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When I installed Win8 Developer Preview over my WinXP, it produced a Windows.old that contained the old "Program Files" folder among other things.

After a few weeks of mucking around with W8DP not-supporting some of my hardware, I sold the PC, while keeping the harddisk.

Now when I connect the harddisk to my new PC (running Win7) via a USB-SATA adapter, everything appears to be present except for most of the contents of the Windows.old folder. Explorer shows it as zero bytes. There is just one chain of folders inside Windows.old: F:\Windows.old\Users\Bob\AppData\Roaming\Macromedia\Flash Player\#SharedObjects\AXKPGGN6\\av\video

I have tried taking ownership using this, but there is no difference.

Properties of the harddisk shows the space that used to be occupied by the Windows.old folder as free. (Same according to WinDirStat).

Have I somehow permanently lost the files?

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Yes. If the folder is empty, then there are no files there anymore and unless they're all in your recycle bin (don't bother looking, they're not - your recycle bin isn't big enough), you'll need forensic software to recover the files if you need them back.

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Sounds like you have probably lost the files but you may like to try Recuva -

It's free and I've used it to good effect. Definitely worth a try if you are only looking to recover a few key files.

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Your computer could have had some kind of error because normally what would happen if you installed onto of another Windows after doing it once, you'd achieve another Windows.old folder probably with a #1 or #2 added or something.

Did you happen to forget you copied your Windows.old files/folders somewhere else & just not remember where it went? I wouldn't discount it because my parents did exactly that when Windows 7 came out.

If not, you could try looking into data recovery software. Although, it usually only works when you don't save & it doesn't change the indentations (secretly undeleted data) in the HDD platter.

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