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Fatal Attraction: Lovely collection, really, but it does not belong anywhere near magnetic storage media

Your PC is not a fridge

On Call Friday brings the promise of a weekend free from the work laptop but likely shackled to the personal laptop instead. Kick off your two days of downtime with another tale from those brave enough to be On Call.

Today's story comes from a reader Regomised as "Elliot" who was spending the mid-noughties gainfully employed as third-line support and general server boffin at an insurance company.

Such was his enthusiasm for his job that he referred to the users demanding assistance as "customers" rather than the inconveniences we know they tend to be.

On the day in question, one of these customers called into IT support. The complaint was relatively run of the mill – the user's Word documents were being corrupted.

The unusual twist here was that the problem was only occurring on the user's local machine. Documents saved to the network were fine. Local disk, though? Corruption city.

Elliot, being third-line support, was saved from having to do an actual visit to the customer's desk. Instead, an engineer was sent out. The simplest solution was to swap out the hard disk, reimage the machine, and the user was good to go.

For a while.

A few days later the same user made the same complaint. Documents were getting corrupted. Important insurance business was not being done. What was IT going to do about it?

"A different engineer was sent," Elliot told us. "And he replaced the PC..."

Sorted? Er, no. It took a few short days before the request for help came in once again. This time the boss wheeled out the big guns and sent in third-line support.

Experience is all. As is the ability to observe one's surroundings.

"I saw the cause of the file corruption the moment I opened her office door," he told us.

"She'd plastered the computer case with fridge magnets."

Inspirational or amusing quotes and holiday knick-knacks might make for handy ways of pinning to-do lists and the artwork of one's poppets to a domestic appliance. They do not, however, belong anywhere near magnetic media. Sure, a fridge magnet by itself would be unlikely to destroy a drive, but the odd bit of mystery data corruption? Absolutely!

A clearance of the clutter made the problem go away.

"I found it a trifle worrying," mused Elliot, "that two 'engineers' hadn't made the mental connection between magnets and magnetic media.

"Perhaps it was because they were too young to remember cassette tapes."

Age, experience, and cunning always trumps youthful experience. Ever been called out to an insoluble problem and fixed it in seconds because you'd seen it all before? Or had to explain to a user that the save icon wasn't actually the back of a bus? Share your tale with an email to On Call. ®

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