Back Up Windows 10 Before Installing The October Update Or Risk Losing Your Files

Photo: Tadas Sar, Unsplash

We are scratching our collective heads as to how the Windows 10 October Update ever made it past Microsoft’s QA teams. According to numerous reports, something about the update could delete the contents of your Windows 10 user folders — you know, your documents, photos, music, videos and so on.

As one Reddit user describes:

As I mentioned in another post, the upgrade wiped %userprofile%\documents and \pictures, which were not used as the default folders (i.e. as part of the “My documents”, “My pictures” libraries). My default folders have been and are still within OneDrive and weren’t touched by the upgrade. Only the folders within %userprofile% were deleted, even though they were not empty.

Wild speculation ahead: Maybe the bug isn’t that Setup mistakenly deletes stuff, but that it does not migrate certain folders thinking they aren’t in use anymore? I’m not familiar with the internals of the upgrade process, but I could imagine that Setup first copies the old stuff to “Windows.old”, then removes the old installation (thus deleting all files), performs a clean install of the OS and finally restores user data from “Windows.old”. This would explain why I cannot find my files in “Windows.old” - due to some unknown condition being met, Setup did not copy them in the first place and thus wasn’t able to restore anything later on.

And another writes:

I lost my D:\Document folder. It is not configured as a documents library and it’s not even in system drive! I do not have backup for this because I think the system upgrade should never ever touch non-system drive.

Regardless of why these deletions are happening — and Microsoft is “actively investigating” the issue — here’s how you can steer clear of this big Windows mess.

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Back Up Your System Before Major Updates

I’m lazy. When a big system update arrives, I’m always eager to punch the “Check for updates” link and let all those sweet new features and fixes flow down to my desktop from Redmond (or wherever). The Windows 10 October Update is a great reminder to me, and to all, that we should be backing up our systems before installing any major updates.

If you can make a full clone of your primary hard drive, great! You’ll be able to revert back to your previous version of the OS should anything go horrible wrong with the update. Otherwise, you should at least regularly back up your critical files.

Programs and apps can be reinstalled, but any of the major folders within C:\Users\[your name] such as Documents, Pictures, Videos, Desktop and so on should also live elsewhere. Maybe two elsewheres.

Make a reminder to copy them to a cloud storage service every week. Regularly back them up with an app such as Backblaze. Create a duplicate archive of your huge photo gallery on an external drive or a network-attached storage device. No matter how you do it, there’s no reason why files you can’t fathom losing should only live in one place. No no no.

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How To Restore Files Windows 10 Deleted

If you just installed the Windows 10 October update and found that it nuked some (or all) of your critical user folders — and you didn’t back them up elsewhere — stop what you’re doing right now. Don’t do anything else.

Go download the free version of Recuva. Install it, run a scan on your Windows drive, and you might be able to save your data. No promises, but it’s the best option you have right now.

Screenshot: David Murphy

You might also luck out if you previously turned on Windows’ built-in File History tool, which allows you to recover older copies of files and folders. You can turn File History on via the Settings app > Update & Security > Backup. To restore a folder that File History previously saved, navigate to its parent folder in File Explorer, right-click on it, select Properties, and click on the “Previous Versions” tab.


Comments

    You're wondering how this made it past the Microsoft QA team?
    That would suggest that you think they have one!

    For some reason it deleted most of my Chrome settings and logged out of every site? I updated for the Your Phone app you guys raved about but it doesn't work either!

      Any upgrade is going to reboot and you will be logged out of sites because the browser is shut down!

      If you care about browser settings, back them up. Create a browser account so that the settings, add-ins and bookmarks are backed up and portable.

      Actually most of the article content can be condensed to "if you don't back up your files you will lose them for one of dozens of reasons".

        I sign into Chrome and it keeps most of my passwords. Chrome was still signed in just all the webpages weren't !

          So cache/cookies cleared.. and.. the issue here.. it happens... Temp files are not system/user files.

          I would see that as a feature rather than a bug. If the environment supporting the browser has substantially changed then you would want any persistent cookies cleared.

            Yeah only a minor inconvenience really, the missing files for some people is a much bigger issue.

        How did it get past QA ? Easy as an ex MS employee all employees are encouraged to be using whatever the latest and greatest push by MS is. SInce they've been pushing Office 365 / OneDrive / Azure for a few years now there will be next to no employees or contractors whose user folders aren't re-mapped to OneDrive locations which aren't impacted by this bug. As (probably) no one on the QA team had any files in the local system drive users folders they didn't see the issue.

    Everyone should take at least TWO backups of a system before upgrading it! A system upgrade is a massive undertaking, and it is always possible that there will be a variation that the programmers have not thought of.

    With online backups of data, combined with external disks for clones, you can always recover from any installation problem.

    Have updated three computers with absolutely no problems what so ever.

    I detest those User folders.
    They are like a mine shaft dug by a rabid wombat.
    Instead create this folder for your downloads - C:\DOWNLOADS
    (Upper case to distinguish it from the one buried way down the mine shaft)
    Also create folders prefixed with a D_ (D_ is short for Data) EG - C:\D_Finance
    This way all of your data folders are adjacent to each other in the C directory, and it is a piece of cake to back them up regularly.
    And I cannot argue against regular backups of the complete drive.
    Get an external Seagate drive (3.5" please), and download the Seagate DiscWizard -
    https://www.seagate.com/au/en/support/downloads/discwizard/
    It is free, provided it can see that you own one Seagate drive.
    Install the program then immediately use it to create a bootable CD/USB
    Use the bootable CD/USB to create and validate images (So that Windows is NOT running when creating images).
    For those that prefer Western Digital, I believe they have a similar relationship.
    Rob Down Under
    PS I was a senior Systems Analyst in a large Bank and Telecommunications company, for 20 years. I believe that MS got rid of all of their analysts over a decade ago.
    They are allowing young programmers to analyse/design stuff, and we get Ribbons, Metro, unusable Start Menus, Vista, etc, etc.

    Last edited 08/10/18 1:00 pm

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