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My work laptop has experienced a weird kind of catastrophic data failure: After a standard reboot (following a Windows patchday update), my user profile directory was "reset" when I logged on to our university's domain. It looks like somehow the existing directory was lost for whatever reason, and the logon scripts built a new one - all my programs are still there, but all my personal files and application settings (everything that was in C:\Documents and Settings\myusername) are gone. My last backup is about two weeks old, so there are some files lost that I don't have a backup of.

Other symptoms: Explorer says that the HD is 35 % full, which (according to my memory) includes my personal files, so they might still be somewhere. I have used PhotoRec to recover deleted files; it found many old versions of files (that I had deleted previously), but apparently not my current versions. My next plan is to use PhotoRec to scan the entire HD for files because I suspect that the directory structure/file table (?) has been somehow damaged.

My question: Any other (better) ideas how I might go about this without risking further data loss? Is CHKDSK a good or a bad idea? Other tools I should try?

I'm specifically looking for .pptx and .wmv files. Most other stuff can be reconstructed from backup...

Update: I have checked the disk contents with SequoiaView: It reports that about 20 GB are in use whereas Explorer says that about 50 GB are in use. So I'm pretty confident that those files are still there, but not as "deleted" files, just inaccessible. Please help!

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up vote 1 down vote accepted

Make an image of the hard drive, this way you can try things like chkdsk without risk of further data loss.

You can also consider trying a Windows System Restore once you have an image backup of its current state.

If you have an IT department to consult with, I would do that for sure since it is a Domain account.

Did you do a properties of the original user folder? What does it say?

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Thanks for the ideas. I will definitely consult with our IT department on Monday. PhotoRec has, unfortunately, not been able to recover the files I was looking for. Good idea trying to make an image; but will it even backup space that is considered empty by the file system? – Tim Pietzcker Apr 30 '11 at 17:51
If you do a sector by sector image, it will back up everything, whether it is in the Master File Table or not, it was more of a way to return to what you had in case some of your recovery methods do not work, at least you can restore to a previous state. – Moab Apr 30 '11 at 18:13

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