Entrance to Technology Services – Photo by Felicity Bosk

By Felicity Bosk
Computers across campus were accidentally upgraded to Windows 10, resulting in some cases in the loss of all files saved to them. ​While testing the development of Windows 10, approximately 100 of the 1200 computers across the UWS campus were affected, some having their hard drives wiped clean of the files saved to them.

Professors and faculty computers that were completely converted to Windows 10 lost all the data that they did not have backed up on the network or g-drive. As of Wednesday, Tech Services is still trying to restore the data that had been lost. For professors and faculty who need that data, all they can do now is wait and hope they get their information back.

Dr. Edward Burkett said that hundreds of hours of his research are gone from his computer, with “no apparent explanation as to why.”

“The significance is that the research, student work, class room information, it’s all lost.” This also included emails saved in files on his laptop. “All of my emails are gone. The email servers only hold a certain amount of space, as faculty we receive a hundred emails each day, some get saved as files on my laptop. They weren’t part of the servers. All the emails since my last backup, all correspondence with students and faculty are gone.”

A big concern was just how much of his work was lost. He said that with hundreds of hours of research gone, he will have to redo it all, which will be a challenge. “Everything we do in sciences is on our computer—losing it is like losing my right hand,” Dr. Burkett said.

He is trying to keep the situation isolated from his students. His research students will be impacted by this in a negative way, but he doesn’t want his classes to be impacted negatively. He added he would like to see Tech Services had a mechanism put in place so this “never happens in the future.”

​”This is a real rough situation,” said Thomas Janicki, Director of Infrastructure Services. He explained they have a “tool that is used to manage all the desktop computers that are owned by the campus…it allows us to be more efficient in managing the desktops, but with a powerful tool like this the impact of a mistake can be very severe.”

Janicki said they were preparing to upgrade all the computers with Windows 10 when a tech services member “innocently made a mistake.” Instead of it going to the one test system it began to upgrade computers around campus. “He was sitting in his office and all the sudden his colleague said “are you putting Windows 10 on my computer?” and he goes “Oh my gosh oh no‘.”

Because Windows 10 began to apply itself to computers, ones with data that was not backed up may or did lose all of that data. They were able to cancel the upgrade after about five minutes, but the computers affected had to be fixed one-by-one, and were affected differently.

“It was canceled in time so that when we canceled the reboot it came back to Windows 7. Some of them had no operating system at all so they would reboot and it would be a black screen, and some of them were successfully migrated to Windows 10 and the problem with that is that it overwrote everything.”

“I know of two people who lost a substantial amount of things, like data, findings, records,” said professor of plant science Nick Danz. “But it hasn’t necessarily been lost yet, they’re going to evaluate every computer to restore the files. For some it’s a lot–for others it’s their life’s work that might be lost with this. For me, last time I backed up was one month ago.”

Dr. Danz said he might have lost a lot of files as well as a month worth of emails, but he is not angry, saying “stuff happens.”

In the Jim Dan Hill Library, Director Laura Jacobs said four of their computers were affected including her own. Jacobs said their biggest challenge currently is with their Inter Library Loans (ILL) system which allows students to borrow books from other libraries. The program they have to run ILL, illiad, no longer works. She said students can still request books, but there it is much harder for librarians to process those requests.

Another library issue is that most of the faculty computers are hooked up to the same printer, but that connection was broken during the upgrade. Jacob’s computer upgraded on Monday and when she came into work Tuesday morning the screen was just black.

“There wasn’t any warning,” said Jacobs. “Something popped up, and usually it will ask if you want to install, but this just took over.” She added that this was not a “crisis” but definitely a loss of productivity.

Since this computer issue, tech services have been working to restore all the computers affected, but it has been tough. Janicki said that Monday was “probably the worst day I’ve had since I’e been here” especially because the two-student employee computer’s at the front lobby of tech services, where tickets are addressed, were also down due to the accidental upgrade.

Vice Chancellor-Administration & Finance Gigi Koenig sent an email to staff and faculty on Tuesday morning apologizing for the issue and explaining what had happened. She also reminded people to back up their files.

“Please routinely back up and store your most important documents on the campus shared drives.  IT is happy to assist or train you in this process and others to safeguard your important files.”