HolidayBuyer's Guide

Windows Legacy OS forum

General discussion

Desktop files disappear

by TONGSyaBASS / January 26, 2008 11:05 PM PST

Firstly, this is not a problem of "Show desktop icons".
The files themselves have disappeared from the desktop and from C:\Documents and Settings\etc.
For a week now my girlfriend's desktop has been empty apart from 3 shortcuts (a game, firefox and aim) and the recycle bin. One day she turned on her computer to find that all the other dozens of shortcuts and files had vanished from her desktop. Why these 4 items in particular survived I have no idea.
She put some new shortcuts on the desktop and following a reboot these disappeared (leaving the same 4).
Yesterday when I looked in C:\Documents and Settings\etc\Desktop it seemed that all the files and folders were still there (as far as she can remember). I told her just to back everything up and then I'd have a proper look at it. Unfortunately she copied everything she wanted to backup to the desktop and then turned the computer off. GAH!
So now those files have disappeared from the desktop. However this time they are also missing from C:\Documents and Settings too.
Does anyone have any idea how I can recover these files?
I have not yet attempted to restore the system to an earlier point. I thought I should wait until I get some input.
Thanks in advance for any suggestions.

OS: XP Professional Version 2002
CPU/Ram: Pentium 4 2.4GHz / 1GB

Discussion is locked
You are posting a reply to: Desktop files disappear
The posting of advertisements, profanity, or personal attacks is prohibited. Please refer to our CNET Forums policies for details. All submitted content is subject to our Terms of Use.
Track this discussion and email me when there are updates

If you're asking for technical help, please be sure to include all your system info, including operating system, model number, and any other specifics related to the problem. Also please exercise your best judgment when posting in the forums--revealing personal information such as your e-mail address, telephone number, and address is not recommended.

You are reporting the following post: Desktop files disappear
This post has been flagged and will be reviewed by our staff. Thank you for helping us maintain CNET's great community.
Sorry, there was a problem flagging this post. Please try again now or at a later time.
If you believe this post is offensive or violates the CNET Forums' Usage policies, you can report it below (this will not automatically remove the post). Once reported, our moderators will be notified and the post will be reviewed.
Collapse -
Re: Desktop files disappear
by Tufenuf / January 27, 2008 12:10 AM PST
Collapse -
Additional information
by TONGSyaBASS / January 27, 2008 6:13 AM PST

Additional information:
I just restarted the computer myself (probably should have done this earlier but I was informed by the user that there weren't any unusual messages...)
This is the message on start up:
"Windows cannot load the locally stored profile. Possible causes of this error include insufficient security rights or a corrupt local profile. If this problem persists, contact your network administrator.

DETAIL - An I/O operation initiated by the registry failed unrecoverably. The registry could not read in, or write out, or flush, one of the files that contain the system's image of the registry. "

Collapse -
That's a bad sign.
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / January 27, 2008 6:15 AM PST
In reply to: Additional information

Time to check you have all important files you can't replace off the machine and then run a disk drive test program.


Collapse -
Before panicking ...
by Edward ODaniel / January 28, 2008 10:59 AM PST
In reply to: Additional information

can you log in using a different account (such as the ADMINISTRATOR account)?

Although I agree with Bob that the potential of a drive problem is there and that the drive should be checked with manufacturer's diagnostics, it is also fairly common to get corrupted profiles for other reasons.

If you can log in with the ADMINISTRATOR account (XP Home requires you to boot to safe mode to access it) you can create new profiles (user accounts) and transfer the old desktop settings, files, etc from the old corrupt profile into the new.

Collapse -
Already tried
by TONGSyaBASS / February 2, 2008 10:46 PM PST
In reply to: Before panicking ...

I've already tried checking out the Documents and Settings folder using the Administrator account and using the DOS shell. Unfortunately the files don't appear to be there.

Collapse -
I just had the same problem
by Chuckabob / September 8, 2008 11:44 AM PDT

This same problem just happened to me. All of a sudden, without rebooting, half of my desktop Icons and all of my desktop files are gone. They are not in the recycle bin. They are nowhere on the computer - just vanished. I rebooted - same thing. I tried restoring to a previous restore point, but none of them will restore. I checked that hidden files are viewed. If anyone has found a way to get the files back, I'd love to hear from them. I'm running XP Pro SP2.

Collapse -
Re: I just had the same problem
by Tufenuf / September 8, 2008 9:55 PM PDT
Collapse -
Desktop files gone
by Chuckabob / September 9, 2008 1:16 PM PDT

I checked that - the Desktop cleanup wizard creates an icon on the desktop with the cleaned up items in it. No such icon is there. I did searches on teh entire computer for some of the files that were lost, but found none of them. The recycle bin has none of them. I was able to do a system restore from safe mode. All the icons came back, as did the folders I had on the desktop, but the folders contain no files. Any files I had on the desktop have vanished.

Collapse -
recovering lost files
by x5zero / September 12, 2008 10:33 AM PDT

Hi Chuckabob,

Just a day ago I have experienced same thing as you did, and it seems that whatever happening just cleans our completely "Documents and Settings" folder for some unknown reason. I was able to recover most of my files by running freeware data recovery tool - PC Inspector File Recovery found at

I will try to do some online research to find out what could have caused such spontaneous delete and update this thread if I find something.

Collapse -
Same thing happen to me!
by lilpep4ever / January 30, 2009 1:49 PM PST

My laptop is a Dell, I think its also 2002. Is this like a zune apocalypse as well?

My files are, like yours, in a folder Harddrive: desktop and settings: Cutie: cutie's desktop.

And my background became the default Dell blue background...
Some programs remained on my desktop.

What should I do next? Back up everything? But that'll take ages...

Popular Forums
Computer Newbies 10,686 discussions
Computer Help 54,365 discussions
Laptops 21,181 discussions
Networking & Wireless 16,313 discussions
Phones 17,137 discussions
Security 31,287 discussions
TVs & Home Theaters 22,101 discussions
Windows 7 8,164 discussions
Windows 10 2,657 discussions


Cameras that make great holiday gifts

Let them start the new year with a step up in photo and video quality from a phone.