From the Forums: What's your worst computing mistake?

We’ve all done it; made one mistake whilst using a computer which has caused you nothing but heartaches, headaches and days of cursing, worrying, rage and anger. But what’s the one mistake (or mistakes) you’ve made that’s stuck with you and has forced you to change your rash clicking or keyboard mashing way?

Neowin Forum member RATiO has started a thread asking people about the biggest or worst mistakes they’ve made while using a computer. I can definitely relate! I’ll kick this one off.

In the summer of 1996, I had not long upgraded to Windows 95 from Windows 3.11. It was a lovely experience, but my wee partitioned 400MB hard disk was starting to feel the strain of the bigger OS coupled with my games, documents and pictures. So I decided to do a bit of spring cleaning, and instead of using the new Windows Explorer, I went old school and used DOS.


I still have nightmare about these keys :(

To cut a long story short the C and D keys are the worst placed keys I’ve ever had the experience of working with. Let me break it down like this, my command for the deletion of all files on the D drive should have been this one:

del D:\*.*

But no, in my haste I hit the wrong key and my command came out a little differently…..

del C:\*.*

My spidey sense started to tingle when it took a lot longer than I expected to delete the files from the disk. I double checked the command, realised what I’d done and promptly pulled the power cable from the back of the PC. Luckily I didn’t completely corrupt the disk, and thanks to the most unreliable of storage mediums, the floppy disk, I was able to recover most of my school work and GCSE coursework.

So, what started out to be a routine task one Saturday afternoon, turned into a 3-4 day exercise in rebuilding the OS and installing all my applications and games, some of which were stored across multiple floppy disks (I’m looking at you Microsoft Works).

Suffice to say, I always double check my command line inputs now, before pressing return!

So go on, tell us what you’ve done that’s made you literally slam your head on the desk in frustration.

Source: Neowin Forums, thanks to member RATiO for starting the thread!

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Hmm, some of these are pretty tame.

Those of you that have ever used NetApp SANs and Snapdrive will know that you have the option of 'Disconnecting' a LUN or 'Deleting' a LUN. A LUN essentially being a disk drive.

While working on my company's main fileserver about six years ago, after a long and stressful day, I wanted to temporarily remove the main file-serving LUN. I right clicked on it and chose 'Delete' in order to get rid of it. Consequently, the LUN was deleted (instead of disconnecting) and bang went ALL of the company's data.

Luckily, I was able to mount a snapshot and recover it but there was a fifteen minute period where panic set in since this 'forward thinking' company had stopped with backups, believing that snapshotting and replicating offsite (which hadn't yet been set up) would be enough.

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On another occasion I worked at a place which had managed to get itself a single 600GB Exchange database. A junior sysadmin noticed that the drive holding it had run out of diskspace and proceeded to delete the Exchange log files to free up space. Since the database was inconsistent, it would need to have ESEUTIL run on it but even with the best, fastest, server available, the ESEUTIL took two weeks. In the meantime ... no access to the Exchange database!

Wanted to make a dual boot with Windows 7 and Linux. Started to install Linux and instead to select a clean partition for SWAP, I have selected my D partition which had almost 400 GB of my personal data (my whole life was there, like 8 years of work): pictures, music, movies, everything I have ever done on a computer. After installing Linux, I've realized what I've done. Started to loose my sense, I thought that everything was lost. After that, a friend recommended me EASEUS Data Recovery. Recovered files like for 4-5 hours, and happily almost everything got recovered.

I was working on my PC's hardware, and needed to turn it on to test something (this was a while back - not sure exactly what). As soon as I hit the power button, I realized that I forgot to connect the power cable on one of the hard drives (the case was still open). Annoyed that I had to wait for Windows to start up just to shut it off again so I could plug the hard drive power in, I was a bit impatient, so I held the power cable of the drive right next to the drive itself, ready to plug it in as soon as the computer was off. As I was holding it with one hand, and using my mouse to tell Windows to shut off, I got too close and made contact with the drive. Sparks flew, and the drive never worked again.

Actually, that old PC exploded!

... well, not really, but yeah, kind of... The cable that connected my beasty 19 inch display with the PC case became faulty - actually, the actual connection between the display and the cord became loose 'cause each and every night when I went to sleep but wanted to watch TV in bed instead (I had some old Leadtek's PVR card) I had to readjust my monitor. Back then it had this weird spherical stand, so I could only move the monitor left and right, while also applying pressure to move the display downwards. So, after years of doing that (from 2004 to 2009) the connection between the monitor and the cord got loose, and I started seeing tiny sparks if I adjusted the monitor too fast. I thought nothing of it and just continued doing this SLOWLY! (lol)

In the end, one summer's day, the insides of my monitor got on fire, an electrical shock went straight from my monitor, through the cord and into the PC case. Everything was fried except the TV card and the HDD xD

2004 I got my first computer. It had a tiny 80GB HDD that quickly got filled. So, I see the option to "Compress this drive to save disk space" and I check the option on the D drive... Then I do the same on the C drive. Next reboot I get stuck and can't load Windows, and in the process of having no idea what I was doing, I literally wiped the whole drive (somehow, can't really remember how anymore xD)

I have 3, one made by myself and one by my old IT Manager who is now retired. And the third was a private job.

1) On my first day at a new IT Admin position for a leading UK Biomedical research company I "accidently" got the Domain Admin account password wrong 3 times...stupid title of a song which i always thought ended in a different word, had to fess up and tell my new boss what id done. He laughed and said "you could have got away with that and not told me, it unlocks after 15mins" I aint forgot a password since He admired my honesty though

2) Doing a server upgrade/migration I asked my boss who was helping me, do me a favour mate and power down the PBC (back in NT4 Server days) I saw him reach across and hold the power button down, just as he did I realised he was pressing the wrong server power button (the PDC!!), I screamed wtf you doing!!! He had to keep his finger pressed on that button till I could stop the file export! and stop the migration of accounts! hehe funny now, wasnt at the time, 3 hours work wasted!! And had to rebuild the destination server from scratch as it screwed up the promo!

3) My new GF asked if I could upgrade her/her mums PC, so I said sure id be more than happy to. So I started with cleaning the mobo and thought, ill remove the heatsink, remove the fluff n years of dirt. off popped the heatsink and took the socket 370 CPU with it trashing the pins! So off i hunted on ebay for a S370 CPU but couldnt find anything close. Ended up buying a refurbed P4 which blew her mobo and taking down the bloody ram with it, ended up having to buy yet ANOTHER CPU (dual core celly), a new mobo and ram for her) out of my own pocket..........the week later we fell out and we split up! Funny now as said girlfriend is now my live in partner, still a touchy subject with her mum though

Edited by Mando, Oct 11 2012, 7:44pm :

When I was a kid, I took my girlfriend's father's computer and decided I didn't like the default font that win3.11 used, so I deleted it.

He had installed tons of font packages. When we rebooted, the system was in Klingon.

I was trying to load in klite codec and clicked the wrong link. Immediately a self extracting file was executed and in seconds, explorer.exe closed up (allowing the critters to hook onto it) and reopened itself as a new infected explorer... I ended up formatting.

While working on my brothers laptop to save his data, I used Norton Ghost to make an image. In my haste I selected clone and wiped my storage drive that held all of my MP3's and movies.

I cried a little and then dug out my box of CD's to start ripping them again.

Formatted the wrong hard drive while re-installing windows (It was late and I was rushing).

The hard drive in question was my backup drive. I had no other backups of my data.. such an awful feeling.

Building my PC a year ago and forgetting to plug in the CPU Fan. Realizing it, plugging it in, starting up my PC, booting into the BIOs and seeing my CPU temp still climbing then immediately powering down my tower and looking inside to see a wire wedged between the fans stopping them from spinning.

When I was a kid and didn't know much about computers, I wanted to have the latest OS. It was 1996. I had Windows 95. An acquaintance from school gave me a disk that had "Windows 97". I installed it. It gave me a pretty Windows 97 Logo then it wiped out my computer. I was 16.

It was the first and last time I was ever fooled by computers. That incident actually made me interested in computers and technology as a field. So I guess I'm glad it happened.

I recovered my computer on my own. I didn't have any files saved on my machine at the time that was of any value. I was quite proud of my self for overcoming that situation in the end.

I filmed the 2009 Tuna Fishing Season in Hi Definition. Some of the greatest fishing footage ever shot. I had the data "backed up" using a mirroring RAID 1 system. The Raid failed, so only one of the hard disks contained all the data. I also had the footage backed up on 3 other ext. hard disks.

I was consolodating all my HD space one day, and "securely wiped" all my HD's. When I went to replicate the footage from the 2009 season, I discovered that I had copied the data from the failed HD instead of the good one, and I lost the entire years worth of Video.

Then I sent the only copy I had of the one particular trip that was the best off to a recovery service. I had deleted the footage from the 32 GB chip but they said it was easily retrievable. Like an idiot I put the chip into an envelope and sent it out. It arrived with a neat little hole in the side of the envelope as the chip had squeezed out and landed on some Post Office floor.

It felt like someone died, twice.

I was extracting an archive with a port of 7zip. The output directory was ~/directory, meaning a directory under my home directory. Unfortunately, 7z interpreted the tilde literally, so it created a directory on my desktop called ~ and, under that, the subdirectory, and the extracted contents were inside.

I understood my mistake and knew I would have to re-run the command with the full, literal path, /home/me/directory.

But first I wanted to delete the directory on my desktop. I impatiently typed:

rm -rf ~

Everything disappeared from the screen except for the terminal window and a purple background.

I once did something similar: I had a terminal window open and needed to delete all files in the current folder, so I typed:

[user@pc somefolder]$ sudo rm -rf *

which worked great, and I closed the window. A few seconds later I realized that I needed to delete something else so I opened a new terminal window, hit the up arrow a few times to bring back the rm command I had just typed, and quickly added the path of the file I needed deleted to the end of the command. Unfortunately, it ended up looking like this:

[user@pc ~]$ sudo rm -rf * /tmp/somefile

(I forgot to remove the *). As soon as I hit enter and typed in the password, the first thing I noticed was all my desktop icons disappear. Since I was in my home folder when I ran the above command, it wiped out all of my files in seconds. I'm just glad it didn't effect the terabytes of data I had mounted under /media at the time.

Ooh - I just remembered one more. I taught my friend what a forkbomb was in my Linux class. Everyone was connected using SSH to a single CentOS server that the teacher had setup - they were all working on projects on the server when he ran the forkbomb. Everyone's ssh sessions froze, and the teacher had to hard boot the server to get it running again. The entire class was mad at us for a while - him for running it, and me for teaching it to him.

Later, the same friend, in the same class, connected to the same server (on my account this time) typed in the command:

rm -rf /*

without running it. I told him that my user account didn't have permissions to delete anything on the server, so nothing would happen. That was all the permission he needed from me to run the command. The second he pressed enter, I realized that while the command would do nothing to the server itself, it would eventually get to my home folder and delete all my projects. Unfortunately, this happened nearly instantly, and all my files were deleted. Lucky for me, I only had to redo the work on the latest project, as all the old ones had already been marked.

Wrote an update statement in SQL to update inventory allocations and ran it by highlighting it but missed the where part.
I then spent a nerve racking 20min writing a massive SQL statement to re-calculate and fix it before anyone noticed.

gtho said,
Wrote an update statement in SQL to update inventory allocations and ran it by highlighting it but missed the where part.
I then spent a nerve racking 20min writing a massive SQL statement to re-calculate and fix it before anyone noticed.

^^ this -- similar

- Once, I was doing a general cleaning to the hardware of my computer, in some moment I forgot to put back the heatsink of the CPU and the CPU didn't have any heat protection inside, so when I turned the computer on after 3 secs there was some smoke coming from the case... Bye bye CPU... It was an AMD Athlon

- Using DOS, I wanted to format C:\ but I typed D:\ by mistake, which was the backup drive

I work at a big retail company of my country in the IT department and i fortunately pulled out the power cable of the central server where the company's system is without stopping the service and we had to wait 6 hours to recover list of free blocks. If it didn't recover i would probably be in jail right now costing the company a lot of millions.

I pulled out USB cable of my external HDD from my computer in the middle of encrypting my entire disk with bit-locker and lost at-least 700 GB of Data, I never used bit-locker since then.

Yes, this was totally BitLocker's fault. If only you have used TrueCrypt to encrypt the drive when you unplugged it, it would have been fine.

sat2012 said,
I pulled out USB cable of my external HDD from my computer in the middle of encrypting my entire disk with bit-locker and lost at-least 700 GB of Data, I never used bit-locker since then.

Should have kept a backup.

Back in 1999, I was flashing the BIOS on my Windows 98 PC, and as I got up I tripped over the power cord and it pulled the power from the PC. Lucky then I was able to buy another BIOS chip. but it took a weeks for me to get it. Nowadays I always hide all cables and power cords away from any human lims that may get caught up into the cables. :-)

jesseinsf said,
Back in 1999, I was flashing the BIOS on my Windows 98 PC, and as I got up I tripped over the power cord and it pulled the power from the PC. Lucky then I was able to buy another BIOS chip. but it took a weeks for me to get it. Nowadays I always hide all cables and power cords away from any human lims that may get caught up into the cables. :-)

LOL. Xyphus (another member on neowin) did that once.

not my mistake, but I built a computer for a friend when i was about 14. Showing him what i was doing and what each part did. Got it up and running perfectly. He then went to build a computer for his friend and didn't use the riser screws. Instead screwing the motherboard directly onto the metal backplate. They called me to see what they had done wrong after the sparks and smoke....

anthdci said,
not my mistake, but I built a computer for a friend when i was about 14. Showing him what i was doing and what each part did. Got it up and running perfectly. He then went to build a computer for his friend and didn't use the riser screws. Instead screwing the motherboard directly onto the metal backplate. They called me to see what they had done wrong after the sparks and smoke....

I think I never actually seen PC case with totally flat backplate.

anthdci said,
not my mistake, but I built a computer for a friend when i was about 14. Showing him what i was doing and what each part did. Got it up and running perfectly. He then went to build a computer for his friend and didn't use the riser screws. Instead screwing the motherboard directly onto the metal backplate. They called me to see what they had done wrong after the sparks and smoke....

i know a one who built a pc and forgot to connect cpu fan header))

well, at least it took us quick to realize what's happened, as case was still open, so cpu didn't burn up

I have done the same, screwed MB directly to case when building my first computer. Needless to say nasty smell came out and MB didn't survive.

Late 90's early 2000's I wrote a scathing email after a meeting about the lack of integrity/intelligence of a business client to send to one of my partners and without thinking cc'ed the client....realizing it just after I clicked send.

Lantec said,
Late 90's early 2000's I wrote a scathing email after a meeting about the lack of integrity/intelligence of a business client to send to one of my partners and without thinking cc'ed the client....realizing it just after I clicked send.

I did EXACTLY the same. I clicked Reply All insead of just Reply. I called the guy a drunk. God, was I embarrassed.

Supposed to fix someone's computer. I booted it up, and saw that I couldn't boot into Windows. Rebooted, and the memory diagnostic? popped up and asked to scan for errors on the disk. And I allowed it to. All of a sudden it started quickly listing each and every single file, which I thought was normal.

Little did I know it was for some reason deleting everything. Booted the computer again, and the drive was empty less a few system files.

Buying an ipod several years back and giving my money to apple..

But seriously, about 10 years ago I kicked off a restore job and forgot to change the location. So a ton of data was overwritten. Luckily we got most of it back.