Last week, I posted a PSA warning readers that the latest Windows 10 update was deleting user data, among other things. This has turned into only the second worst release of a Windows 10 version in the last few years – topped by the version 1607 update which ended up disabling 80% of webcams in addition to doing some really weird things with Bluetooth. Microsoft has since halted the release of Windows 10 version 1809 wholesale, and they’ve additionally stopped all rollouts of Windows Server 2019 and Windows 10 1809 LTSC and taken the images off their servers.
In a Knowledge Base article on Microsoft’s Support website regarding Windows 10 version history, the company explains that “we have paused the rollout of the Windows 10 October 2018 Update (version 1809) for all users as we investigate isolated reports of users missing some files after updating”. The company says that anyone affected should stop using their computers immediately and contact a Microsoft Support representative. A promise is also made to issue new upgrade media for the fixed version of the update, which will be available in due course.
As if to drive home the point of how much of a mess this has become, journalists began discovering feedback sent to Microsoft inside the Windows Insider program, where affected users reported files and profiles being deleted, in addition to Windows apps not working when IPv6 was disabled. Rafael Riviera, journalist and Microsoft MVP, showed some reports on Twitter, and others on Reddit found more initial reports for the other issues.
Microsoft’s aggressive ramp-up for the 1803 and 1809 updates has caused a lot of consternation among users with this latest upgrade. I’ve seen system administrators vent their frustration at losing mountains of data on multiple forums, as well as normal users who lost save games and important documents. It’s not a widespread issue, which is what makes this so frustrating – what is the trigger? My theory is that it’s related to a bug in the OneDrive sync client. The data that gets lost is in the My Documents and Photos sub-folders in the user profile, and those are the only ones that get hosed after the upgrade. OneDrive can and will do some weird things if you’re automatically signing into it before configuring what folders you want synced, and if you’ve got some non-standard sort of arrangement you can expect higher levels of risk when upgrading to Windows 10 version 1809.
I’m affected, what can I do?
The upgrade bug doesn’t overwrite documents and pictures in their respective sub-folders, so the files are merely deleted. If you use a recovery tool such as Recuva or Photorec to recover the files, chances are that you’ll get back anything that was deleted. If you were using OneDrive your files are, of course, just fine where they are – they’re not getting deleted because you’ve just re-synced them back to your local folder.
For those of you who are paranoid about getting your data back, there are more advanced options for you to try. A Linux Live USB, as shown in this handy Photorec on Linux guide, can be used to load recovery software to get your files back and copy them to an external drive. This method has the added benefit that you don’t have to worry about overwriting files because Linux doesn’t handle Windows NTFS partitions in such a way that files get written to the drive when it is mounted. The Linux Live environment can have some apps installed to it, so you just need a USB flash drive, and Fedora Media Writer to get started. If possible, do this on another computer. If you don’t have another one to use, you can do this on the affected machine, but you’ll have to accept that there’s a high risk associated with doing this – you could overwrite some files on the system drive without meaning to.