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I can't access my own files that have been encrypted using Windows XP Professional encryption option.

This is because I deleted %USERPROFILE%\Application Data\Microsoft.

It seems that this folder contained some key/crypto information for decrypting the files.

Is there anything I can do? I am still logged in as the same user that created the encrypted files. Any access to them results in an "access denied" message.

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4 Answers

Microsoft does protect well your files, so you really need the key to read the files. Point.

First, try to find your files in the Recycle Bin, or try to restore your system to before you deleted the files (if still possible).

Next, try to find your deleted files, by using a file-recovery product such as PC INSPECTOR File Recovery. It can find even files not saved in the Recycle Bin.

At last, you can use a costly product called Advanced EFS Data Recovery, which will even search your hard-disk sector-by-sector for the keys. An evaluation version is available. In any case, I suggest not to write/edit files on this computer until you've exhausted all avenues of recovery.

Another less well-known product (but still costly) is EFS Key, demo available. Always use the demo, since I rather doubt that any magic wand solution is possible. The EFS encryption is rather tough!

If you manage to recover the keys, then in the future follow the advice given in these tutorials:
Back up Encrypting File System (EFS) certificate
How to back up the recovery agent Encrypting File System (EFS) private key

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if it is the decryption key that you have deleted, then your only chance is to use an undelete tool to try to recover the files.

when you join a domain, you can set a policy to allow domain admins to decrypt files encrypted by users, but it probably needs the key file from the PC to do this.

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Try a system restore.

As this system folder is contained within your profile folder, it should be restored. It skips documents folders such as My Documents or My Music, but this one should have been included.

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If the files still exist, you can access them through a Linux boot. Try ubuntu via a live CD and you won't make any changes to your Windows system.

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