Solved: Missing User Folder from "Documents and Settings" Folder

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ahrneely

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Feb 3, 2011
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Okay, here's the rundown as best as I can remember it...

Several years ago (around 10, if I'm approximating), I purchased a slew of components and built my first computer from scratch. Since that time I have run through four power supplies. It seems as though some other component is causing these power supply failures. This is not the purpose of this post, however (but some back story).

Now, I am not the most technically savvy person in the world, and after the second failure, I took the computer to a "professional". While I don't know what he did in its entirety, I did notice a change that confused me. However, as I had decided to be an end user from this point forward and not a techie person, I didn't question it. The change... I could access the user account "Documents" folder from the "My Computer" window but not from within the "Documents and Settings" folder under the root directory.

In other words, if I were to double-click the "My Computer" icon, I would be given the usual options of hard disk drives and CD drives as well as the "Shared Documents" folder and the "_Username_ Documents" folder for the user logged in. (That would by Ahr Neely's Documents for the Ahr Neely user, and as there was only every one user created on the computer it was the only documents folder that should have existed.)

However, if I were to, from the "My Computer" window, open the C:\ drive and navigate to "Documents and Settings", I would only have two options to choose from. "All Users" and "Default User" (ghosted as a hidden folder). Neither of these folders contain the content and media files that the "Ahr Neely's Documents" contain from the "My Computer" window.

On either of my other PCs, when venturing into the "Documents and Settings" folder I have four folder options listed: "Administrator", "All Users", "Default User" (ghosted out as a hidden folder), and "Ahr Neely" (the only user created on the PC).

So, it wasn't a problem having the PC set up this way as long as it was running fine. However, yet again, the power supply has taken a dump on me and so, I've had it with this computer. Its lasted me several years and I've decided to purchase a store bought computer (building my own was a fun experiment, but in the end it didn't yield a cheaper/better computer).

Now that I'm moving on, I have pulled the old hard drives out of that PC and stuck them in an external enclosure (you know, its important to keep the old data). However, I cannot, for the life of me, find any evidence that the files in the "Ahr Neely's Documents" folder (which include the 'My Pictures', 'My Music', 'My Movies', or 'Downloads' folders) anywhere on this hard drive.

I have performed several different searches through all folders (including hidden files and folders) and have come up with nothing.

So, after that long and drawn out explanation, I'm wondering if anyone has any idea how to track down this elusive folder. Is there a way to find it? Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you

Ahr Neely
 
Joined
Sep 15, 2004
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Hello and welcome to TSG.

If you still have access to the My Documents shortcut, right click it and look at Properties then note the location of the Target and that will be where the files are. If the old User Account for Ahr Neely was password protected, you may have problems accessing the files in the new slaved setup so I hope you still have the original hardware in one piece.
 

ahrneely

Thread Starter
Joined
Feb 3, 2011
Messages
6
Thanks for the welcome. Unfortunately, I no longer have access to the shortcut (or, at least, I don't know that I have access). Since the custom build died, I pulled the drives out and shoved them into an external enclosure, so Windows is no longer booting from said drive.

Perhaps the "My Computer" shortcut is hidden somewhere in the Windows system folder, but I haven't been able to find it. To stave off any comments of, "Just put the old drive in the new computer," let me explain that the old drive is a SATA drive and the new (store bought) computer has only IDE connections - not a single SATA port. Since the external enclosure utilizes a USB connection, I can't tell the BIOS to boot from it instead, so I was hoping it would be as simple as using Windows Explorer's Search option to search for key words like "My Pictures" or "My Music" as these files are always located in the _USERNAME_ Documents folder. But, no success.

Did I mention in the original post that I was using Windows XP? That might help with any troubleshooting.

After spending the evening looking into it, I'm beginning to think these files are lost. Not a huge concern (except for the files that were located on the "Desktop" portion of the file system - that would not be fun to loose). Perhaps I will continue to search further and see what I can come up with. Any further suggestions for the pros here would be greatly appreciated.

I guess here's a strange question. Would there be a way to boot a second copy of Windows XP in the already running Windows XP on the new system. Let me clarify. If I allow the BIOS to boot as normal on the new system (as the USB connected external drive can't be booted to, as far as I know) and then boot Windows off of the external drive once the original copy of Windows has booted (in a window of its own, perhaps). That would allow me to find the shortcut and locate its target.

I did a quick search on Google and found information on booting Windows XP as a second OS for a Windows 7 machine. I'll see if I can't tweak that at all to make it work for me, but again, any suggestions would be helpful.

As an aside, it almost seems as if the files stored in the user documents folder don't exist. I compiled a search for a specific video file I knew to have been on the desktop of the original system. Couldn't find it. Then I ran a blanket search for all videos (using wild cards) and only returned tutorial videos for certain installed software but not the videos I know to be in the Desktop folder. Its very weird.

Thanks
 
Joined
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Messages
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You could probably see if the files are still there by checking to see if the figures stack up. XP should take about 4Gb and Programme Files about the same - how much space is in use? A free utility such as Recuva from http://www.pirifrom.com would help you find any lost files which are wholly or partially recoverable. Try a more specific search if you can recall the name of a particular file or picture.

I can't see how they could have disappeared, taking their main folder with them - unless someone deleted the account and clicked on Delete Files as well. Maybe a Registry change was made that set them up as SuperHidden.
 

ahrneely

Thread Starter
Joined
Feb 3, 2011
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6
Thanks for the info. Here is some of the info I have collected based on your numbers.

Windows: Size: 8.25 GB, Size on Disk: 6.69 GB (not sure how that makes sense - this is just from right-clicking the Windows folder and selecting "Properties". Programs: Size: 14.3 GB, Size on Disk: 11.7 GB.

How is it that there is such a large variance?

Anyway, the total disk size is 111 GB, of which 108 GB are used, leaving 3 GB free. So, with 14.3 GB for Program Files and 8.25 GB for Window (which seems huge), that leaves 86 GB of "other" stuff. I guess I should go folder by folder trying to find a discrepancy in file size.

Any ideas on why Windows would be so huge, or why there would be such a discrepancy in Size and Size on Disk?

So... after doing some preliminary checking, this is what I have noticed:

The files and folders located in the root directory of the drive in question are as follows:

ATI - 59.1 MB / 50.0 MB Size on Disk
Documents and Setting - 725 MB / 696 MB Size on Disk
f77045edb41df651f1f3562175f072d4 - 0 bytes / 0 bytes Size on Disk
Intel - 621 KB / 172 KB Size on Disk
logs - 0 bytes / 0 bytes Size on Disk
MSOCache - 598 MB / 512 MB Size on Disk
Program Files - 14.3 GB / 11.7 GB Size on Disk
Qoobox - 1.19 MB / 1.27 MB Size on Disk
Temp - 0 bytes / 0 bytes Size on Disk
Windows - 8.25 GB / 6.69 GB Size on Disk
Boot.bak - 211 bytes / 4.0 KB Size on Disk
cmldr - 254 KB / 256 KB Size on Disk
combofix.txt - 19.8 KB / 20.0 KB Size on Disk
drmHeader.bin - 3.44 KB / 4.0 KB Size on Disk

When selecting all files and folders in the root directory, and right-clicking and choosing "Properties" I get a total size of 23.9 GB / 19.6 GB Size on Disk. However, if in the "My Computer" folder, I right-click the icon for the drive in question and select "Properties", I get the 111 GB Capacity with 108 GB Used information.

So... as the kids say, "WTF" Any help is appreciated.

Thanks.
 

ahrneely

Thread Starter
Joined
Feb 3, 2011
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6
UPDATE: I got into the Registry and HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Mircrosoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\Advanced I changed the key ShowSuperHidden to a value of 1 allowing me to see more files.

Now, I do see a ghosted out folder in the "Documents and Settings" folder under the root directory that is the missing folder, however it is ghosted (like any hidden file or folder, I suppose). However, when selecting properties of the folder it shows a size of 0 bytes. It also will not allow me open the folder. I get a message "Access Denied" when trying to open the folder.

I will continue to research and experiment and will keep posting my results hoping someone will read my progress and will have a brilliant idea.

Thanks again.
 
Joined
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I get a message "Access Denied" when trying to open the folder.

You've certainly come a long way and although the figures don't stack up, at least they showed your files were in there somewhere. I suppose my 4Gb apiece for Windows and PF was a bit low but it's how I like to see my own systems. The access denied thing is probably because your User Account was password protected. In those circumstances, Linux can help because it isn't so squiffy about Windows file protection and will probably show the files to you and let you copy them out.

A lot of Linux systems will run as a LiveCD in your working system without impacting on it. I use PCLinuxOS from http://www.pclinuxos.com but you might find another one on a magazine cover to save you downloading it. If you do download one, burn - not copy - it to a CD so it's bootable and when it fires up, there's a Computer icon which will show all the connected drives. Linux isn't all Command Line these days.

Part of the original problem here may have been that tiny amount of free hard disk space.:(
 
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Is the ghosted folder the same as the unghosted one, or is the icon different (It's possible that a symbolic link was made to a new location.)?

Try taking ownership of the ghosted folder:

How to take ownership of a file or folder in Windows XP

If you have Home edition, contrary to what those directions state, you can use thi:

XP Security Tab Home Edition

to make the security tab appear without a reboot. then use the "undo" file to restore the status quo.
 

ahrneely

Thread Starter
Joined
Feb 3, 2011
Messages
6
Thanks for all the help guys. I did end up going through and take ownership of the folder. While I still could not find a way to make the folder" unhidden" permanently, I was able to access the folder after taking ownership and extract (copy to a different, non-Windows System, folder and now my files are back. That drive will probably be reformatted and used as storage.

As far as the small amount of free space left on the drive, I guess I didn't even realize I was getting that close. I'll keep an eye on that in the future.
 
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Good work.

You can mark your thread "solved" using the button at the top of the page.
 

ahrneely

Thread Starter
Joined
Feb 3, 2011
Messages
6
Saga Lout: Could you explain a little bit about running your systems with a 4GB Windows folder? Keeping things streamlined and trimmed down is something that I romanticize about, but find it difficult to follow through on. For the most part, I install Windows (or any other software, for that matter) and leave those files alone. I don't know if I know how to trim things down enough to bring the folder sizes down that far.

To be honest, I do make sure I uncheck all of the stupid toolbars and such that try to install with other software. And I do go through and uninstall software that seems extra and unnecessary, but that doesn't mean I know how to do more than this, however.

I guess I was just looking for clarification on your methods.

Thanks
 
Joined
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Messages
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A new installation I put in, update to SP3 and about 96 subsequent updates runs out at 3.58Gb after removing all the clutter that comes with updating.

I suppose I'm stuck in the era of the £150 10Gb hard disk but when I move into the modern world where 1Tb can be bought for a third of that amount, I'll probably realise it doesn't matter so much now. :D I can't see how Windows can grow much over that level if the update clutter is kept down.

Programme Files is of course another matter and will be as large as your needs dictate. Most of the day to day clutter lives in various hidey-holes in Documents and Settings, of course.

Well done for all your work in this - you seem to have done a lot more than the help given.
 
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I suspect the System attribute was set on that folder, and your system was set to show only hidden files, not system files, which would explain why you weren't seeing it. That's the box on the View tab in Folder Options for Hide protected operating system files (Recommend). That has to be unchecked to see files and folders with the System attribute set.

As for why the "size on disk" was smaller, at some point you enabled NTFS Compression to compress the drive. These are normally shown in a blue color instead of black, unless you unchecked the Show encrypted or compressed NTFS files in color box, also on the View tab in Folder Options.
 
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