Uninstall != Deletion

One of the longest mysteries that I’ve had where I work is why the chair of governors keeps buying new laptops. The mystery has always been deepened by him bringing some of his older laptops in and asking for them to be wiped to prevent any information being recovered from them. If you think that some shady dealings may have been going on, join the club.

Well, I think the mystery has finally be solved today. It all comes down to (what seems to be) a misunderstanding of what uninstalling a program does compared to what deleting a file does…

My colleague answered the office phone, and pulled a confused face when he answered it. Looking at the display, it was one of the finance staff members, so I immediately tried to think what I’d requested to be ordered recently. However, once the phone was put on loudspeaker, the voice sounded nothing like the person whose phone it was; instead it was the chair of governors. The conversion went something like this:

Chair of Governors: I need you to sort out a new computer for the admissions manager.
IT Team: Erm…?
CG: They have Sage installed on their computer, which they don’t need, so I need you to remove their current computer and then set them up a new computer that doesn’t have Sage installed on it. Do you have a spare computer?
IT: Erm… (looking around the office) yes.
CG: Right, then once you’ve removed their old computer, I want you to then keep it safe so that when the accountant comes in, it can be set up for them so that they can use Sage on it. OK?
IT: Um, OK. We’ll get right on it.

Now more confused than ever, and not quite understanding why we couldn’t just uninstall Sage, we headed up to the admissions office to have a word with the person whose computer was planned to be replaced.

They had absolutely no idea that this was going to happen. So much for all of the communication devices we have available to them (email, phone, writing a message, walking to the room next door). Once we’d explained to them that it’d take an hour or two to set up a new computer, we said that for the meanwhile we would just uninstall Sage so that they could carry on working on their current computer, and we would then just swap the computer over as soon as it was ready.

Within the next moment, the chair of governors walked into the office, and we explained to him that “It’ll take a little bit of time to set up a new computer, so for the meantime we are just going to uninstall Sage“. A look of horror came over his face, as though I’d just delivered some bad news.

Then it hit me. He must’ve thought that the version of Sage that was installed was the only copy in the school (it’s installed on 4 other computers) and that uninstalling it would delete all of the schools financial records (they’re stored on a network share). After clarifying that we weren’t going to be committing commercial suicide and that the files were going to be untouched, we uninstalled Sage from that computer and apologised to the admissions manager for disturbing them for the last couple of minutes. In the end, everything is now as it should be.

So, I now believe that every time the chair of governors wants to save some space on his computers, he’s worried that uninstalling the program that wasn’t needed will somehow delete all of his files. Hopefully, this has taught him how uninstalling a program != deletion of your personal files.

In other news, guess who’s recently asked us to order a new laptop for them?

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