I beg you, please don't back up that secret directory full of photos!

Never do tech support for your mates. You learn too much about their lives

On-Call Welcome to Friday and to On-Call, our weekly regurgitation of readers' real-life tales getting stuff done in the field.

This week, a tale of domestic rapture from reader “Adam” who was once asked to sort out a friend's slow-running Windows PC.

Adam had his mate bring the PC over, then got to work booting it from a Linux disk so he could rummage around properly. Before long it was apparent that a trojan or two had made their way onto the Windows machine, making a wipe-and-rebuild the only answer.

So Adam started moving files off the PC to his own NAS, for later restoration. During that process he noted down the number of directories and files he'd have to work with.

Once that was done, Adam checked all the files had made it across to the NAS. Which was when he noticed that more files and directories had made the journey from PC to NAS. A bit of investigation showed why: Adam's mate had a hidden directory and once Adam looked at it he couldn't forget it.

“What I had found were intimate photos,” Adam writes. “Of my mate, his rather prim wife … and several strangers.” Some of the snaps were from around the house. Others looked to be from public places people gather for anonymous sex.

Adam's not a judgemental fellow: he figured that what consenting adults get up to in their own time is their own business. But he couldn't miss the chance for some fun. So he called his mate – who he's asked us to refer to as “Kevin” - at a time he'd be in the car with his family.

The ensuing conversation went a little something like this:

Adam: Hey Kevin, it's me. Found a couple of viruses on your PC. So I'll wipe it and restore Windows. Is that okay?

Kevin: Great, thanks mate. Sorry for your time over Easter. Any problems?

Adam: Other than the viruses, no. What software do you want reloaded?

Kevin: Word, Excel, you know. Sage if you have that. Internet. Anything else?

Adam: What do you want me to do with the hidden directory? My backup software found it. There's loads of pictures in there.

**COUGH** SPLUTTER. Followed by honking of horns, swearing and Mrs Kevin saying something like “Kev, watch the bloody road!”

Kevin: Some photos you say?

Adam: Yes, are you ok?

Kevin: Yes, yes, no worries. Can you delete them all please?

Adam: You sure? Would you like me to burn them onto a disk for you?

Kevin: No. NO! Delete them. Wipe them. No backup. Promise me, you won't keep a backup?

Adam: Okay. If that's what you want. Talk to you later.

Adam did delete them. “I didn't even keep a copy myself,” he told us, “though the blackmail money might have been good!”

Adam learned his lesson well: “After that I stopped letting friends talk me in to fixing their PCs!”

But he's never forgotten the contents of Kevin's secret directory. “What has been seen cannot be unseen,” he says.

What have you seen at work that's seared in your memory forever? Write to me and your eye-burning horrors might become a future edition of On-Call. ®

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