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Delete System32 is a popular trolling scheme used to hoax inexperienced PC users into deleting the Windows system directory called System32. It is essential to the running of Windows OS and without it, the computer would not work at all.
The System32 file originally appeared in Windows 2000. As a trolling scheme, System32 is typically presented as a virus and instructions are given on how to delete it without prompting a warning message.
While it is likely that “Delete system32” scheme has been circulating online since the early 2000s, the trick became a well-known trolling device through its usage on 4chan in late 2006. The Google Insights graph indicates the search queries for “Delete System32” began to spike circa December 2006.
It is common for new users on trolling-friendly sites, such as /b/, to be told “Delete System32, your computer will go much faster” until the advice stacks up en masse. Due to the critical nature of the directory, there are safeguards programmed against deleting System32.
The idea of tricking PC users into deleting System32 files became widespread beginning in 2007 with the sudden popularity of search queries “@echo off” command, . The full .bat code for the trolling technique is a popular search on Google, but there is not enough volume for the search to appear on Google Insights. This also coincided with the popularity of searching for “System32 virus”, most of the searches for which originated in the Philippines.
Other Operating Systems
Windows is the only OS that has System32, but that does not mean people with other operating systems are not being trolled too. Trollers will often tell Mac and Linux users to open up their terminals and enter in a code (such as “sudo rm -rf /*”) that will then wipe their hard drives.
Another trolling technique, in use on the /g/ (technology) board of 4chan since 2010, involves the Ubuntu operating system. Trolls share the command dd if=/dev/zero of=/dev/sda bs=1M to troll less knowledgeable Ubuntu users into deleting their equivalent of System32. It has been claimed to help with defragging, firewalls, and for drivers.
Deltree (short for delete tree) is a command line command in Microsoft operating systems that deletes an entire subdirectory of files. It was originally introduced in MS-DOS 6, and was retained throughout all Windows versions based upon MS-DOS.
Though less popular in comparison to “delete System32” schemes, the Deltree command System32 but can create the same effect. Trolls would ask their victims to enter to following code in the command screen: “deltree /y c:\* . *” It is typically presented as an innocent command and unexperienced PC users can be easily misled into entering it.
Deltree isn’t present in Windows NT-based operating systems. There are alternative ways to achieve the same effect, but these aren’t as accessible as the original Deltree command. With the discontinuation of Deltree command in recent Windows OS systems, the popularity of deltree has dropped significantly, as seen in the Google Insights results below.
Tracking down when the trolling for “Delete System32” started is difficult as Google Insights only stretches back to 2004:
Likewise, the search history for “deltree” most likely pre-dated 2004 as it has since become a depreciated function.