How to delete copies of files on my computer?
January 8, 2006 5:41 PM   Subscribe

My computer has begun making copies of every file on my computer on its own. I need help getting rid of them.

I've tried deleting the copies, but they re-appear after deletion. Some files have up to 23 copies! This is getting really frustrating, especially since my whole desktop is taken up with the copies' icons. (The icons won't move to another folder. They re-appear when I try.) Does anyone have any ideas as to why this is happening? I don't wany any copies at all.

I'm using Windows XP & Microsoft Office Pro.
posted by Four-Eyed Girl to Computers & Internet (10 answers total)
A few people's computers started doing this at my old job right before I left. The IT guys told us to create all files right on the local drives (not the desktop or in My Documents) and that stopped new files from making copies. I left before they figured out how to get rid of the old ones but I heard that they did eventually.
posted by fshgrl at 6:02 PM on January 8, 2006

That is odd. How are the copies named? Is it "foo", "Copy of foo", "Copy of copy of foo" ?

Also, are the copies real? If you right click on the icon of a copy and choose "Properties", is it the same file type? Same size? Or is there a chance you are seeing copies of "Shortcuts" to these files?

When are the copies created? Do you see them appear on the desktop in realtime, when you are working? Or do they only appear at each reboot?

Are only the files on the desktop getting copied?

Are all of the files being copied of only one type, like Microsoft Word? If they are all Word, I have a suspicion of what's going on.
posted by Dunwitty at 6:54 PM on January 8, 2006

Sounds like a virus to me. If you don't have a virus software package, try McAfee's FreeScan.
posted by knave at 7:29 PM on January 8, 2006

If they are only shortcuts to files, I've seen this done as a prank in a networking class - it was a quick little trick with a recursive Windows Script Host file or DOS batch file or something, that filled the desktop of a team member with icons, just to drive him batty... Sorry I can't be any more detailed than that, but I wasn't really paying attention... it was just a bunch of young guys having a lark with a member of their team, aided and abetted by the tutor. It was really trivial to fix - the tutor wasn't going to show them how to do anything that would really screw with school property. Does anyone else have access to your computer?
posted by Pigpen at 9:20 PM on January 8, 2006

I've had spurious keyboard and mouse input lead to files on my desktop being selected and then copied. Maybe it is something like that?
posted by Good Brain at 9:34 PM on January 8, 2006

It's my work computer that I'm talking about. Others do have access to my computer, but those two people would never do anything to it.

I've scanned for viruses using Norton, & it didn't find anything.

They're labeled something like "Copy of Paper 1 (23).doc." I think they're only Word files, but I can't say for sure because I'm on my home computer now. They appear in real time. The ones that are copied most often are on the desktop, but there are some that aren't on there. The ones that aren't are in "My Documents."

Would the keyboard & mouse input be the culprit if this has been happening for several months? That's how long it's been happening.
posted by Four-Eyed Girl at 10:35 PM on January 8, 2006

FEG, Word likes to have a temporary directory to create "live" copies of documents as it works. These typically have titles like ~something.doc instead of something.doc, but that can be changed. Are you opening files on the desktop with Word? If so, the temp file will be created on the desktop. It should, however, disappear after you close the document and Word.

It's also possible that dragging a document -- if your control key is malfunctioning -- would "automagically" create a copy. But you'd also notice other keyboard wonkiness.
posted by dhartung at 12:04 AM on January 9, 2006

Do the files appear one at a time, or in batches? Is the "Copy of" recursive, as I mentioned, where each file name gets longer as it becomes "Copy of copy of copy of..." ?

If these are always Word docs, then that is your culprit. In the right conditions, you'll get a new copy of the file every time you Save (not Save As); and this may even happen during Word's "autosave" functionality.

If Word detects that it was shutdown without normally closing a file, or if it detects certain types of "corrupt" working files, it will try and restore them when you start Word. Normally, you will get a (confusing) side-bar message when this occurs. Have you seen anything like this?

At any rate, Word normally cleans up behind itself in the multi-save case. However, if something has gone wrong, like the files have become read only, or Word has lost write access to the directory it would normally put these files in, or Word has somehow become confused about where it's leaving these "semi-temporary" save files, then you can see the behavior you are describing.

Not that I know how to fix this... but this explanation may help your IT guys fix the problem. If possible, a re-installation of Word may fix it.
posted by Dunwitty at 3:21 AM on January 9, 2006

Are other people sharing the documents?

This happened on my office network when people with different versions of Office were opening shared files at the same time.

But I'd also suggest doing a virus scan.
posted by k8t at 7:50 AM on January 9, 2006

The copies all appear at the same time. They're not temp files, & their file names don't get longer each time. They just have a different number at the end that corresponds to the # of copies made. The highest # at the moment is 23.

I haven't accessed the original files since October or so. No messages appear when I boot up or at any other time. These files aren't shared with anyone else.

I'll try re-installing Office & see what happens. I'll try another virus scan also.

Thanks everyone for your suggestions. I thought I'd try & ask all of the computer whizzes here before getting help in person. We only have 2 people at the semi-large university I attend/work at who deal with computer issues, & it can take a while to get one of them to help.
posted by Four-Eyed Girl at 7:45 PM on January 9, 2006

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