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New Sounds plausible, sadly.
There apparently was a lot of clutter on the desktop, but it was mostly documents. (And based on operator skill level, that makes sense as grabbing video would be a couple of hoops too many to jump through.) Given that, the machine now has 120GB free space left so a lack of space seems unlikely to have been the cause.

It is bonkers that a cluttered desktop can stop unrelated applications from functioning properly (the mail database resides in another directory after all).
New (late to the party)
This was true, and widely known, even in pre-OS X days. I had a colleague who somehow contrived to drag a couple of thousand files onto his desktop, causing his (personal) Mac to go into a swoon from which it never revived. I’ll sometimes drag a web location icon onto the desktop, but I never allow more than half a dozen of these to accumulate. Seeing the typical Windows desktop with half the screen filled with neatly arrayed icons puts my teeth on edge. For the rest, yes, FTFF.

cordially,
     This just doesn't sound right - (scoenye) - (12)
         That does sound weird. -NT - (a6l6e6x)
         Is it possible "remove from the desktop" meant "delete this app"? -NT - (drook) - (1)
             Unless they did and forgot to mention that - (scoenye)
         Depends on what "dragged off the desktop" means - (malraux) - (8)
             A user who has now "learned" that when something is broken she needs to clear her desktop -NT - (drook) - (1)
                 Yep - (malraux)
             Possible - (scoenye) - (5)
                 Huh, that's a weird one then. -NT - (malraux)
                 Maybe it's related to this? - (Another Scott) - (3)
                     probably has to do with file handles in a directory maxing out - (boxley)
                     Sounds plausible, sadly. - (scoenye) - (1)
                         (late to the party) - (rcareaga)

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