The initial rollout of the Windows 10 October 2018 update went as planned. But it wasn't long before users took to social media – as well as Microsoft's own support site – to report the issue and warn others of the problem.
Much to their credit, Microsoft responded in a timely manner by removing the update and issuing a statement that reads, in part: "We have paused the rollout of the Windows 10 October 2018 Update (version 1809) for all users as we investigate isolated reports of users missing some files after updating."
According to reports, however, the incidents amounted to more than "users missing some files." In reality, some users lost entire folders – including the backup files that are typically found in the Windows.old folder.
It appears the majority of the problems focused on the Documents folder, including personal documents and even photos. For the most part, files located on the remainder of these drives were unaffected.
A blog post by John Cable, director of program management with Windows Servicing and Delivery, offered a technical explanation by stating, in part: "Prior to re-releasing the October 2018 Update our engineering investigation determined that a very small number of users lost files during the October 2018 Update. This occurred if Known Folder Redirection (KFR) had been previously enabled, but files remain in the original “old” folder location vs being moved to the new, redirected location."
The blog post went on to say: "KFR is the process of redirecting the known folders of Windows including Desktop, Documents, Pictures, Screenshots, Videos, Camera Roll, etc. from the default folder location, c:\users\username\
While the team with Microsoft worked quickly to identify and solve the issue before re-releasing the update to the public, the fact that a huge issue like this even occurred only emphasizes the complaints and criticism surrounding the entire Windows Update platform.
Users who maintain regular backups of their important documents and images can restore their files rather easily, but others are left with little recourse. Although there are some third-party software solutions and professional services available, the data lost in this specific scenario is likely unrecoverable.
This latest incident is the perfect example of why Windows users want more control over their Windows 10 updates. If Microsoft is going to force these mandatory, automated updates onto the mainstream public, they need to ensure this problem never happens again – or else users might start taking Linux and macOS seriously.