Windows Update 1809 is Deleting Files: Backup Before You Update

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Microsoft recently made Update 1809 available (also called Redstone 5) and no sooner were users installing the update than they were making a terrible discovery. The update is deleting photos and documents from the users’ systems.

To be clear, the update is not moving these files to another partition or compressing them – it’s erasing them from the system – just as an earlier Windows 10 upgrade generated horror stories of people who lost everything – from precious photos to important documents to irreplaceable videos.

As a result Windows users were taking to forums like Reddit to find answers.

Trying to recover the files

The latest news seems to suggest that the update deletes files in the My Documents folder, apparently as part of a profile reset. If you don’t have a recent backup of your files, a reporter at Spiceworks noted that it still might be possible to recover them.

Since Redstone 5 did not overwrite the missing files, you might be able to locate and restore them using an undelete tool like Acronis Revive. But you’ll want to move quickly before any additional computer activity or automatic updates start overwriting the disk space where your files are lurking.

Of course, the entire incident is just the latest reminder that before anyone updates their operating system, they ought to make a complete backup of their system. 

Backup before you update

Experts throughout the IT universe agree that whenever an update of your operating system is possible, creating a backup of your computer is always the first step you should take. Even Windows Central says that “before even considering pressing the upgrade button, you have to understand that software could always fail and if something bad happens, you could lose many important files.”

That certainly seems to be the case with the 1809 Update.

A few of those reporting problems said they were able to retrieve some of the missing files (but not all) from their OneDrive. Even among those small victories, however, there were problems. One user, for example, said a document he updates daily was found in his OneDrive, but that version was from six months ago.

Syncing software isn’t actual backup ... so what is a user to do? By creating a full image backup before you start an update, you minimize the impact of any problems you might have.

Create a mirror image before you start

Before updating your OS, data protection experts recommend creating a full image backup of your computer. The reason they prefer a full mirror image to copying individual files is that when you simply copy files, you’ll get the photos, documents and music files you expect, but you’ll miss a host of other critical data.

Passwords, bookmarks, favorites, and preferences are not usually captured by copying individual files. That means that if there are problems with your system after an update, or if the update fails to install, you may find yourself wasting a significant amount of time trying to recreate them.

With a full image backup (a.k.a. mirror image), all of that data is safe, so you can quickly recover your system if something goes wrong.

Effective strategies when updating your OS

Whenever you find yourself about to update your operating system, there are additional recommendations that users should keep in mind.

Firstly, if you have multiple computers (like most modern households) do not update them at the same time. Make sure you successfully upgrade one – checking for any problems like a missing My Documents folder – and then tackle the next machine. If you run into any problems early, you’ll know how to address it on the other computers.

Secondly, we always suggest users follow the 3-2-1 Backup Rule – a simple strategy that can help ensure your data is always available for recovery. In the simplest terms, the approach encourages you to keep three copies of your data (one original and two backups), with two versions on different storage devices (a local NAS or external hard drive), with one of those copies kept off-site where it will be safe if a fire or flood destroys the original and your local backup.

Final Thought

There’s an old adage that says “Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” When it comes to updating your Windows operating system, there’s enough evidence that users should not completely trust that everything is going to go smoothly. That’s why, if we’ve learned anything over the past few years, creating a backup really should be the first step before you update your system.

Otherwise, another old saying comes to mind: “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.”

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