Question: Since last Dell firmware update, my photos are lost. I can see the folder names, but the check boxes have an arrow in them. When I try to open a folder, I get a message that it may have been changed or moved. I don’t think I moved or changed anything.
– John P.
Answer: Oh my, where to start, John? First of all, I am strongly of the opinion that your blame for the problem you’re describing is incorrectly being laid on the shoulders of Dell and their firmware update. What you’re describing is an issue with the Windows file system. Although files do reside on media that is accessed through the firmware, this is an electrical connection, and firmware manages the low-level communication protocol that the system CPU uses to access the storage. The actual implementation of the files and folders is wholly managed by Windows. A firmware update should not get in the way of that process.
It’s actually surprisingly easy to accidentally change something in Windows without knowing it. But it’s even easier for Microsoft to make changes through Windows Update. Since it doesn’t ask you for permission – even for changes that can have a significant effect on how your system operates – something could easily have been changed without you knowing about it.
I’m curious about your description that “check boxes have an arrow in them.” There is a little-used feature in the Windows File Browser that puts a checkbox next to each file, presumably to make it easier to select files, and to tell which files are selected. I turned on check boxes (in File Explorer: View->Show->Item check boxes) and did some experimenting. I was unable to recreate any view where there was an arrow in a checkbox. I was, however, able to create two distinct arrows on the file icon itself.
The first kind is blue double arrows facing each other. It appears in the upper-right corner of the icon. When you see this, it is an indication that the file, folder, or entire disk is compressed. This is a Windows technique to save hard drive space. In the background, Windows compresses files as they are written to the disk, and uncompresses them as they are read back. This shouldn’t stop you from opening any files, and it shouldn’t have relocated any of your folders. Nevertheless, if you encounter compressed files or folders that you don’t want compressed, you can turn it off by doing the following: Right-click on the file or folder and select “Properties.” In the “General” tab, select “Advanced…” Under “Compress or Encrypt attributes,” uncheck “Compress contents to save disk space.” Press OK, then press OK again.
I think what you’re seeing is the second kind of arrow. This one is a blue arrow in a white box in the lower-left corner of the file’s icon. This means what you are looking at is not the file, but merely a shortcut to it, and the file or folder is actually located somewhere else. You can find out what the shortcut is pointing to by right-clicking it and selecting “Properties.” On the “Shortcut” tab, you’ll see a line that says “Target:” If this is indeed what happened on your computer, again I’ll say this should not be stopping you from accessing your files. I wonder if that box you’re seeing is just a friendly notice that your files were relocated for you, and if you read a little more carefully and try again, you’ll find they’re accessible in a new location.
To bring this discussion around full circle, one thing that I’ve seen that relocates files, and leaves shortcuts behind in their place is Microsoft OneDrive. It’s possible that you accidentally turned it on, or that a Windows update did it for you, and OneDrive went to work, creating a new folder and moving your files there so it could start to back them up into the cloud. I got you a link to a Microsoft Support article where you can learn how to turn off, temporarily disable or even remove OneDrive altogether. Check it out at tinyurl.com/IGTM-0853.
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