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XP User lost desktop and programs. Will not restore properly

My wife says her Dell Inspiron E1505's Win xp desktop disappeared, and she had a new one that is not the same and could not find her e-mail. I checked. True. Her user account no longer has any documents in it at all (she is a profuse e-mailer)and even the Outlook Express program does not show up in her program list. Most of her very many desktop icons/links are missing as well. I opened up the system admin. user account and found that Outlook Express shows up in that program list and it works; so it is still in the computer. I have tried to restore the computer in her user name twice using different reference times, but even the previous day's set-up is not there. Anyone have any ideas? She wants to throw it away.

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Have you run any 'anti' programs

In reply to: XP User lost desktop and programs. Will not restore properly

As a start, try one or all of the following free online scans, get rid of whatever they find:
A-Squared On Line Trojan Scan --
BitDefender On Line Scan --
Ewido On Line Scan --
F-Secure On Line Scan --
House Call Anti-Virus
Good luck,

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In addition to the online scans recommended.

In reply to: XP User lost desktop and programs. Will not restore properly

Tell us more about the missing documents.

Use My Computer or any Windows Explorer window to navigate to C:\Documents and Settings.

Is there a folder there for your wife's account name?

Are there any other folders there with other account names? Depending on the setup there should be something like;
All Users
Default User, (may be hidden)
Username, (that is, your wife's account's name).

Are there any others? If so, do they have similar names as your wife's account?

Open your wife's account folder and find the My Documents folder. Open that, can you find any of her files in there, or in any of the sub-folders inside?

If your wife can remember any of the file names of her documents, what does a search find, (Start > Search)?


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Thanks Mark

In reply to: In addition to the online scans recommended.

I've run the first two of your virus check programs and they found just 8 cookies which I deleted. In response to your second posting, yes. In her "My Documents" folder are just two documents - 1 is entitled Error5Check1kb and the other is URL1kb. The latter refers to a more code) website. The former refers to the last done live update check.
There is nothing else in the folder. There should be hundreds of files. What do you think? Is this another reason not to like symantec?

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Yes that doesn't look good.

In reply to: Thanks Mark

Did you find any other account name folders under Documents and Settings?

This is what I am thinking. Perhaps your wife's account became corrupted, and so Windows created another username account to allow continued access. Often, if that happens, the user then has to "Take Ownership" of all the files and folders in the old account, if they are still there and there is specific guidance for that available.

However it isn't looking good if you cannot even see all those files in her account's My Documents folder.

There are possible options, involving data recovery, but these are expensive as they mean taking the machine or the hard disk to specialists. Even then nothing is guaranteed. If you or your wife wants to do that, then that computer should not be used any more. Each time it is used, more data will get overwritten.

There are free or shareware data recovery tools available. Some may be trial ware, (you try it for free), but I have never had any experience with them and I don't know how effective they might be. Google Data Recovery will start you off on a search.


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Thanks, Mark

In reply to: Yes that doesn't look good.

I finally called Dell and had about a 3 hour session with their tech support person who was the fastest computer user I have ever witnessed. Unbelievable! Anyway, using remote control of my computer, he tried many things but ultimately created another user and then used the take ownership process. That helped rebuild part of her user account, but we lost her documents, contacts and e-mails.
Thanks for your follow-up.

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Just a hunch

In reply to: Thanks Mark

Try going to files and folders.

Change it to show hidden files and folders. Does anything come back? I'm thinking that maybe somehow the properties on the folder were changed to hidden. If it was the main folder, then that could account for some of the icons becoming missing.


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In reply to: XP User lost desktop and programs. Will not restore properly

I hate to say it, but there's a good possibility that her files are lost. The Windows restore function are still fairly infantile. Microsoft still has a lot to do before that particular function can do the things we ask of it.

I've seen the same thing happen a number of times, and they fall into a couple of categories. The first is accidental, this one, an aggressive cleaning of the hard drive using the disk cleanup tool can sometimes be used with the settings to aggressive and files disappear. The second is virus attack where something was downloaded via e-mail attachment, or other download. The third is where Windows gets (for lack of a more sophisticated term) the hick-ups, where it dumps the ram to an incorrect place on the hard drive (fairly common problem actually) and files are corrupted and lost.

The best thing that I've found to do is to search the entire drive for any remaining traces of the files that may be left, and start over.

It's a good idea to make backups that are saved to removable disk and put safely away.

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