Ok this is kind of an odd question:
What do Windows 7 (Home Premium) encrypted files (EFS) look like "from the outside"?
Now here is the story. An acquaintance of a freind of mine got a nasty virus / scareware. So I whipped out my PC technician cap and went to work on it. What I did was remove the drive from the laptop and put the drive into my external drive bay. I scanned the drive and yes it was loaded with stuff. That basically cured the infection and I could start the system back up.
To check if it cured the problem I wanted to see the system while running. There where two user accounts, on with a password and one without (both admin users !?!). So I logged into the unprotected user and cleaned up the residual issues, like proxy server to localhost in the browser config. Now I wanted to do the same for the password protected user.
What I noticed that from my system and the unprotected user account the files of the protected user looked garbled. The files are something like 12 random alphanum chars, but the folders looked ok. Naive as was thought this might be how encrypted files looked "from the outside". (I never use Microsoft's own security features, so how would I know. TrueCrypt is one big blob.)
Since the second user could not be reached, I though sod it and removed the password from the account. (That might have been a mistake, I know.) Now I did the same clean up tasks and all nice and fine; except for the files which where still "encrypted".
So I looked into many Windows Encrypted Files recovery posts and not all hope is lost, since I should be able to extract the certificate and with the password regain access to the files. Also note that windows did "only" prompt me that removing the password would be insecure, not that access to encrypted files would be lost, like it is claimed in most recovery articles. Resetting the password did not help and I gave up for the night.
The question that nagged me half of the last night was, what if the files are not encrypted, but the scare-ware encrypted / destroyed the files? I don't want to spend hours of work trying to recover files that are not recoverable. The ting is that the user does not remember turning it on and aren't the files marked in blue and the filename is readable?
Many thanks for input from users who have more knowledge about Windows EFS...