Third Chances

I answered my cell phone and heard the unmistakable shakiness of panic in Scott's voice. "Suppose I came into the office and all our QuickBooks data was missing from the computer," he said.

"That would hurt me as much as it hurts you," I answered with a nervous laugh. I pulled my car off the road and hoped Scott was joking. I talked him through checking the contents of every folder on his accounting computer in a hunt for his company's precious financial data. Inside yellow folder after yellow folder, there was nothing.

"I'm on my way," I said.

When I walked into Scott's office, he motioned for me to step in further. He leaned close and whispered that his assistant, who sat within earshot of his office, worked late last night. She mentioned having done some computer "housekeeping." Scott suspected a terrible mistake. Her expression told me that she had already been interrogated.

I clicked open his Recycle Bin -it echoed with nothingness.

Scott scratched his head and said, "Aren't there warnings before you permanently delete files?"

"By default, yes," I said. "But you have to heed them."

Scott had no proof, only a sickening suspicion that an eager, well-meaning assistant had performed some reckless "housekeeping."

We were able to restore the files from the previous day's backup. Rather than enduring the devastating blow of losing all his accounting files, Scott simply had the wind knocked out of him with a one-day, data loss. Sure, we could have tried file recovery software or sent the hard drive off to a service, but the restored backup sufficed.

This article could as easily have been about backup, but instead I shared this story to illustrate something that can keep your backups in the preferred state of "unused": The "Are you sure?" nag messages that clutter your path to file deletion.

Good software is designed to provide fair warning before allowing you to delete data or make an irreversible change to a program. These pop up nags can be a nuisance and I click through them all the time -often fast.

In Windows, deleting a file is typically a three step process. First, you must hit the delete button or click "delete" on a menu. Next, you are asked if you really want to move the file to the Recycle Bin. Finally, to permanently remove the file, it must be deleted from the Recycle Bin. But these three, conspicuous steps are still no match for a reckless, impatient file killer. (Note: A potentially deadly shortcut: If you hold the Shift key while you click delete, your files will skip the Recycle Bin and vanish forever.) It's easy to memorize key strokes to permanently delete a file without paying attention to the nagging prompts, but it is also dangerous.

Like street speed bumps, the nags of "Are you sure?" are intended to slow you down for safety's sake. If you dread needing to restore from backup, or, worse, don't have a backup, then let the nags hinder you a moment. Nags are our friends. Hear them out.

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