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windows 10 reverted unexpectedly to windows 7 and lost all data

Posted on 2016-07-22
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Last Modified: 2016-09-28
My son had upgraded from Windows 7 to WIndows 10. Today he was on Facebook, logged out of the PC, and when he came back 6 hours later, he saw that he now had Windows 7 and all his files appeared to have disappeared. I asked him to shut down in the slight hope that his data might be hidden away somehow.

Has anyone heard of this magic happening before?
Do you think there is a chance that his data is there.

(I had suggested last year that he have automatic backups, but he never did that. He has a 1 TB disk with backed up data, but hasn't updated it for months. I think he will do the automatic backup from now on.)

Thanks in advance,
phoffric
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Question by:phoffric
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LVL 93

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by:nobus
nobus earned 700 total points
ID: 41725578
i never heard this
are you sure nobody started the rollback to windows 7, and deleted his data ?
did you do a search for .doc and .jpg files?
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by:phoffric
ID: 41725594
I did not find jpg and doc in documents.
Looking at his program areas, all the folder dates are circa 2009. Looks like a factory reset.
The window retore points showed two items.
A little under 3 hours ago (just after midnight), there was a windows update.
A little under 1 hour ago, there was a script update.
If there was no formatting during this reversion, I wonder whether there is a chance that some of his files are still there?

Thanks.
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by:Ganga Sagar
Ganga Sagar earned 60 total points
ID: 41725603
1> all data is deleted or only profile data ?
2> number of drives ( like c, d etc) ?
and check for current used space, its used like previously it was .
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LVL 3

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by:James Edwards
James Edwards earned 440 total points
ID: 41725614
You say the 'program areas', do you mean Program Files and Program Files (x86)?  A good indicator would be to look at Programs and Features Uninstall list.  This will at least give you an idea if anything is listed as installed more recently, although still not a hard and fast rule.

2009 is when Windows 7 came out, so not particularly surprising on that year.  I assume this is an OEM machine form a major manufacturer such as Dell or HP rather than a home build?  That being the case, I would suspect their OEM Recovery Drive and associated system protection software has detected a boot record change after you upgraded to Windows 10 and has carried out it's own restore.  Although, how long between the Windows 10 update and this odd rollback?
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by:rindi
rindi earned 540 total points
ID: 41725637
Reverting from Windows 10 back to Windows 7 is normally no problem if you do it before the 30 days after the upgrade was done. No data or software has ever gone lost that way when I did that. But the downgrade needs user interaction and it definitely won't happen by itself or mistake. It also asks you whether you are sure you want to downgrade again and ask for the reason.

So I doubt that happened. More likely is that the PC is setup with dualboot, Windows 7 and Windows 10, and now he just booted into the Windows 7 instance rather than the Windows 10 instance. The Windows 7 may also be accessing another partition and therefore you wouldn't be seeing the same programs and data that you would see when booting into the other OS. So check whether you have dual boot setup and if there are other partitions on the disk.

If no dual boot is setup, then it could be that there was a problem with the HD, and when the PC was booted up it booted into the recovery partition that was put there by the PC manufacturer, and then a factory restore was done. That would clear all programs and data. But that would also have needed user interaction. So your son could have clicked on buttons or confirmed Questions without knowing what he was doing.
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by:John Hurst
John Hurst earned 200 total points
ID: 41725804
I have not seen a Windows 10 machine go back to prior on its own - ever. You have to overtly roll back.

I would consider viruses as a possible cause.

Look everywhere in the current USERS folders for files and data and look in any Windows.old folders for files and data.
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LVL 93

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by:nobus
nobus earned 700 total points
ID: 41725807
you have to search the whole drive for docs , and jpgs...
i thought that was clear, since you did not find them where they were supposed to be
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LVL 51

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by:Jackie Man
Jackie Man earned 60 total points
ID: 41725913
If it really happened, the computer should be compromised and you need to do a virus check.
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by:
nobus earned 700 total points
ID: 41725928
if you can not find the files, hook the drive to a working pc, and scan it with GetDataBack to see if the files are there or not    
http://www.runtime.org/
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by:phoffric
ID: 41725948
My son said it looks like a factory reset.
He never had it set for dual boot, but I'll check tomorrow.
Virus - thought that might come up.

>> GetDataBack
Should he move the drive to another PC and run GetDataBack there?
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LVL 88

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by:rindi
rindi earned 540 total points
ID: 41725952
If it was a factory reset, then yes, scan the disk while connected as a 2nd disk to another PC.
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by:phoffric
ID: 41725957
Thanks all.
He has an HP.  He just told me that he is upgrading to Windows 10. (I wish he hadn't done that.)
Maybe he will want me to run GetDataBack after it is complete.

Hmm, suppose this happens again, after the free trial. I wonder whether there is a W10 license that he can use to get a free version.

Now, I am reluctant to upgrade my Toshiba i3 laptop (about 7 years old; ~2.2 GHz) to W10 - might be too slow for an old laptop.
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by:rindi
rindi earned 540 total points
ID: 41725971
Once the system is registered with Windows 10 at the m$ servers (it must already have been from the last upgrade), you can always install Windows 10 from scratch again by booting from the DVD or USB stick you made from the iso you downloaded from the m$ site. As long as he installs the correct version of Windows 10 that corresponds to the original version (home or Pro) it will be licensed automatically with the m$ servers. This has the advantage that you don't need to know any product keys, and you can always download the newest build from the m$ site before reinstalling, so there will be fewer updates to download after the installation.

Of course you will still have to take care when trying the newest build, as it is always possible that m$ will drop support for some hardware with future builds. So you should keep at least the last one that worked.
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by:rindi
rindi earned 540 total points
ID: 41725976
I don't think you'll have any problems with an i-core laptop. I don't have anything like that. Most of my hardware uses core2duo or Quad, and they all run fine with Windows 10, probably a little faster than they run with Windows 7, and the core 2 Duo/Quad CPU's are at least a generation older than the Core-i CPU's. You shouldn't have any problems with your Toshiba Laptop.
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LVL 32

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by:phoffric
ID: 41726143
Thanks all for your comments. I'll close this question soon enough.
I had to go to work today and my son said that the GetDataBack program required that it be run on a different disk than the one being scanned. (I thought about a partition, but there is only so much I can do while at work.) So, he was resigned to losing data. (Luckily, he put into dropbox some recent work he did for his friend.) He is much wiser now. He locks his door, now has a strong password (instead of that 6 char name), and logs out or puts to sleep his PC when done.

I lost a lot of course work on his computer that I had just downloaded from Coursera and was going to ask my son to put it on his external backup drive, but he was travelling in Europe for a few weeks. And I roughly computed the probability of a failure and determined that it was negligible. I am still right on that point. Oh well. I have some on this laptop and I will back it up tomorrow. After all, the probability of my laptop going bust tonight is extremely low, I think.
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by:nobus
nobus earned 700 total points
ID: 41726188
yes, i asked to connec the drive to a working PC, and scan it there with GDB
it is free for scanning, and shows what it can recover before buying !

if it is a factory reset, i doubt it would have restore points (they come after installing programs or updates)

***you said "he locks his door now" does that mean it happened not at home, but maybe at a student home?
then it can be as i supposed in my first post :"are you sure nobody started the rollback to windows 7, and deleted his data ?"
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by:James Edwards
James Edwards earned 440 total points
ID: 41726518
Creating a partition to give you a 'second drive' isn't going to help.  Any reference to having the original drive as a secondary drive and running the restore software from elsewhere refers to physical drives in all cases.  In fact, partitioning the drive will almost certainly increase the chances of complications involved in data recovery as the partition tables will be re-written.  You would be hard pushed to get recoverable data after partitioning the drive.
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LVL 32

Author Closing Comment

by:phoffric
ID: 41726683
Thank you all for your considerable responses. I and my son do appreciate that. Good to know about the GDB program. Thanks for that!

I had sent your comments to my son. From your comments, he now believes that the reversion did not happen due to a MS update or HD correction as he has had no problems with this PC. He now believes that he may have left his PC on unlocked and possibly someone reset his PC. (I had originally set it to lock after 10 minutes, but he was annoyed with having to log back in when he went away, so he undid that. Then I set it for ~45 minutes; but he was still annoyed.)  He has Norton AV and his last scan found no virus. His conclusion now is that he should be safer about his PC. (Not sure why he didn't listen to me about this point before.)

He said he had no dual boot.
His available disk space on the C: drive is about 600 GB (almost the size of the disk). Before the reversion, he only had about 100 GB available. Looked like a factory reset to me and him.

Regards,
phoffric
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LVL 32

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by:phoffric
ID: 41759453
Since the recovery program has to be on another drive, I was wondering whether I could run a program on a 8GB flash drive I have. (I can get a 32GB flash, if necessary.)
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Expert Comment

by:rindi
ID: 41759566
You could use a Linux Live-System, many include photorec/testdisk, which are amongst the best data recovery tools (but they aren't as easy to use as many windows tools, and the recovered files will often be mixed up with no logical folder structure and have unusual file-names, so after recovery you'd have to go through every file to make sure what it is, then rename it to the original file-name). A good such DVD is PCRepix:

https://sourceforge.net/projects/pcrepix/files/?source=navbar
http://pcrepix.sourceforge.net/

You can use WinSetupFromUSB to create a bootable USB stick from the iso:

http://www.winsetupfromusb.com/

For Windows OS's to boot from USB that is more difficult. If you have Windows 8.x Enterprise edition, then you can use "Windows To Go" to setup windows on a bootable USB stick. I've just seen that on Windows 10 Pro it is included too, so for Windows 10 you don't need the Enterprise edition!. The problem is that in order to use Windows To Go you need a certified USB stick for that, and there aren't too many product available. It works fine on the other hand if you use a normal USB disk. You'll find Windows To Go in the control panel of your OS. I'm not sure if a 32GB stick is large enough...
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by:phoffric
ID: 41798621
I may have some free time to look at your suggestions now that my contract finally ended.
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LVL 32

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by:phoffric
ID: 41819163
If going with WinSetupFromUSB, I need a Windows license, right? I have three XP PCs that all stopped working on the very last XP Update. (I figured it was designed that way, so I added memory and switched to Ubuntu.) But I have those XP license codes. (Not sure if MS will accept them since they were already being used on now three unused systems.)

If that boot works, then I guess I can install one of the recovery programs.
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Expert Comment

by:rindi
ID: 41819240
Not necessarily. Windows 10 for example you can install without License, and also for Windows 7 it isn't required. But the OS will then run in a trial mode. The different versions of Windows 7 have different trial periods during which you can use them without problems, after the trial has expired, as far as I know the OS will shut down by itself after an hour or so. On Windows 10 when you are in trial mode there are some functions missing, for example you can't adapt your desktop as much.

As XP isn't supported anymore, it would be unwise to install the OS on PC's. Besides, most XP installations were OEM, and OEM OS's you aren't allowed to move to another PC, unless you live in the EU or Switzerland, in those areas you'd have to call m$ to get the product activated again. On such PC's it would be much wiser to install Linux. If the Users are used to using Windows, I'd suggest using MakuluLinux LinDoz, it has a look and feel like Windows, you can change themes so it resembles XP, Windows 7, Windows 10 etc, and it runs well on relatively old hardware. It also has wine and playforlinux preinstalled, which allows you to run many Windows programs quite easily.
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