The instructions provided by HP are how to take ownership of a file or folder, a solution to the 'access denied' error that can occur when you try to access files or folders under a different username (or a unusually modified one) than the one that created and/or had rights to it. Is the issue that you were receiving an 'access denied' error?
Based on how your question is worded, I'm guessing that's not the case, and that the HP rep misunderstood the problem. The way I'm reading it, it's not that you can't access the files but that they cannot be found. Is that correct? If so, my next question would be where were the photos stored? (In the My Pictures folder in the My Documents folder, in a folder on the desktop, or in another location?) Some locations, such as My Documents, are protected and left alone during a non-destructive system recovery, but others, such as the desktop, are usually fair game! (Note: That's also true for System Restore.) Also, while it said programs will be left in tact, that's not always correct...some programs will have to be reinstalled afterwards.
Basically, HP makes a generalization by stating that all files and programs will be left in tact, not noting the many exceptions very well, if at all. Thus, it's always wise to backup important data before performing any type of recovery, non-destructive or not.
Now, if you know the name of one of the files, you can try searching for it using Start->Search. Hopefully you'll find a match, showing you that all of your pictures are safe and in order. Unfortunately I don't think that will be the case. If the files cannot be found, you'll want to try file recovery software such as Active Undelete or directory Snoop. Note: The more you use4 the hard drive, the lesser the chance of recovery, as the data may be being overwritten.Thus, you should limit your activities and run such software ASAP.
After trying to install XP SP2, HP Pavilion a430n had severe problems. Performed non-destructive system recovery which was supposed to leave files & programs intact, but photo files cannot be accessed. Help from HP suggested the following
When a user creates multiple accounts and saves information onto each account, the information is stored under that account name. If a non-destructive system recovery is then run on the system, the customer cannot access the necessary files of the account, although the files are stored in each account.
In order to resolve this issue we need to change the security privileges of the folder to enable access to each of the folders. Follow these steps to gain access to the folders:
1. Restart computer in safe mode.
2. Log in as administrator.
3. Click Start and My Computer. Then, double-click the main hard drive ( C and Documents and Settings.
4. Right-click the folder name of the user account and click Properties.
5. Click Security, click advanced, click owner.
6. Place a check mark in Replace owner on subcontainers and objects
7. Click Apply, click "Yes" to the security message, click OK and OK again.
8. Restart the computer and access will be granted to all folders of the user accounts.
After following all the instructions, I still cannot locate the files. Any additional help or suggestions would be welcomed.