Here’s a tale that will send a chill down your spine, about one of the worst software bugs I’ve ever run into. This is truly hideous, confidence shattering stuff.

The buggy software is Windows Live OneCare. Now I’m going to tell you a terrible story, but please understand: I make no apologies for this awful bug, but it has affected a very, very small number of people, it is reportedly fixed, and I plan to continue to recommend OneCare because I think it is better than the competing security products.

But this is unforgivable.

Under some conditions, the new Windows Live OneCare version 1.5 will find a virus attached to an Outlook message and will respond by deleting the entire Outlook .PST file.

That’s everything in Outlook – mail, calendar, contacts, the history of your life for the last five years – gone. Poof!

There are several threads online where this is being discussed – here’s one of the main ones in a forum monitored by Microsoft support people, and here’s a similar one.

It happened to one of my clients.

In some cases, the .PST file is quarantined and can be restored. I’m crossing my fingers that I will find that on Monday morning.

We’re led to think the OneCare team is scrambling and that the latest virus definitions fix the bug. Maybe, although my client lost her .PST file for the second time on Thursday night and there’s a story online of a similar deletion within the last few days.

The workaround is to exclude the folder with the Outlook .PST file from being included in an antivirus scan, and do manual backups of the .PST file with the Outlook Personal Folders Backup tool. I’m not going to start making panicky phone calls to have everyone do that. I hope and trust that this will be fixed posthaste. If I see evidence that the problem is spreading I’ll alert you, but my hope is that it will never come up again and I’ll never talk to any of you about it.

But – wow. This is bad.

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