How To Recover Your Data After A Dodgy Windows 10 Update

Image: Microsoft and iStock

There's a lesson almost everyone learns the hard way. Having a tried and tested backup regime is critical for protecting your data. But if you haven't yet learned that lesson, and you were one of the unfortunate people who were smashed with the recent Windows 10 update that deleted files then you'll be looking for file recovery options.

Here are the steps you need to take - before and after disaster strikes.

Windows 10's Dumpster-Fire Update Just Got Worse

Last week, Microsoft quietly re-released the Windows 10 1809 Update to Insider users after an alarming file-deleting bug forced a global halt to the rollout. Unfortunately, the latest 'fixed' version is still plagued with data loss issues and users are pissed off. Oh, Microsoft.

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Have An Effective Backup Plan

It's worth noting that a solid backup plan is the best defence against data loss whether that's from accidental deletions, a ransomware attack or errant software. I'm a fan of the 3-2-1-0 approach to backups. Here’s how it works.

Three – for the number of copies of your critical data you need to retain. It might sound difficult but the three copies could be the original data, a backup on a local storage device and a third copy at an offsite storage facility.

Two – for the number of different storage devices you should use. By storing your backups on two devices you aren’t left wanting if one device fails. For example, you could use a cloud service as one type of backup media and a local NAS as the other.

One – for the minimum number of copies you should keep off-site, away from your main work area. If the worst happens and your office is destroyed, having your backup wrecked makes it useless. Make sure one of those copies of your data is at a location, away from where you work.

Zero – for the number of errors your backups should contain. It’s important that you test your backup system regularly to ensure the data you’re protecting is actually safe. Also, make sure the recovery process is easy, well documented and as fast as possible.

Clone Before A Major Update

I'd suggest that before any major update, such as the Windows 10 twice-yearly updates in April and October, or the annual macOS update in September, that you clone your hard drive.

There are lots of options for doing this. For example, there's Paragon Drive Copy 15 Professional. It supports cloning to a smaller-capacity disk by excluding files if there's not enough space and cloning to virtual machines.

Acronis Disk Director 12 is worth a look for full-disk cloning as well.

For macOS, there are Carbon Coper Cloner and SuperDuper.

File Sync Services Are Not Backups

Many of the people I speak to say that they sync their files to a service like OneDrive, Google Drive, Dropbox, iCloud or similar. That's great if your goal is multi-device availability of files and, if one device is destroyed, you can be assured your data is still available.

But these are sync services. Which means an action taken on one device is replicated to the others. So, file deletions, overwrites and accidental updates all result in that mistake being automatically synchronised to the other connected devices.

With Windows 10 (version 1809) deleting files and an updated version of the update also being pulled as it deleted files as well, having a backup and recovery strategy has been put into the spotlight.

There's a good description of how the bug came to be and why it deleted files here here. And, there's also Microsoft's official explanation of the file-killing flustercuck.

By the way, if you've been affected by the update that kills files, here's Microsoft's advice.

  • If you have checked for updates and believe you have an issue, please contact us directly at 13 20 58.
  • If you have access to a different PC, please contact us at https://support.microsoft.com/en-au/contactus/.
  • If you have manually downloaded the Windows 10 October 2018 Update installation media, please don’t install it and wait until new media is available.

How Do You Recover Deleted Files?

Microsoft has offered to help users out through their network of retail stores. But there are reports that they are asking users to leave their computers with them, along with the log-in credentials so that can do the recovery.

But that may not be a viable option if the data you want recovered is confidential as there's no way to know who will be looking at your computer and accessing that data.

Typically, Windows Updates copy a bunch of files to the windows.old folder and then you can use the Recover Personal Files tool to get things back. But that seems to be coming up blank as the files aren't copied as expected.

There are also a number of different deleted file recovery tools around. For example, it may be possible to use a tool like Recuva although, as noted in this Reddit thread, success is not assured.

Based on everything I've seen, the only way to ensure recovery of the deleted files if you've been affected by this mess is to have an effective backup strategy that involves regularly testing your recovery process.


Comments

    Missing the first step of data recovery! NEVER use the computer you're trying to recover data from. Using it reduces the chances of success as your deleted data gets overwritten. Installing several tools to try and recover the deleted data is likely to destroy it all before you start.

      If you have lost important data, seek professional advice from experienced data recovery specialists. Your local computer shop might be OK, but they vary a lot. Your data has 1 chance.

    Supertin "Your data has one chance"

    Actually, no, it doesn't depending on the device, space used by files, drive activity and method used to restore the data.

    I've used a USB/Thumb/Jump drive for all of my data except for pictures and movies since the 90s. Convenient, easy to backup, the drive structure you create is your own and not the "My docs", etc BS created by Microsoft.

    External hard drives and thumb drives are cheap people. Learn the file and directory basics. Get an understanding of just what a kilobyte, megabyte and gigabyte, etc are and mean as they relate to different files and file types.. Take control of your "stuff' and you will overcome many of the problems related to others imposing their views of how this or that should be done on you.

    Sure seek professional advice because if you've been deliberately ignorant about your PC like I am about my car then that is all that is left to you. Get quotes on both time and money is all I can add to that one. Just realize that the professional will be accessing YOUR personal data in the process and all that that implies.

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