Snow Leopard Guest Account Wiping Some Home Directories

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Some Snow Leopard users are experiencing total home directory wipes after logging into and out of their Guest accounts, and the issue is gaining some significant attention in the online world. Affected users find that after logging back into their main user accounts that it has been wiped of all data, an issue that caused no small amount of consternation in affected users.

The problem was first reported in Apple's own discussion boards, with many users reporting the problem, though it received little initial attention from the press.

For instance, user Rattymouse wrote in Apple's support forums, "Add my parents to the list of people waxed by this bug. Brand new iMac, less than 1 month old, EVERYTHING lost. Just as I convinced them to go Mac (after years of trying)."

He added, "My god...how can ANYONE advocate Apple now?"

MacFixIt covered it in September, including a follow up article with tips on restoring your lost data. ITWire covered the topic over the weekend, an article that was then picked up by Neowin.net, which was itself then picked up on Engadget. In the past, it has often appeared to take increasing public scrutiny and discussion of issues such as this that affect a minority of users to get Apple to publicly address the problem.

Until such time as Apple does offer a solution for the problem, The Mac Observer advises users to do two things. The first is to simply make sure they have a backup of their files. Of course, that is a standing order for any computer user. The second piece of advice is to simply deactivate Guest accounts in Snow Leopard.

You can check the status of your Guest account settings in your Accounts preference pane in System Preferences.

Accounts Preference Pane

In the left hand of the pane, you'll see whatever accounts you have set up, with Guest Account at the bottom of the list. It will be labeled wither Disabled or Enabled. If it disabled, as in this screenshot, you won't need to do anything else.

If it is labeled "Enabled," click the lock icon in the lower left corner and enter your admin password. Then click on Guest Account, which will open up the pane below.

Guest Settings

Uncheck the the box for "Allow guests to log in to this computer," then click the lock icon to prevent further changes.

Comments

Bryan Chaffin

This is a bad one, and I’d like to see Apple at least acknowledge the problem, preferably with an advisory to disable Guest access until the issue is resolved.

John Martellaro

This article explains the *why* part in terms of Apple constantly tinkering with Mac OS X.

http://www.macobserver.com/tmo/article/apples_changes_to_unix_can_infuriate_mystify_delight/

However, if this loss of data is a coding blunder, Apple needs to get this fixed *fast*.

Tiger

I hope everybody is backing up their computers regularly and that they can restore from Time Machine. It’s simple to use, external drives are inexpensive these days, and it just makes sense.

This IS bad. And Microsoft found out just how bad too with their new Sidekick phones that wiped out all user data on their servers.

And we’re supposed to trust cloud computing? NOT. It’s no more inherently safe than desktop computing.

Lee Dronick

I wonder if this situation is not as widespread as it could be because not too many people are letting “guests” use that account. I have no idea of the numbers, I am just pondering the situation.

jbruni

This is odd. I had a housesitter use my iMac with the guest account, and no one lost any data. There must be more to this that just the guest account.

Bryan Chaffin

This is odd. I had a housesitter use my iMac with the guest account, and no one lost any data. There must be more to this that just the guest account.

In reading up some more on this, jbruni, it appears as if the issue is limited to people who upgrade to SL with inherited Guest access. People who turn Guest access on for the first time under Snow Leopard appear to be fine.

We haven’t yet been able to confirm this, and thus mention it here in the comments instead of in an article.

Do you remember how you set it up in your implementation?

YodaMac

If you’re not backing up your data, then you are as much at fault as Apple.  Quit pointing fingers, and take responsibility.

jbruni

Do you remember how you set it up in your implementation?

I enabled the Guest account only when it was time for the house-sitter to use the computer. This was considerably after the upgrade to Snow Leopard.

In the Apple Discussions messages, I started to get the impression that the deleted home directory was not on the boot partition also.

SirDennis

I find it curious that this issue, first covered weeks ago in MacFixit, is just now becoming a “problem” that must urgently be fixed by Apple, right on the heels of the horrendous news of Microsoft’s failure to backup T-Mobile’s Sidekick phones. Is it a coincidence, another manipulation scheme, or just me being curious?

By-the-way, who has said it is “widespread?” And, if it’s not widespread how can it be an OS X problem? Is it possible other installed software, possibly in combination with OS X can be the culprit?

If it’s such a problem, widespread or not, why is it just now coming to the surface? I contend it’s not as widespread as is being dug up. We’ll see. I simply sick and tired of planted stories ruining our companies, and running our countries.

Just as AAPL is on a careful rise, this! Dang I’m mad.

UpQuark

It is a guest account… when you select a guest account, even in leopard, the system preference pane tells you that the contents of that account will be deleted upon log out.  Why would you STORE INFORMATION YOU MAY LATER NEED in a guest account. 

This is much ado about nothing and for those folks whom lost data due to storage under a ‘temporary’ guest account as per the system panel information, shame on you.  Add to the NO BACKUPS, double shame… and shame on the ‘reporting community’ for making this more than it is.. 

Nothing to see here, move along.

Bryan Chaffin

You missed something, UpQuark: The data being deleted is in the non-Guest accounts.

Much to see here.

And YodaMac, blaming this on users is asinine. If this was a problem with Windows, Mac users would be hooting, hollering, cackling, and ROFLMAOing ‘til the cows came home.

Whether or not users backed up their data, Apple can’t be deleting home directories.

UpQuark

“You missed something, UpQuark: The data being deleted is in the non-Guest accounts.

Much to see here.”

Yup, you are right.. I did miss something.  From my initial read, I gleaned that only the Guest data was lost.  Upon further review however.. smile 

This is a HUGE issue. Wow..  Unbelievable!

It doesn’t matter if they had backups or not, you are right, their home folder should be left up to the user to decimate, not Apple… smile

Thanks!

John Martellaro

Apple made a statement on Monday acknowledging the problem.

deasys

This IS bad. And Microsoft found out just how bad too with their new Sidekick phones that wiped out all user data on their servers.

It’s silly to compare this very rare—and recoverable—problem with Microsoft’s Sidekick disaster.

Recovering from this particular issue just requires a few Terminal commands. On the other hand, there is no recovery for the thousands of Sidekick users.

Laurie Fleming

We mock Microsoft (quite rightly) in their two-hour complicated routine for converting from XP to the exotically named Windows 7. But this is worse. Much worse. 10.6.2 coming up smartly, perhaps?

Lee Dronick

On the other hand, there is no recovery for the thousands of Sidekick users.

I read last evening that they think they can recover the Sidekick data.

jjm

Anyone willing to test this?  Does it happen if you have file vault running?

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