Now you see them...

IT pilot fish gets an email from the agency director, asking him to look into the mysterious disappearance of documents from an employee's computer.

"Since the request came from the director and not the employee, I assumed this was a high-priority issue," says fish. "I soon found out that the documents figured in an Internal Investigation Unit issue and I was correct to jump on the problem right away.

"My first assumption was that the login script software had glitched again and thrown the user into a temporary profile. He's not one of our more sophisticated users and I knew he would miss the error message warning him that he was using a temporary profile."

But when fish remotes into the PC the user is on, he sees that the user in his own profile.

So fish asks the user to give a precise account of what happened. According to the user, he was using the files earlier that day. Later, when the deputy director asked for information about the ongoing investigation, he logged in and discovered that everything was gone.

User tells fish that he stored the files in his PC's 'Documents' folder, and not on the network drive.

Fish starts running searches using the file names the user gave him, in case the folder got moved by accident. Negative.

He runs an undelete program to see if he can spot the files if they've been deleted. Nothing. He runs it again in the more comprehensive mode. Half an hour later: nada.

Could the file system itself be corrupted so that it can't list the files? Fish runs Check Disk for file structure and to recover data from any bad sectors on the hard drive. After the 45-minute scan, the results are still negative.

"Utterly baffled at this point, I asked him again to describe the events as they occurred in as much detail as possible," fish says. "He told me that he was working with the files at his computer at the gym about a quarter of a mile away earlier in the day, but when he logged into a computer at the main building, all of the files had vanished.

"I suggested that he go back to his computer at the gym and look for his files there. He hasn't called me back, so I guess that solution worked."

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