A pretty serious bug in Apple's latest Mac OS release - Snow Leopard - is seeing users lose all their personal files and settings.

As reported over on Neowin.net, users are stating that all their settings are being lost and the bulk of their personal data is disappearing - and the bug isn't exactly difficult to trigger.

It would appear that the issue is triggered by logging in under the 'guest' account built-in to the system and designed - somewhat ironically - to protect your personal data when allowing third parties temporary access to your system. If you log on as this account, there is a chance that when you log back in as yourself you'll find all data stored under /Users/username erased - permanently.

Indeed, users on the Apple forums are reporting that the data is permanently gone, beyond even the reach of specialist data recovery and unerase utilities. Once the bug is triggered, the only way to recover the data is to restore from a backup - and if you haven't got a backup, you're fresh out of luck.

It appears that users with the greatest chance of encountering this issue are those which performed an upgrade from Mac OS X Leopard to Snow Leopard, with users who bought their systems with Snow Leopard pre-installed far less likely to suffer data loss.

Users have been reporting the issue since the OS launched, but it's taken the news hitting the mainstream for Apple to acknowledge the problem: in a statement to CNet the company claims it is "aware of the issue, which only occurs in extremely rare cases, and we are working on a fix."

For now, the only way to ensure that your data is safe appears to be to disable the guest account completely - thus preventing anyone from logging in under those credentials and triggering the bug.

Are you surprised that a major issue like this got past Apple's QA, or does it confirm everything you've ever suspected about the company's priorities? Share your thoughts over in the forums.
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