Geek Squad Backs Up Your Desktop Shortcut Instead Of Your Data

Reader Mike consulted Best Buy about removing a Trojan that was infecting his computer. They suggested that he buy an external hard drive, pay Best Buy to back up his data, and use his computer’s restore disc. Mike agreed. 5 days later he got his computer and his external hard drive back — mostly empty, except for the shortcut to the folder where the data was stored. None of the files within the folder had actually been transferred.

Mike writes to Best Buy:

Our home computer was infected by a Trojan that had seriously slowed down our service and had recently caused the computer to cease running a crucial process. When we took the CPU into the Geek Squad, they suggested that our best option was to have them back up the hard drive, and for us to then run the computer’s Restore disc at home.

We were asked to fill out a form that contained the absolute minimum that must be backed up. I listed on that form 3 folders of personal documents and a single Word document that resided on the computer’s desktop. However, we were then informed that the best way to absolutely ensure the Geek Squad’s ability to back up our entire hard drive would be to purchase an external drive whose capacity was at least as large as our computer’s. We thus purchased for approximately $95 a 500 GB external hard drive on which to back up an 80 GB computer.

The process, we were told, would take 2 to 3 days. After 5, we were finally told that our computer was ready.

Having picked up the CPU and brought it home, I checked the contents of the external hard drive before running the restore disc. At this time I discovered, firstly, that only the bare minimum had been backed up—the three folders and one document that we had indicated on the form. Since I had purchased the 500GB hard drive specifically because I was told that this would with certainty allow the Geek Squad to back up the entire hard drive, this was extremely frustrating.

However, the situation almost immediately graduated from frustrating to infuriating. One of the three folders I had marked on the form was the “My Documents” folder. The icon for this folder on the hard drive indicated that the file size was 1 KB. The technicians at Best Buy had NOT backed up the “My Documents” folder, as I had requested: they had backed up only the shortcut. None of the files within the folder had actually been transferred.

There is an expectation upon the part of the consumer that Best Buy’s computer technicians know what they are doing. The fact that they were not tipped off by the “1 KB” notation that I noticed immediately suggests precisely the opposite: that the Geek Squad at Best Buy on 14th Street are lazy at best, incompetent at worst.

I am extremely unhappy. I spent all night last night backing up the computer myself—a service I paid for rather handsomely, and for which I received LESS than the absolute-last-resort minimum that I had indicated on my paperwork. But my biggest regret in this entire fiasco is that I did not avail myself of the Best Buy Geek Squad’s long history of complaints and dissatisfied customers. I might then have saved myself a great deal of time and trouble.

Please be assured that I will not patronize Best Buy again.

Thank you.


Kudos to you for not waiting until after you nuked your hard drive to check the external. If Best Buy doesn’t offer a refund for the services they did not perform, we wouldn’t hesitate to contact our credit card company and request a chargeback.

(Photo: The Joy Of The Mundane )


Edit Your Comment

  1. If Mike is a reader here, why made his brain malfunction bad enough that he hired the Geek Squad?

  2. warf0x0r says:

    So backing up your data at Geek Squad consists of copy/paste from My Documents to an external location?!?

    How much do they charge for this???

  3. @heavylee-again:*what made….

    Also, forgot to add:

    To those who will jump on me for blaming the OP: How many stories have we seen here where GS screws up majorly? As GW Bush would say, “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame… you can’t fool me again” or adapted to this situation, “Getting screwed by GS (much more than) once, shame on them. Getting screwed by GS (much more than) twice, shame on us.

  4. parad0x360 says:

    Time to get a data recovery program and pray PRAY that the data is still there.

    I managed to recover about 8 gigs of lost data on a drive that was formated and had Windows installed on it again so there is always hope..but if you keep using the drive your chances become slimmer and slimmer.

    Oh…never use Geek Squad. Do 20 min of research online and fix it yourself.

  5. Shappie says:

    Desperate times call for desperate measures.

  6. induscreed says:

    have to blame the OP, youre data is important, you have to be responsible for backing it up. You can’t trust someone else to do it for you, unless thats what they specilize in or a forensics company.

    my $.02

  7. Bagels says:

    @heavylee-again: No, you’re spot on. How anyone that has a singular brain cell would use Geek Squad is beyond me. I think most of us are at point in our lives where we know at least one person with an above-average knowledge of computers, that can assist with problems

  8. frari489 says:

    “There is an expectation upon the part of the consumer that Best Buy’s computer technicians know what they are doing.”

    No, quite the opposite actually.

  9. AnderBobo says:

    All the “the op should have known better” posts around Consumerist are getting so OLD.

  10. EyeHeartPie says:

    If he bought an external hard drive anyway, why would he hire Geek Squad to back up his files? He already has the external HD, and he obviously spent the time listing what was to be backed up. Instead, he could have just bought the HD, went home, and copied it over himself.

  11. PunditGuy says:

    I’m sure the OP will be fine, since he can just go to the backup optical discs he uses to keep his important data safe. Right?

    Seriously, if this computer is anything but a $199 special and less than 6 years old, it has a CD or DVD writer on it.

  12. ARPRINCE says:

    I backup all my porn downloads myself. Heck I even burn some on a CD-R/DVD-R. Pretty easy!!! ;)

  13. Angryrider says:

    Blame the OP indead. There are better places to fix your computers, and Geek Squad is definitely not one of them.

  14. Ben Popken says:

    Blaming the OP in this thread may result in banning.

  15. ratnerstar says:

    @induscreed: That’s why he checked GS’s backup and when it wasn’t correct, did it himself. Geez, I’m all for blaming the consumer and everything, but at least read the story.

  16. Gokuhouse says:

    What services did BB actually perform? They tried to backup a few files for him and failed, but since it says they told him to run the recovery disk I don’t see why he still had the computer there 5 days. Did they try to remove the virus still even though they told him to run the recover disk? Makes no sense.

  17. boss_lady says:

    The continuation of the title for this article should be:

    …Because They are Incompetent Assholes, and We’re Not Even Really Surprised They Didn’t Screw Up Worse.

  18. MBZ321 says:

    Seriously….it isn’t that difficult to remove a virus. Use a free scanner, and even if it doesn’t remove it, it should identify the name, which can then be googled to see how it must be deleted (usually something as simple as booting into safe mode).

  19. Brine says:

    @heavylee-again: “Fool me seven times, shame on you. Fool me eight or more times, shame on me.”

  20. G-16 says:

    Are you kidding me?

    The OP knew how to do the requested task and still went to GS to have them do it. Sounds like a scam to me to get the 500GB EHD for free. The OP does not sound like a computer god but is not on the level of “Is this chicken, well I know it’s tuna but the can says chicken of the sea…” They know about size, so why get a 500GB EHD for your 80GB computer?

    But on a side note, I know the real problem. He only brought the CPU into GS. He should have brought the entire PC if he wanted data backed up.

  21. strangeffect says:

    @Ben Popken:


  22. Tzepish says:

    @induscreed: That IS what they specialize in. It’s a service they offer. It’s the OP’S fault for paying for a service that is offered?

    I guess it’s acceptable that you just can’t trust anyone to provide services that are paid for…

  23. The_IT_Crone says:

    Hey, WTF with blaming the OP here? Not everyone is computer savvy. We can’t expect everyone to know how to change their spark plugs on car, so why expect everyone to know how to remove a trojan? Those same people probably don’t know that Geek Squad sucks.

    Most users don’t know how to boot into Safe Mode and probably think CMOS is something green that grows in the sea. That doesn’t mean it’s their fault when they get screwed over. I don’t know how to replace my brakes on my car, does it mean I deserve to get ripped off?

  24. Bakkster_Man says:

    @ratnerstar: Exactly, the only thing that happened was they didn’t provide the service. He fixed it himself before all of his data got nuked.

    Of course, this begs the question: if he knew how to backup his computer, and knew what tools he would need to use, why did he pay GS to do it? My guess: pushy sales pitch.

  25. alumicor says:

    My question is what if any sensitive information did the OP have on the hard drive being backed up and was any of this informaion copied to a different drive for personal use of the tech that worked on the PC.

    Also this, even in the worst situation, would take no more than 2 hours (likely 15-20 mins) to copy 80 gigs from one drive to another. What the hell was GS doing for 5 days?

  26. strangeffect says:


    I don’t know how to replace my brakes on my car, does it mean I deserve to get ripped off?

    Absolutely not. However, if you’re a reader of this site, you would likely know not to bring your car to Shitty Awful Brake Eff-ups Express after so many posts about their shitty, awful, effed-up services.

  27. opsomath says:

    Look, we all understand that BB is a lousy source of computer repair, but sometimes it so happens that a person knows just enough to understand the problem, but is not confident enough (or doesn’t have enough free time) to fix it themselves.

    Whatever the OP’s reason for patronizing the store in the first place, the simple fact is that he paid them for a service they failed to provide, and could easily have led to a major problem for him. I seriously doubt it’s a conspiracy to acquire a free external HDD. That’s…a bit of a convoluted plan.

    The amateurish nature of the screwup just makes the story more believeable. I can totally see some marginally-competent college kid with an IT major clicking and dragging, and failing to distinguish between a Windows shortcut and the file it references.

  28. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot says:

    So if my Grandmother, who only understands enough about computers to be able to do her email, check her lottery tickets, and play some games on her favorite sites ends up with a virus on her computer its her fault, and she should KNOW how to use google and virus removal tools on her own. She should also KNOW how to back up her computer because heaven forbid, “everybody knows” you can’t trust computer technicians to perform the actual procedures they advertise, shame on her!!!

    Blaming the Op is REALLY getting old here. Not everybody is a freaking computer genius. Some might KNOW how to do something but think that it would be safer if somebody who supposedly does it for a living does it for them. Peace of mind and all that. Heck why not blame him for owning a computer in the first place since that’s what predisposed him to being lied to and taken advantage of?

    *shakes head in amazement*

  29. mike says:

    @The_IT_Crone: I agree. Not everyone is super computer literate…which is why Geeksquad and the like have a great market. People don’t want to touch their computers and so they want some professional to do it. I’m the same way with cars: don’t understand how it works; just know how to do the basic stuff.

    Everyone should know how to back up data. It’s a relatively simple task and there are literally dozens of programs that automate this for you if you are really out of your league.

  30. sleze69 says:

    Sounds like GS owes him a refund at the minimum. An apology and some freebies would be nice.

  31. EyeHeartPie says:

    @The_IT_Crone: If he was tech-savvy enough to feel comfortable restoring his system by himself, he should be tech-savvy enough to know how to work a plug-and-play external HD and drag and drop the files he wants to save to it.

  32. HOP says:

    HERE’S BEST BUY AGAIN…..geez…they still get suckers…..

  33. mike says:


    I can totally see some marginally-competent college kid with an IT major clicking and dragging, and failing to distinguish between a Windows shortcut and the file it references.

    That’s part of the problem: they are hiring people who don’t demonstrate any skills. Any real technician worth their salt will realize, “Wow! That folder copied awfully fast. I wonder what happened.”

    It could have been an honest mistake because even the best technicians can overlook something. But my bet is on the fact that Geek Squad really isn’t hiring technicians.

    I demanded at least $18 / hour for Circuit City to hire me. They would only pay me $13, which was the highest hourly wage they could give me.

  34. dequeued says:

    WHY WHY WHY do people use Geek Squad?

  35. sncreducer says:

    @Ben Popken: Weak, indeed.

    Why does this OP deserve your special thunder-from-the-Consumerist-gods protection? Is this going to become a regular feature? Will you publish criteria about how you determine which OPs are unimpeachable and which will be subjected to the typical commenter wrath? Is Mike, like, a drinking buddy of yours?

    I wasn’t going to go all crazy blaming anyone here, but seriously – if you’re any kind of Consumerist reader, as you’ve labeled Mike here, you know that Geek Squad is totally and completely untrustworthy. So what has prompted your petty despot threat in this case?

  36. The problem with geek squad is that the good techs realize that they’ll never make as much as they’re worth there, and as such, they leave. I’ve been saying that for years.

    Next off, here’s a backing up guide for 99% of people out there.

    If you have xp, and you want to make a backup, these are the likely 4 folders you have all your shit in.

    c:documents and settingsYOURUSERNAMEMy Documents
    c:documents and settingsYOURUSERNAMEFavorites
    c:documents and settingsYOURUSERNAMEDesktop
    c:documents and settingsYOURUSERNAMELocal SettingsApplication DataMicrosoftOutlook*.pst (these are your outlook PST files)

    This is a general guide. I’m assuming that you understand that ‘YOURUSERNAME’ means ‘Your username’, and that if you’ve created other folders to store your shit, you know of them and are going to grab them. These are the default locations for just about everything you save.

    No need to thank me.

    Also, BB fucked this dude and should make it right.

  37. DoubleEcho says:

    @G-16: I know how to change my own oil and I have the equipment to do it. That doesn’t keep me from taking it to an oil change shop sometimes (especially during the winter) to have it done hassle-free. And that’s exactly what should have happened – Geek Squad should have done what the OP paid for, hassle free. Verifying the backup should have fallen on the Geek Squad tech’s shoulders before the PC left the shop (and I have to say, 2-3 days for a backup is way too long. You can let a PC sit there on a bench for a few hours while stuff copies over and still keep an eye on it).

    Bottom line – OP paid for a service, and the OP should have had the service performed. Since he did not get what he paid for, how can you blame him?

  38. Coelacanth says:

    Chargeback – Service not as advertised.

  39. Computer maintenance is the new car maintenance, and Geek Squad is the new Jiffy Lube. We can’t blame people for going there because its the most visible and advertised in the market. We can spread the word, though, and encourage the rise of computer mechanics to bring local competition. Hell, that sounds like a good idea for a new career. So long, suckers!

  40. It’s good to know that if I ever need help copying desktop shortcuts Geek Squad will be there for me.

  41. snowburnt says:

    Reader Mike should not have ever thought he would accomplish anything by walking into best buy customer support.

  42. snowburnt says:

    @RamV10: or to make it even easier, just backup c:documents and settings(your username)

  43. Zclyh3 says:

    How hard is it to backup your hard drive? Hell, you can use Acronis True Image to back up your entire hard drive as an image, then take that image and place it into your new hard drive to read it.

    If you want, you could make an exact copy of it onto the external with a couple of clicks. I’m surprised the OP even paid for this service. I’m even shocked to see the OP give business to Geek Squad.

  44. Concerned_Citizen says:

    Just be happy they didn’t run the restore disk themselves and go get your money back.

  45. Starfury says:

    Every time I read one of these “Geek Squad screwed up my computer” stories I can’t help but think “Why didn’t the person that owned the computer learn how to do basic maintenance?”

    Backing up files isn’t that much work or very hard to do. What really fries me is people will pay GS/Firedog big $$$ to do this but when your friend the techie fixes things they expect it to be free.

  46. AustinTXProgrammer says:

    If he knew enough to detect the problem I would have expected he knew enough to do it himself.

    I believe he expected them to back up his entire computer, and it was sold to him on that basis.

  47. jmuskratt says:

    OP had it coming. You saw how he was dressed.

  48. battra92 says:

    Instead of Geek Squad, hunt out a high school geek. They are usually cheaper and can always use the money.

    But also, now that you have the external hard drive, it’s the best time to start a good backup method. Lifehacker has some great stories up on there as well as some on anti-virus. That way you won’t ever need to take it out again.

  49. battra92 says:

    @Starfury: Yeah. I worked at a college helpdesk and the students paid us NOTHING to fix their computers. Some basically wanted me to perform hardware mods and everything.

    I do help out friends and family for their PCs when I can. For acquaintances they have to be hot.

  50. Snullbug says:

    Maybe the OP wasn’t computer savvy (although he proved he could diagnose what Geek Squad failed to do and remedy it himself), maybe he didn’t have time to do it himself and needed it done in a timely matter, maybe he just wanted the convenience of someone else doing it for him. That’s all irrelevant, what is relevant is that here we have a guy familiar enough with Consumerist to post his tale of woe who still went to BB. How could you be on this site for more than a casual look and not be aware of the screwing you’re likely to get by the Geek Squad?

  51. Gokuhouse says:

    @G-16: I agree with the second part of your post, bringing in only the CPU was kinda dumb. He should have brought in the hard drive at least. :)

  52. Trai_Dep says:

    @Ben Popken: Whoo whoo! Hopefully, there’ll be more of Dad Ben keeping the Consumerist safe for conscientious commentators!
    Would love to see a return of a vengeful Hammer of Ban here. It’d make Consumerist a much more readable, on-topic and valuable blog.

  53. mavrc says:

    @Neecy: You’re taking two unrelated things and comparing them unfairly.

    Removing a virus can be an impressive technical challenge for an experienced user. It would be difficult to expect the average computer user to know how to go about the removal process.

    Backing up your data should be a normal, common process that happens on some regular, repeating cycle. If anyone can be expected to review their bank balance and transactions (not sure what to call “balancing your checkbook” for those of us who don’t write checks anymore) then anyone should be expected to know how to back up their own data. Even if you’d prefer a repair shop do it once in a while for you, you should be able to do it on your own, and you should be doing it regularly.

  54. JoeTan says:

    Another example of people getting screwed for paying for a service. I don’t understand how this is even allowed. Backing up a hard drive is the equivalent to an oil change and these imbeciles are supposed to be “the pros”???

  55. haoshufu says:

    Gee Squid.
    We really don’t have enough bad stories as BB’s Gee Squid has not been majorly revamped or dismissed. No matter how bad a service they provide or how bad a job they do, as long as it is making money for BB, what does the management care?

  56. Noris159 says:

    @mavrc: No, these posts aren’t getting old. Going to Geek Squad is like being in an abusive relationship. You knew what you were getting into when you signed up. However, these articles are necessary. New Consumerist readers won’t know that Geek Squad is evil. If you signed up to read Consumerist today, would you know that Best Buy is bad? Don’t assume that everybody reads this blog every day, day in and day out.

    @Ben Popken: Great. Make Consumerist just like Kotaku where if you voice any disagreement with the blog or the article, it’s an instant ban because in the Kotaku world, alternative opinion = trolling. Of course, the voice of dissension is usually solo BECAUSE all the other voices have been banned.

  57. Breach says:

    Geek squad is total shit. Computers are like cars, dont let anyone work on them that you have not researched and can trust.

  58. Tzepish says:

    @sncreducer: I’ll answer your questions here for Ben:


    There are many posts on Consumerist where blaming the OP makes sense, or is at least somewhat reasonable, or is a stretch but not too much of a stretch. But here, there’s simply no reasonable explanation for blaming the OP except trolling or shilling.

  59. SharkD says:

    There is an expectation upon the part of the consumer that Best Buy’s computer technicians know what they are doing.

    Given every single experience I’ve had walking into a Best Buy, my expectation is that a large percentage of Best Buy “experts” suffocate on an annual basis, as they forget to breathe.

    How in the world does someone come to expect that Best Buy’s “technicians” know what they’re doing? They’re just as poorly trained as the rest of Best Buy’s cracker-jack sales staff, they just get uglier shirts.

    Besides, how difficult is it to drag and drop the files yourself (or, better yet, run an antivirus agent)?

  60. Ben Popken says:

    @Ben Popken: It wasn’t the 21st person who said people who go to Geek Squad are total maroons who convinced me not to go there, it was the 22nd! Seriously, the effect of a pile of “Store is known bad, therefore we now humiliate OP” posts is mainly to discourage other people from sending in their letters. Who would seek help from such an unforgiving mob?