Okay, so technically this is old news, but with the recent announcement that The Elder Scrolls Online is switching to a one-time purchase and then free to play model, there is a lot of new interest in the game, so I wanted to make sure everyone knows about this so that they don’t go through what I just went through. Considering that Bethesda and Zenimax are still asking for $59.99 for the base game, a lot of people will be looking to get the game much cheaper through retail channels (I got it for less than $20), and therein lies the problem.
There is a major and frankly inexcusable bug present in the installer included with the on-disc version of The Elder Scrolls Online. Basically if you change the install path from “%systemdrive%Program FilesZenimax Online” to anything else that does not include the “Zenimax Online” subfolder, the installer will delete everything else in the folder you select. Depending on your folder of choice, that could be as severe as wiping an entire hard drive!
In my case, I ran the installer once, and then cancelled the installation to choose a different place to install. I then chose a folder called “Non-Platform” on the drive I use for games, because that folder is where I put games that are not tied to a digital distribution platform such as Steam or Origin. It was quite a surprise when I was browsing that folder later that day, and all that was there were 3 folders related to The Elder Scrolls Online. About a dozen games, including personal files like screenshots and videos, were gone without a trace. They were not in the Recycle Bin, and they could not be restored. They were simply gone. Well over 100GB of downloads and several tedious hours later, I was able to get the games running again, but my personal files are gone forever.
So yeah… if you’re planning on buying The Elder Scrolls Online, and you end up getting a retail copy to save a few bucks, be exceptionally careful with the on-disc installer. Before even running it, be sure to create the folder you want for the game manually. You should be okay if you select the folder you created during the installation process. And if you happen to have already bumped into this issue, be sure to open a ticket and let Bethesda and Zenimax know all about it. I did just that, though the response I got from the Elder Scrolls Online Team was disappointing:
“I would like to first apologize for this occurring, as I know it must be extremely frustrating, everyone has lost something at some point. As you described, this is linked with installing it in a custom location on your hard drive, I would advise against doing that in the future for all games, or specify a new and empty folder to avoid something getting overwritten during an install.
As it stands, we are not responsible for any data loss incurred during the install on your computer.”