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Last Updated: Thursday, 16 October, 2003, 09:43 GMT 10:43 UK
Odd mishaps cause computer grief
Angry man
Humans are increasingly to blame for data loss
A man so angry with his laptop that he shot it has topped an annual league table of the oddest computer mishaps.

Data recovery experts say although machine failure is blamed for the majority of lost files, humans are getting more careless too.

But while ways to rescue files are increasingly sophisticated, people have to do more to protect and back up data.

The list of the strangest ways data was lost was compiled by recovery experts Kroll Ontrack.


Experts say the technical breakdown of computers is still the main cause of data loss, although human error in the form of neglect, rage and clumsiness is fast becoming one of the main reasons files need rescuing.

"Despite being the easiest problem to prevent, we are seeing more cases where human error is to blame," said Adrian Palmer from Kroll Ontrack.

Laptop shot in anger
PC thrown out the window to destroy evidence before police arrived
Laptop fell off a moped and was run over by lorry
Laptop dropped in bath while doing company accounts
Stolen PCs rescued after three weeks in a river
Red wine spilt on laptop over dinner
Server rescued after running unchecked 24/7 for years under layers of dust and dirt
Computer thrown against a wall
Latte-covered laptop rescued
Laptop left on car roof as owner drives off

"Interestingly, we see a 15 to 20% increase in calls to recover lost data on Mondays.

"This could be a result of the rush to complete work and leave early for the weekend on Friday afternoons, as well as a lack of staff concentration on Monday mornings," he told BBC News Online.

The top 10 shows all is not necessarily lost when the computers become casualties of fire, wine and rage however.

Taking the number one spot is the US man who was so frustrated with his laptop, he shot it in a fit of e-rage, then realised there were important files he needed.

Hot on his heels is the company director whose soapy bath time ended in disaster when his laptop slipped in with him.

"People always think 'It will never happen to me' when it comes to losing data," said Mr Palmer.

There is also an emerging trend in the different ways men and women handle their loss.

More men than women are apparently more likely to try and retrieve the data themselves before asking for help from the experts, which sometimes causes more damage, said Mr Palmer.

Doctor doctor

Data recovery experts are the technological doctors and nurses of desktop or laptop hard drives.

Using increasingly sophisticated techniques, "lost" files or information can be rescued and rebuilt into a usable format.

This can happen in a matters of hours through remote access, but in more serious cases computer patients may have to be admitted to the lab.

The majority of mishaps in the top 10 list involved laptop computers, which are more susceptible to damage. There are countless examples of people forgetting them on public transport and in cafes or bars.

Experts recommend data be backed up daily or weekly and regular checks are made on back up systems to endure they are working.

In all the cases of the top 10 data loss accidents, computer files were rescued and restored.

Have you accidentally lost important files through clumsiness, rage or forgetfulness? Tell us what your worst data disaster has been.

My mother was so infuriated that she couldn't get something to print, she proceeded to completely rip the keyboard and mouse out of the sockets and throw them out the window
Brian, Scotland
I carried my laptop from the back door to the car. I had trouble finding my keys so I placed the laptop in its carry case by the wheel. I then found my keys and got into the car and turned on the engine. Checked my mirrors and start to move. By the time I remember that I had left my laptop behind it was too late. The laptop became very flat after that!
Daniel, UK

A friend at university had completed a 10,000 word assignment the evening before the morning it was due to be handed in. During the night there was a thunderstorm and his house was hit by lightning which fused the entire house's electricity and blew up his computer. He lost the entire assignment.
Rob Nicol, England

My mother was so infuriated that she couldn't get something to print, she proceeded to completely rip the keyboard and mouse out of the sockets and throw them out the window.
Brian, Scotland

Yep I have been the cause of damaging a laptop. Parked the car after working a very long day. Got out of car and realised the gap between the kerb and car was excessive. Put the laptop down on the road. Started engine up and moved car closer to the kerb. Not even noticing the car "bumping" over an object. I have to admit not only did I do this once, but I ran over it twice. Needless to say I have the worlds flattest laptop!
Gavin Appleton, Scotland

I managed to lose 20GB of data that was on a hard drive I had in my rucksack was taking it to friends house to copy the data. I was also driving a rather powerful motorbike in dreadful conditions, I rolled on the power hit, the back wheel spun out on a tram track and bang I went down right on my rucksack. Although the hard disk was inside a polystyrene container, the impact caused the read arm in the hard drive to come loose and put a huge scratch in the disk. I managed to recover about two-thirds of the data but the rest is gone.
Jamie Ferguson, Scotland

I work on a support desk carrying out server disaster recoveries. I have had someone on the phone who said "we tried to forklift it" when I asked how it crashed
Chris, UK
I have lost all my files last month. I was upgrading my computer hard disk. I forgot to back up my data. All my files gone. What a shame, although I have a Masters degree in computer science, I ignored the most basic step to safe guide your data.
Michael Chan, Malaysia

I work on a support desk carrying out server disaster recoveries. Right now, I am not kidding, I have had someone on the phone who said "we tried to forklift it" when I asked how it crashed.
Chris, UK

We had just finished a huge huge project for a customer. The backup server was full so everytime a tape was put in for the daily backup, it actually overwrote the tape with gobbledegook. When the server crashed we went back to the tapes to use the backups, every tape was empty and full of nonsense. Shocking, 18 months work all gone ! Our company eventually told our customer that it was a virus, we worked days and nights, thankfully got lots of overtime and finally delivered it. Huge mess though.

I recently had a hard drive physically overheat and burn up on me taking more than 30 gigabytes of data with it - the solution? Dump the hard drive in a plastic bag and then into a bucket of ice to keep it cold enough to recover the data. This worked so well, the drive (which I had been told was "beyond saving" by an 'expert') provided me with all of the missing data and allowed me to make archive copies of it too once it was transferred to a good drive.
Darren Gillett, United States

One of our mobile end users brought in his laptop for repairs. When I opened the bag and uncovered the machine the had drawn in permanent marker, a target with the words "sod it button" encompassed around it. He had been thumping the living daylights out of the poor machine everytime it crashed. One has to ask why it may have crashed in the first place.
Jonny, UK

I have deconstructed the keyboard, surgical style, in a fit of e-rage before. It was delicate and calculating. It was enjoyable at the time, but not when I needed my coursework for university.
Wayne Jordan, England

I recently had the IT department up in arms, because I had tried to print off a rather long document. I had pressed print and nothing arrived on the printer, so I pressed print again and the summary I was expecting arrived. A few days later, the IT department got in touch to say I had jammed somebody else's printer because I had tried to get it to print off the full guidelines for Infertility from the Health Department website.

IT were not impressed when I tried to print off 4,444 pages of information! To cap it all, the person whose printer I had clogged up was on holiday and the problem only came to light when they tried to print their e-mails. Nowadays, I am very careful where I send my printing. All I wanted was the summary
Nicola Jennings, UK

Back in the days of XT machines, I was training a group of middle executives how to use spreadsheets. It was only an exercise but some of them clearly were not saving their work, so I just suddenly pulled out the power plug they were all connected to. The air was blue for a bit, but I think they learned the most important lesson in computer use!
Graham, Belgium

A friend of mine ran a clip art company, back in the days of 5.25 disks. There was a problem with one of the 5.25 disks that had been sent out to a client and he asked for a copy to be sent back so the problem could be resolved. When the parcel arrived, it contained two A4 pages of a nicely photocopied disk.
Steve, UK

I heard this story many years ago. Someone in an office was asked to copy a 5.25 floppy disk. Months later, someone checked and found a photocopy where the copied disk should be. Also the photocopy was old-fashioned even then and had wiped the original floppy. I've also had a cat walk across my keyboard while I was taking a break. Luckily they just entered a few random letters.
Madawc, UK

I had my Toshiba laptop on the desk with internet cable hanging. My one-year toddler pulled on the cord and crashed the laptop on the floor. The shock discharged the battery. Fortunately, no files or data lost, no damage to the computer. I was so relieved. Now I am more careful when my son is around.
Deepak Darshan, India/Switzerland

Several years ago I was walking out of the office with a senior manager. He was trying to carry too much and his Compaq laptop, which wasn't even in a bag fell. It tumbled down half a dozen concrete steps going perfectly end over end. We picked it up and the screen was cracked, the keyboard had popped out and the case wrecked. We feared the worst but when we plugged in an external monitor and keyboard it booted up fine and all the data was recovered before the machine was sent for repair. A tribute to the build of the machine.
Steve UK, UK

Moral of the story - if you leave your laptop unattended in Nairobi - leave a banana on top of it as a protection offering
Bill, UK
Last year I went to Nairobi in Kenya. I was not aware that Nairobi has a great problem with monkeys which cause a lot of nuisance. I unpacked and left my laptop on a table by the window. During the day I was in the next room when I heard a noise coming from my bedroom and when I went to investigate I saw a monkey hopping out of the bedroom window with my laptop. It then sat in the tree clutching it and watched me. When I went outside and tried to entice it down it just continued to stare at me. I then started shouting and as the monkey became frightened, it promptly threw the laptop away. The result was a cracked and bashed laptop that would not work anymore. Moral of the story - if you leave your laptop unattended in Nairobi - leave a banana on top of it as a protection offering.
Bill, UK

On one occasion I had my nine-month old daughter in one hand, laptop in the other as I loaded the car. I put down the laptop against the front wheel to place her in the car seat and then got in to drive off. I thought the local kids had put something like a brick under my wheels (which was not uncommon) so I just powered over the obstruction. As you can guess, it was my laptop. Lucky I didn't put the laptop in the car first. I also destroyed another laptop by spilling a glass of extremely salty water into it (I'm told salt really aids the total destruction of the laptop). It was highly salty because I'd had a tooth extracted earlier that day.
Martin, UK

I once had a user saying that he could not read his important data off of one of the old 5.25 disks, some years ago. Turns out he had run out of sticky labels and had stapled a new one on, clean through the disk.
Paddy, UK

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Britons still 'scared' of computers
03 Oct 03  |  Technology
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10 Sep 03  |  Business
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03 Jul 03  |  Technology
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20 Jan 03  |  Technology
US man shoots laptop
06 Mar 03  |  Americas

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