It was Monday and the incessant blinking LED on my phone just wouldn’t leave me alone. It was demanding attention. The LCD display didn’t help either. It was showing a large 1 accompanied by an envelope. Someone has called the help desk over the weekend and there was no one around I could trick into dealing with this bullshit. You see, the weekend calls are the worst – that’s when people really fuck up their machines, then try to fix them on their own only exacerbating the damage.
I reluctantly pushed the voice mail key, braced myself and listened:
“Oh… Oh God… You guys… I’ve really done it now… Oh God! I’ve done went and uploaded Windows 7 on my laptop and… I messed it up. Oh God! I opened it up and it said… It was like… Configuring so I shut it down and… And I downloaded it. I mean Windows 7. I downloaded it off the computer and now it’s gone. Oh God! It’s all gone. I think I lost everything… I have this Shuttlecocks Incorporated report due tomorrow and… Oh God. We do have backups though, right? We can get my stuff back, right? Oh God! Please… Someone call me as soon as you get this. I really, really need help. I messed up bad. Please!
Splendid my friends. This is just how I wanted to spend my Monday morning. Talking a borderline suicidal employee off the ledge, and trying to figure out if his machine can be salvaged. Oh, and for the record his idea about backups was just pure wishful thinking. There was no automated data backups for remote employees. We had disk images of the machines – that’s about it.
But there was still a chance. If the poor guy didn’t format his hard drive but somehow botched the installation resulting in an un-bootable system we could still get him out of the deep shit he thrown himself into. Best case scenario was to get him a loaner laptop, bring the machine to the office and extract his data before re-imaging. Also, lecture him on not installing operating system upgrades on company machine without approval.
I called the guy up and he was basically on the verge of crying. I asked him what he sees when he turns on his computer. The answer is an empathic:
“Nothing! Everything is gone!”
Next I asked him to tell me the whole story from the start: why did he decide to upgrade to Windows 7, how he did it, and etc… So he goes:
“Well, I’m on this Shuttlecocks assignment and they were sending me all these files that were too large for Windows… For the previous one I mean. So I called in and talked to someone over there, and one of you guys told me…. He said something about the files being incom… Incombustible with Office Windows that I had. So sent me the CD, and I thought I could do this myself, and… Oh god!”
This made absolutely no sense, but I knew I had something. He claimed that he talked to someone, which means that there should be an entry in the problem tracking system somewhere. Should was the operative world here, but it was worth a try. Sure enough, a quick search revealed the following entry:
User needs to work with .xlsx files with more than 65k rows. Need to upgrade to Office 07. I’m sending the user a copy on a CD, and adding new license.
Ladies, and gentlemen: “that’s a bingo”. Just to double check my theory I asked the user if he can boot into windows. As before he responded that no he cannot – the windows is gone, so I tried a different question: “Ok, I just sent you something in the email. Can you log into web mail and check if you got it?”
“Ok, hold on…” I can hear him typing: “Ok, so it’s h, t, p, colon, slash, slash, w, w, w, dot, web, mail, dot…”
There is no www in the wembail URL.
Oh… Right. Sound of backspace being hit several times, followed by a mouse click and then again under his breath: “W, w, w, dot…”
I stopped him right there and asked him if he was typing this on the computer with messed up Windows 7. He was. Case solved.
Apparently in his mind Office 2007 somehow became Windows 7. When he received the CD, he just popped it in, and went through the installation choosing to upgrade the old version of Office. Once he was done and opened Word or Excel it popped up the activation dialog or something similar. This freaked him out so much that he went and uninstalled office via Add/Remove programs. Of course since he chose to “upgrade” his version, this meant that he was left without any office suite on his machine. He was no longer able to open Word/Excel documents by double clicking them, and he had no “EMAIL ICON” on the desktop. So in him mind Windows 7 was no gone. Furthermore without office all the Word and Excel documents reverted to the default nondescript icon. So all his work was “gone” as well. He genuinely thought he lost everything.
It took us about 15 minutes to reinstall and activate office again and he was back in business.
So many people out there just don’t know how to ask tech support questions. If you work in end-user support the most difficult part of the job is figuring out what the hell is going on based on incoherent, jumbled descriptions with miss-matched jargon words thrown in just for kicks.