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Files deleted after using 'repair install' security hole?

Last response: in Windows XP
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July 8, 2010 5:01:52 PM

All of my dad's files from the last 3 years seem to be missing.

Background -

Recently I attempted to install XP service pack 3 on his PC. The update seemed to go ok but at around 80% it reached the "cleaning up" stage and hung for an hour. I googled the issue and others who had the same problem recommended ctrl+alt+delete, kill the update process, and reboot. I did that and everything seemed ok. Shut down without doing anything further.

The next day, he was locked out of his computer, his XP password didn't work anymore (we checked for caps lock etc). Even trying to login as administrator in safe mode failed. I used a utility to reset his password to blank -
http://pcsupport.about.com/od/toolsofthetrade/gr/offlin...
And it seemed to work but windows would not accept the blank pw.

I used a known XP security hole to get back in, which involves running and XP repair and then using shift+F10 to get to a command prompt. From there I fixed the login settings.
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Everything from 2007-onward is gone. Folders on the desktop where he kept most of his docs are either missing or contain only old files. I looked under the documents and settings folder for the missing files, and did a general windows search for them, and they seem to be deleted.

I extracted and ran a file recovery tool (Recuva) via a USB drive.

Does anyone have any other suggestions? Can anyone say for sure if it was the SP3 update or the repair that killed these files? Is there any other place (besides documents and settings) where they might be hiding?
July 8, 2010 6:31:57 PM

you may be beyond repair, but...
don't, for future reference, load third party repair utilities into a computer unless they are very well known, highly trusted, and very highly recommended.

Don't try any up grades or repair installs until you have backed up all the personal files first. Unless it's the last resort.

Don't kill an install while it's running. Bad Idea.

And here is another example of where an update rendered the computer FUBAR.

Now, try some good advice: install the bad drive as a second drive on a functional XP computer.
Use the second computer to retrieve the personal files and make a backup CD or DVD, or backup the files to an online back up service.

The files are still there, on the bad drive, but don't reformat the drive or delete the partitions until you have recovered the files as above.

After backing up the files with the second computer, reformat and reinstall the operating system on the damaged drive. Then replace the recovered files.

In the future, maintain an online backup service for your Dad's computer. Use a high quality all in one security system. Don't download programs which promise to fix, clean, repair computer, unless they are provided by the manufacturer.
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July 8, 2010 9:49:12 PM

soundguruman said:


Don't try any up grades or repair installs until you have backed up all the personal files first. Unless it's the last resort.

Don't kill an install while it's running. Bad Idea.


Whenever you upgrade a service pack, these two principles are gospel. Service packs should always be considered high risk updates. Important, but high risk. Its more than a simple patch.

I have no clue at this point what did and didn't cause the damage. You did so many things wrong. Soundguruman might be right. This could be DOA.

I would start by using an boot cd of some sort. UBCD or Linux and see if they see the files. Dont trust that systems OS at this point. You can also try an undelete utility if they are still not there. UBCD would have one. Thats where I would begin.




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July 9, 2010 9:02:09 PM

Hi again guys. Dad took it into a shop and it looks like the important stuff has been recovered.

Not to be overly defensive but I'm not convinced I made any really bad choices here :)  Except the failure to backup (and I've tried to stress the importance of that to dad). I should have backed up prior to installing SP3, but when I installed it on my home PC it went smoothly so I thought his would also go smoothly.

The service pack 3 hanging is a real problem. Wasn't just me being impatient. Google "xp sp3 performing cleanup" and you'll see page after page of complaints about this known issue. One guy gave it 7 hours. The ONLY solution at this point is to ctrl+alt+delete and reboot. It's a hung program, what else can you do with it?

As for my choice to enter XP through a repair install, I brought it into a shop and asked the person there if the repair install typically deletes files. He says he's done DOZENS of repair installs and that typically it has no effect on the files. It only replaces the files windows needs to run. It does not erase your documents.

The Recuva software I chose wasn't arbitrary, I went with what seemed like a very safe pick, with numerous good reviews from happy users on e.g. cnet's download.com and almost no bad reviews, and when I asked the repair shop what software they used... that's actually the one they prefer.

As to where the files went... apparently my dad had the computer built with a raid arrangement that I wasn't aware of. I think the files are on the other disk which apparently has failed or gotten unplugged. My understanding was that raid 1 would mirror everything and the files should be on both disks, but maybe it's possible it was set up incorrectly?
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July 9, 2010 10:18:32 PM

CreeDorofl said:
Hi again guys. Dad took it into a shop and it looks like the important stuff has been recovered.

Not to be overly defensive but I'm not convinced I made any really bad choices here :)  Except the failure to backup (and I've tried to stress the importance of that to dad). I should have backed up prior to installing SP3, but when I installed it on my home PC it went smoothly so I thought his would also go smoothly.

The service pack 3 hanging is a real problem. Wasn't just me being impatient. Google "xp sp3 performing cleanup" and you'll see page after page of complaints about this known issue. One guy gave it 7 hours. The ONLY solution at this point is to ctrl+alt+delete and reboot. It's a hung program, what else can you do with it?

As for my choice to enter XP through a repair install, I brought it into a shop and asked the person there if the repair install typically deletes files. He says he's done DOZENS of repair installs and that typically it has no effect on the files. It only replaces the files windows needs to run. It does not erase your documents.

The Recuva software I chose wasn't arbitrary, I went with what seemed like a very safe pick, with numerous good reviews from happy users on e.g. cnet's download.com and almost no bad reviews, and when I asked the repair shop what software they used... that's actually the one they prefer.

As to where the files went... apparently my dad had the computer built with a raid arrangement that I wasn't aware of. I think the files are on the other disk which apparently has failed or gotten unplugged. My understanding was that raid 1 would mirror everything and the files should be on both disks, but maybe it's possible it was set up incorrectly?


No, you screwed up. The fact that you recovered your data doesn't change that fact.

Saying that this person does dozens of this technique and this review said good things about that software doesn't change anything. You didn't know what your were doing and you paid the price by having to shell out money to have someone else to fix your mess.

Im glad you recovered your data, but if you make excuses for your failure then you will repeat that mistake and end up with the same problem down the line.
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July 10, 2010 4:14:03 AM

Interesting. Well, looking back there isn't anything I'd do differently. Can you tell me what my mistake was so I don't repeat it next time?

I didn't back up the files, but then again it's not my computer. I will next time.

Nothing wrong with installing SP3. Nothing wrong with using repair install. If either of those cause the deletion of hundreds of documents, that's on microsoft for writing shoddy software. I can't take the blame for that. So far I don't think either of those things caused the problem.

As for using Recuva... when I see about 90% good ratings on a particular piece of software, out of almost 100 reviews (by real people who used it to fix a problem)... I feel confident trying it out. I guess your criteria is stricter. But it's not like I just downloaded the first google result or went on the word of just one guy.

Not sure why I'm back in the thread, I gave up arguing on the internet years ago :B I guess I was hoping you'd have some input on the raid theory. Can a raid 1 be set up badly so that data only gets written to one drive?
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July 10, 2010 7:18:06 AM

Sounds like you need to set up raid so that a duplicate of each file is made on a second drive.
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