Sometimes it’s just Windows …

As well as the complexity issue I spoke about earlier, computers can do some weird things.

A couple of days ago, Gloria was doing some work that involved comparing two photographs.  She asked me to have a look at the first, then showed me the second, and then wanted to show me the first again.  Which, of course, wasn’t there any more.  Windows Picture and Fax (why fax, in this day and age?) Viewer, I explained, almost uniquely among Windows programs, doesn’t let you have more than one window open at a time.  Why not, she asked.  No reason I can think of.

In some frustration she closed the picture viewer window, preparatory to finding the other picture in the other directory.  She clicked the little red square with the white x in it, up in the top right hand corner.  The Viewer window disappeared.

So did some other stuff.

Windows chose to interpret this action as a command to delete the directory in which she had been working, and from whence came the image she had been showing me.

Why does closing a window get interpretted as a command to delete anything?

Which was rather important, since it was her email directory.  With all her email.  (No, not Outlook.  Of course not Outlook.  This is a security blog, after all.)  And various files that came as attachments.

Normally, when you ask to delete a file (from the Windows Explorer window), you get asked if you really want to delete that file.  Actually, usually you get asked if you want to send that file to the Recycle Bin, which is why I have learned to use Shift-Delete almost as a matter of course, but we’ll let that go for the moment.  In either case, you get asked something.  Not this time.  This time the first indication we got of anything happening was the dialogue box telling us that it couldn’t delete the directory, since the directory was in use.  Windows had, of course, deleted all the files already.  (Maybe Windows randomly deletes your email directory if you don’t use Outlook …)

Why, all of a sudden, no confirmation of intention to delete?

Well, regardless of the fact that we hadn’t asked Windows to delete anything, this is exactly the reason that the Recycle Bin was created in the first place.  So, I opened up the Recycle Bin, sorted the files by place of origin, and found the directory, and files, that had been deleted.  As well as other files, of course, since it had been a while since my wife last “emptied” the Recycle Bin.  No problem: retrieve them all, and then sort them out.  So, we retrieved them all, and Gloria went to work on getting rid of what she didn’t want.

When she finished, she opened a new Windows Explorer window to check and make sure that everything was OK.  It wasn’t.  The directory was still empty.  I got involved again, checking this and that.  Shut down program.  Click on the shortcut on the desktop to start up the email program.  Email comes up just fine, and all the messages are there.  How on earth did it do that, when the message files, and even the email program, didn’t exist, as far as Windows Explorer was concerned.

After a bit more checking, I even rebooted the computer, in case, for some weird Windows reason, it was still “remembering” that the files had been deleted.  Rebooted, and still nothing in the directory.  But the mail program, and mail, came up just fine.

So I started messing around with the shortcut properties.  And, lo and behold, come up with something weird.  It wasn’t looking at the email directory.  It was looking at a directory that didn’t exist.

Except, now it did, when we went to look at it.  And it contained all the files, and all the email.

When retrieving from the Recycle Bin, it had created a new and different directory.  And moved the files there, rather than where they had come from.  And had changed the properties on the desktop shortcut, so that they pointed to the new directory.  (And, we found later, had separately changed the properties on the shortcut calling the email program on startup.  But hadn’t, I confirmed today, changed the properties on the program listing under the Start button.)

Why, when you can’t retrieve to a location other than the original, does Windows randomly do that itself?  Why to a directory that doesn’t exist?  Why are (almost) all the properties changed?  Why aren’t all the properties changed?

Sometimes, when something very weird happens on the computer, and Gloria asks why, I shrug and says “It’s Windows.”  She says it makes me sound like a smart aleck when I say that.

Well, have you got a better explanation?

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