Read this post even if you don’t intend to get Vista for years, or ever. E-discovery implications of this information are staggering.

LawTech Guru Jeff Beard gives us an expose`of the Shadow Copy feature of Microsoft Vista, along with information about a utility that solves part of the problems created. I was stunned, yes stunned, as i read this and frankly I really thought the category of Stupid Software Tricks from Microsoft had lost the ability to shock over the years. I was aware of the online chatter about this feature, but really hadn’t taken the time to read about it until Mother Nature gave me some time to catch up on my reading.

Read all of Jeff’s post. But here are some of the high points and some of my thoughts. Jeff says, "[n]umerous postings online have stated that by default, all versions of Vista automatically create shadow copies of your documents and other user data files and folders as part of the ‘System Restore’ feature." You can only stop this from happening if you turn off System Restore, but you may really need System Restore to repair your computer from time to time.

But there’s more. By default the amount of space dedicated to this feature is 15% of the drive’s size or 30% of available free space, whichever is smaller. As Jeff notes, on a 200GB hard drive that could be up to 30GB. But not all versions of Vista can access and retrieve these stored copies of files. Apparently, Vista Home Basic and Premium versions create these copies and fill a good part of your hard drive with the data, but you can’t touch it. Now for the Microsoft monolith this makes sense, right? Microsoft doesn’t pay for your hard drive space and every now needing to retrieve some of their lost data may learn that they can buy a more expensive version of Vista and possibly retrieve it. For the majority of Home Basic and Premium Vista users, it means that they have lost 15% of their hard drive space to a feature they will never use or even be aware exists.

But for lawyers and those concerned about privacy, there are big e-discovery implications especially if Vista ever really catches on. (We can all hope not, but at some point Microsoft will pull the plug on security support for XP. There’s too much money involved to think otherwise.) Then we could have a day when millions of home and small business computer systems maintain secret copies of the owner’s now-deleted documents. Law enforcement will certainly take note. There are implications for e-discovery- both for the inquiring lawyer who is told no such records exist and for the individual who represents that no such information exists on a computer, but is unaware of the hidden information on the PC.

Jeff mentions a utility that may help with some of this. But I want you to go to his post here to read about that since I haven’t looked at it yet. Part of this information is unverified, so we will just have to see. But Microsoft’s past actions make it believable.