You were told to clean up our systems, not delete 8,000 crucial files

TMP is for 'temporary', though. Right?

man in leather jacket rummages through bin

Who, Me? Congratulations on making it through the first week of 2019, and welcome to the first Who, Me? of the year.

This is the column in which Reg readers reminisce about the right royal cockups of days gone by, and this week we meet "Sam".

Sam was thinking back to 1998, when he had just been hired as tech support at a government regulatory agency and the only IT person they had ever hired.

"My mandate was to start whipping things into shape, getting all their IT stuff – hardware and software – organised, setting up best practices, building server racks, and so on."

That included cleaning up local systems – "defragging, deleting garbage documents and temp files" – and getting data stored correctly on mapped drives to the server.

Sam found one system practically full (noting that this was in the old days of 320MB IDE drives) and made arrangements with the user to clean it out during his lunch break.

"Normally I'd clean it all out, empty the Recycle Bin, and start a defrag," said Sam.

But this time, he forgot to empty the Recycle Bin, which turned out to be rather a good thing.

Because, when the user came back from lunch and logged in, he was quickly on Sam's case, asking where all of his files were.

"Which files?" asked Sam.

"All my scanned-in licences and proofs of payment," came the reply.

Sam told the user he didn't know, but asked which folder they were stored in. The name rang a bell with Sam, who promptly went off to make up an excuse and look for the files in question.

"Five minutes later, I had restored the legal licensing and payment-received documents, of which there were more than 8,000," Sam said.

"It turns out that the Visioneer Paperport scanner scanned everything in with a TMP file extension," Sam said.

"Everybody knows a TMP file is TEMPORARY, but sometimes they don't get cleaned up – so I had deleted them."

He showed the user how to properly rename the file with the right extension so he could do it in future – and thanked his lucky stars he hadn't emptied the bin.

"Talk about dodging a bullet."

Have you ever deleted something crucial? Did you manage to get it back? Tell Who, Me? your workplace traumas and kick off 2019 with a starring role in the Reg's pages. ®

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