpiss Silver badge

    I have seen that too..

    More than once even. To the extent that I will actually say one good thing about OneDrive--the recycle bin has a second, slightly more hidden recycle bin.

  51. deanb01

    Porn Stash

    I ran the IT department of a small marketing company 'back-in-the-day'. We had a call from a member of staff who was struggling with a sluggish company laptop. So my PFY called him and remoted onto his desktop. Part of the process involved clearing out the trash; clear cache files, delete tmp files, and so on. The PFY opened up the wastebin and it was set to display the folder as thumbnails. The pictures were, well, quite hardcore porn. The PFY took it in his stride and, whilst talking to the user, said "I think we'll close that, shall we?". After a lot of mind-bleach, we raised it with the directors, who took a dim view, and fired the chap on the spot.

  52. Rob G

    Hiding files from The Mother

    In my early teens I stashed all my files in a folder on the shared "family" Win98 PC called C:\~SYSRMT32, a system-y sounding name which was also set as hidden. This seemed like a good idea when I first created it as a 13 year old, as a means to stop my mother poking around my stuff. At the time, my mother hadn't quite fully realised that my problem solving skills at least matched, if not surpassed, the abilities of the Inverness Computer Center from which the PC was originally purchased, and so if there was any issue with the PC, she would take it there. Some time passed and a HDD upgrade was required, and so off the PC went, along with my instruction to make sure that the disk was fully copied to the new one. By that time I was certainly capable of doing such an operation by myself, and I have regretted not pushing for that to happen ever since. For when the PC came back, my files were gone. I quickly phoned up the shop and asked them if I could have the old drive back. They said it wasn't possible. I asked them why, and explained that they hadn't copied everything, and got nothing but an angry response that I shouldn't store files in hidden folders, and that I was an idiot for doing so. They had done little more than drag the contents of the old drive into a folder called "old", with the Windows explorer default view of not showing hidden files. I handled all PC upgrades and maintenance from that point on. But I have still lost all of my early PC creations, and to this day still feel a little bitter about it. In hindsight I should have pressed them much harder about the old drive.

  53. steviebuk Silver badge

    Same issue in Outlook

    I don't see it much anymore but had a few users using the "deleted" folder in outlook as a save location. Had created folders within it. Had to gently explain "Do you understand why its fucking called a deleted folder?"

    1. Noodle

      Re: Same issue in Outlook

      Same here, which my IT team discovered when we decided to implement an MS Exchange to regularly empty users Deleted Items to save storage space (it was the early 2000s). Cue wails of "where are all my "saved" emails?".

      Deleted items restored, we decided to simply ask users to empty their Deleted Items in Outlook themselves. A day or so later I happened upon a nice older lady who was painstakingly selecting one Deleted Items email at a time and pressing the Delete key... she had hundreds to go. I gently pointed out the "right-click, Empty Deleted Items" option.

  54. Paul Hovnanian Silver badge

    Back in the old days ...

    ... (1980's) I worked for an outfit with a very anal-retentive IT department. We were just starting to get PCs (DOS, no Windows yet). And IT had some very strict rules. No saving your work to the 20 MB hard drive, floppies only. And engineers were not to do any programming. That was the domain of IT. And this was all enforced by periodic audits. IT people would come by and check the hard drive for 'illicit' saved work, source code, unapproved .exe files, etc.

    I had located a tiny little program called 'attr' which could be used to set file attributes, including the hidden bit. This worked for subdirectories as well as files. So pretty soon, everyone had a set of hidden subdirectories that the IT folks couldn't see (you had to know the directory name to access its content).

    1. Simon Harris Silver badge

      Re: Back in the old days ...

      Having to find your own attr must have placed you back in the MS-DOS 2.x days.

      attrib came as a standard part of MS-DOS from version 3.0, and versions 2.x were the first to support hard drives.

  55. SNAFUology

    something to feed the chooks with

    and here they all are cackle cluck cluck !

  56. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The more senior they get...

    I work for a very well known multinational. One of those companies where the senior management are treated like gods. I took an escalation call directly from an EVP who demanded we get the 'CEO of Microsoft' on the phone as he (EVP) can't be heard when joining Skype calls and this plainly wasn't acceptable. Despite as offering to send a tech over immediately to look - this wasn't good enough. As an EVP of a globally renowned company he expected the CEO of MS to be available to take his call.

    The arrogance and entitlement was staggering...

    Turns out he'd joined a Zoom webinar that had all the audience deliberately set as unable to speak.

  57. TeeCee Gold badge

    Yes, but.

    The one that always cracks me up:

    Some techy type holds forth at length on how dumb users are for not using their latest and greatest correctly.

    Same techy type throws a wobbly if anyone dares to suggest that they upgrade from Gnome 2 or ditch their dodgy copy of Total Commander.

  58. wayneinuk

    Never Assume - Deletion of User or Whole ERP System!

    I took over the system admin of an ICL DRS6000 system in around 1994 running an ERP system based on Progress RDBMS (now Progress OpenEdge). The previous sysadmin has been lazy and quite honestly out of his depth in looking after anything other than a dot matrix printer!

    One afternoon I decided to clean up the system and remove ageing old user accounts in the interests of all the right things i.e. security, disk space, performance etc. Little did I know at the time that Mr Keith (the old sysadmin) had changed his "home directory in Unix to /” i.e. ROOT – something that even to this day is far beyond my comprehension. I came to his account, issued the command to DELETE his account, which in turn removes the users home directory and sat there waiting for the Unix prompt, as many Unix sysadmins will know, there is never really a delay on this type of process, that is unless there is something unexpected going on and after several seconds I ran to the server room to listen to the hard work being carried out by the hard disks as the system cleared all my ERP system including data, software, Progress and parts of the Unix OS. Knowing there was something wrong I jumped to the UPS and flipped the mains off switch, the room fell into silence!

    Lucky for me only the previous week I’d created the first File Store Repair Tape (used to recover the OS) and complete system backup (ERP software & Progress) in the previous week which got me off the hook, the Progress DB was still intact thanks to my gut instinct & powering off the system and I got away with having to re-create indexes on the DB as opposed to going to the overnight backup.

    Whilst you would never expect a previous sysadmin to change a home directory to something like / (root) I quickly learned never to underestimate other peoples thoughts and actions when it comes to this type of work, as a result I’ve always been overprotective over everything I look after, much to the dismay of colleagues.

  59. tictoc

    In a time long long ago during the rain of Small Business Server with Exchange 5.x that was being pushed WELL BEYOND it's user capacity in a not for profit profit company. And with disc space being a premium back then it was always running at 90%+ full and falling over. Now being a tidy chap I cleaned stuff made users store their photos and such off the server as much as possible. I also backed everything up to tape as well as started an auto clean script to clean up space which worked very well. To well in fact.

    Until a screaming, crying butt hurt user(s) who thought it was a GREAT idea to hide emails in their deleted folder. And being the Top office hen and sole source of knowledge for the rest of the admin staff ... THEY ALL HIDE EMAILS IN THE DELETED FOLDER. And Everything was gone ... at least they thought so.

    The cries of terror made me smile for weeks as I spoon fed small chunks back while making my case for more storage! Ahh the smell of fresh hard drives in the morning!

    BOFH taught me well!

  60. ozdancer

    I had something similar to this, the EA to the director general at a state government depart I formerly worked for had a bunch of her documents stored in the deleted items folder in outlook (as well as having 28 pst archive files attached to the same outlook profile)

  61. Heavy Soil

    Email version too...

    I had one user who had carefully stored every important email he'd received and sent over several years, in dozens of folders.

    Did he do this on the correct place in his mailbox? No.

    Had he done this in a locally-ony stored corruption-prone PST file, like a lot of users? No.

    The whole structure was all stored within his Deleted Items folder.

    This came to light only after a he got back from his honeymoon, to find just tumbleweeds where years of frequently-referenced work had previsouly been.

    It turned out there had been an unpublicised policy change by the HQ corporate team, which meant that emails were regularly purged from that folder.

    Of course things can still be recovered after being deleted in Exchange, but of course they'd shortened that timeout too, and it had all gone.

    It took a *lot* of explaining this to that HQ IT team, followed by a huge amount of political faff for the UK business managers to persuade HQ that this stuff was worth enough for them to restore the mailbox with the whole folder intact, followed by far more work for them to achieve that.

    FInally, the user was re-educated to use folders within his mailbox - and yes, I used the same "you wouldn't carefully organise your paperwork into the bin under your desk for permanent storage" line too...

  62. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not quite the recycle bin but...

    When I and some colleagues took over a project from someone who had left, we discovered his years of data collection were stored in a folder called 'Temp'

    Good job we didn't tidy up the hard drives!

  63. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Seen it so many times with people (read: idiots) using their Outlook "Deleted Items" as a filing box, not as a...deleted items box...

    REPEATEDLY "You're out of email storage - you need to empty your Deleted Items!"

    "Oh I can't do that, that's where I keep all my emails" or "Oh no - I never delete an email"


    (AC for job preservation reasons!)

  64. Nick London

    Trouble and strife

    I am not in IT but did some Basic at school submitted by puch tape/teletypewrier/acoustic modem that took telephone handset. Thena one week Fortran course at university - hand punch machines to submit punch cards etc.

    Anyway mid eighties and the trouble and strife works for very big US vendor of missiles etc in a Mayfair representative office and they buy her an IBM PC yes an original with twin floppies and Word Perfect.

    Anyway she complains that she gets all her pages repeated so a letter file when opened has multiple copies of the file.

    One day she tells me 64 pages, so I deduce a power of 2 involved

    Turns out when closing the file it asks "do you want to save a copy" and if she clicked yes, it appended a copy of the open file to itself thereby doubling each time.

    Back to the steel and concrete engineering. You know where you are.

  65. wedowebapps

    The Mail Should be in archive?

    One of my colleague use to archive their important mails, and always got forget that about those mails. The worst thing is that when he got the reminder about the archive mails he never able to find out that mails even in archive.

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