"I'm sorry, I just don't feel comfortable doing this," I said to Ashley, my client. We were alone in her office and I had just finished cleaning a virus from her computer. As I prepared to leave she asked me to do a risky favor for her. It was a favor that I had done only a few times for other "Ashley's" years ago. And each of those times, I had lived to regret it.
My refusal seemed to deflate her normal bubbly personality. Her face drooped, but after a moment, a new idea to lure me seemed to bring back her excitement.
She approached and said, "I promise it will be OK. I swear neither one of us will regret it. I'll write out a no-fault contract if it will make you comfortable!"
I laughed and my resolve caved in enough for me to compromise. "Look, if we're going to do this then let's be safe about it," I said.
"No. There isn't enough time," she insisted, checking her watch.
"In that case, I'm afraid I have to turn you down." I rotated Ashley's chair toward her and she sat. I placed her hand on her mouse. Then I watched as she deleted an entire computer folder chock full of old files that she swore (with her right hand raised) that she no longer wanted and would never, ever need again.
Sure, she could have deleted the files on her own before I had arrived or after I left, but for some reason clients opt to computer-houseclean recklessly - if I'm with them. There must be an illusion that it is safer to delete files with an IT guy sitting beside you. After her folder disappeared, Ashley seemed contented and relieved for the time being.
Permanently deleting personal files because you feel that you'll never need them is risky. I see the avoidable, subsequent regret all the time. Clients go on file-purging rampages to clean up their computers -forgetting, or not wanting to back up the "unneeded" files first. Weeks or months later I get a phone call that goes something like this: "Hey, uh, Geoff. Listen -funny thing -remember that day? When I nuked that folder? Well, I think I lost my ____ files. Is there anything you can do?"
I dread that phone call. That's why I don't participate in permanent file-destruction anymore. I carry computer backup supplies with me. When a client says, "Get rid of it all. I don't need it," I offer to back "Ëœem up and if they refuse then I back slowly away from the computer.
There isn't a need to permanently annihilate old files if you consider the extraordinarily low cost of computer data storage these days. Hard drives are huge, CD's, DVD's, flash drives and external hard drives are cheap. Copy your old files elsewhere and then delete to your heart's content!
It is still too soon for Ashley to have realized that she's missing a file or files that she actually needs. I hope she never does. She promised we'd have no regrets.