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My data has gone mising!

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July 26, 2006 1:23:40 PM

I noticed yestereday that many of my personal files were seemingly randomly deleted on my home PC. The pattern is a bit odd, so I'll explain it as I saw it. I don't know anything about viruses or hackers, so I can't even begin to guess how this happened - I just know that I didn't directly delete these files.

So far, the only date I've noticed I've lost was all contained within My Documents.

1) ALL of my digital photographs! Thousands. I had them saved within My Pictures, organized through Picasa (a photo manager program, akin to iPhoto). The My Pictures folder itself was not deleted. Only all of the sub-folders that I had my pictures organized within. Curiously, the few scattered photo files I saved within the My Pictures folder directly (hence, not organized in any of these many sub-folders) were not deleted!?

2) I had a folder called "Writings" in which I saved many word documents I had created. Again, the same scenario - sub-folders ALL gone, but the few documents in the root directory unaffected. Note that my great bulk of word documents, saved within My Documents itself, were uneffected.

3) A 1/3 of my iTunes music - and very specifically, everything after U! iTunes organized all of the bands alphabetically in subfolders throughout My Music, and every band after the letter U has disappeared. No other band from any letter before U lost a single song.

This is curious, frustrating, and frightening. It seems like this sort of thing is very personal and deliberate - as if someone directly deleted the files from my computer. Can this be a pattern of a virus - my updated scanner detected nothing.

I have been able to find these files usinga data recovery program, but many are lost forever, and the data program that I used to find them now wants me to pay $100 to buy "credits" towards reclaiming the nearly 7 GB of data I lost? ANY suggestions on free, or at least cheaper, data recovery programs, where I could easily recover thousands of files? They are still there, or at least a lot of them are.

I'm running the most fully updated version of Windows XP Pro with their standard firewall.

More about : data mising

July 26, 2006 1:53:10 PM

How much free space did you have before everything disappeared? Is it the same as when you checked after they were gone?

Did you build this PC or buy it?

What programs are installed on your computer? What antivirus program are you using?

Have you visited any strange sites recently that you can recall?

What recovery program did you use to fid the lost files? Did it find all of them?

Do you have backups of all your data? It's a good idea to make backups.

If you manage to find everything, buy Norton Ghost or Nero and make backup images of your hard drive(s). That way, if anything happens, all your data can just be re-imaged to your hard drive through bootable DVDs/CDs.
July 26, 2006 1:57:43 PM

When I lost a lot of files (itunes) i used DiskInternals, and all my files were recovered - I used this above anything else because it works on Windows 2003 Server (MSDN Development Server) without the 1000% markup everyone else charges for server versions...

Have you run a scandisk? Maybe a problem with the fat table.. Never had a corrupt disk before so not sure if the symptoms match.



SinclairSpeccy
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July 26, 2006 2:21:58 PM

You might also try a knoppix live cd, I've actually found it to recover disappearing files from NTFS and FAT32 partitions. Only downfall is it can't write to NTFS without screwing things up, so if you have ANOTHER hard drive that is blank or has enough room: convert it to FAT32. Then boot up the linux cd and check your hard drives for your files. If they're there then your life was just made very easy! :)  The beautiful thing is the live cd will mount the filesystem as read only so it can't make it worse by overwriting data, or messing up your boot drive entirely.

Another note is: if you can, STOP USING THAT COMPUTER. Every time you start it up you run the risk of overwriting the sections on the harddrive where that data was stored. The more times this happens as you can imagine, the harder data recovery will get without paying some company out the a$$ for data recovery service.

If linux isn't a viable option for you I've used a program in the past called Stellar NTFS(I think... it's Stellar *somthing*). I don't know how much it costs, but I do know that it can be cracked if you don't mind piracy.


EDIT: In regards to cause, how old is the drive? it is very possible you have bad sectors. If you get all your data backed up you might try running disk check. It is also possible this is an early warning sign to drive failure, I'm not too sure though, so anybody who knows more about drive failure feel free to correct me! GOOD LUCK!
July 26, 2006 2:26:51 PM

Is your hard drive in good condition? My friend's hard drive crashed and he lost alot of documents and photos. He ended up paying $670 to recover them from a recovery service. Compared to that, $100 is very cheap.
July 26, 2006 2:35:55 PM

Quote:

I'm running the most fully updated version of Windows XP Pro with their standard firewall.


just that firewall???

sounds like software problems or a virus.

get norton or something. the windows firewall is rubbish.
July 26, 2006 2:44:26 PM

Not Norton - it's crap. Corrupted all my documents, which I think is not what the OP wants to happen to his stuff if he ever gets it back...
July 26, 2006 2:53:21 PM

Quote:
Not Norton - it's crap. Corrupted all my documents, which I think is not what the OP wants to happen to his stuff if he ever gets it back...


Regarding Norton A/V and Firewall I'd have to agree. I had it block Internet Explorer and Firefox on me, no matter how hard I tried and after hours on the phone with tech support I never could get internet access with it. Not only is it crappy programming but it has a great reputation for taking over a computer. I've actually had it destroy windows installations when I was just trying to remove it.

If you really need a free A/V Firewall get Zone Alarm and AVG. Both offer their basic products with an open license and since I got those I haven't had any problems. Zone Alarm requires you to register your e-mail with them to get updates, but if you tell them not to bug you they wont =), a seemingly honest company believe it or not!
July 26, 2006 3:41:35 PM

I might be wrong, but it sounds ike you suffered a major virus/worm infection. The standard Windows firewall is better than nothing, but that's all. Someone wrote to stop using the computer. Good advice, as with a worm, every time you start the computer, it eats more documents. Get a good anti-virus program and firewall quick. Then run the antivirus and let it clean out the disc of bad stuff.

If you wonder about how many viruses can be there, I worked on someone's computer a little over a year ago when it failed. Her daughter had been getting music off the internet when the computer died. I found over 500 viruses on the computer. It took me two weeks to get it running again and a lot of her data was lost, but some was saved. She also learned the need of a good anti-virus program and a good firewall.

I know some people hate Norton, but I've had good luck with the programs from them. Maybe its all luck, or I do something in specifying how individual parts work that helps. It is a resource hog though. Norton does have a recovery program, as do other makers, that might help you find and recover the lost data. No gaurentees on that, though. Make this also a lesson to back up everything from time to time. A lot of people, myself included, have learned this lesson the hard way.
July 26, 2006 3:48:17 PM

Did you try to to the simple little thing called System Restore?
I'm not sure it would get your files back but it may be worth a shot?
Try that, And in then go and get yourself a large hard drive and use it as back-up!!! Do not use it for XP or for programs, just to store your pictures, mp3 files etc.

You could also buy a very small 40gig (cheap too) HD just for your OS! Another HD for your programs 120gig, and another larger for storage 300gig.
July 26, 2006 4:16:07 PM

Quote:

Regarding Norton A/V and Firewall I'd have to agree. I had it block Internet Explorer and Firefox on me, no matter how hard I tried and after hours on the phone with tech support I never could get internet access with it. Not only is it crappy programming but it has a great reputation for taking over a computer. I've actually had it destroy windows installations when I was just trying to remove it.


Quote:
Not Norton - it's crap. Corrupted all my documents, which I think is not what the OP wants to happen to his stuff if he ever gets it back...


ive been using norton for 3 years. its far better than zonealarm and if installed right with all the right update works flawlessly. ive got it running on 4 pc at the moment and they work fine. never had a problem. im sure it didnt corrupt all ur docs. that sounds like BS.

anyhow, not the point. the point is you need good protection. not shitty MS firewall (which is a good as defending your pc from rubbish as a tin foil hat)

Quote:
You could also buy a very small 40gig (cheap too) HD just for your OS! Another HD for your programs 120gig, and another larger for storage 300gig.


thats a dumb idea. an extra 3 HD just for back up??? DVD will be fine for photos most of the time. dual layer is 9 gig. couple of those and you would be sorted. BTW, a single external 200gig would be fine in most case. over kill in some.
July 26, 2006 4:26:48 PM

Before you go nuts,

Try searching for a known to be missing file. If the Search mechanism can find it; note the path in which it was found. (Verify it is in fact missing and not simply lost from a bad link) EX: Search for "*.mp3" (this will search for all files ending in .mp3.

Try browsing through Explorer to the profiles. Each has it's own Documents folder
EX: C:\Documents and Settings\username\My Documents

I don't know how many users you have but perhaps they're in another's documents folders.

Sometimes Profiles may become corrupt, as a result you can get some strange symtoms. Missing files, program configs etc. and much worse stuff too.

All the others are offering good advice as far as virus/Spyware etc. but it could be something silly like the above cenario as well. Also you should run AV scans from safe-mode to ensure you catch as many bad guys as possible, before there're resident in memory.

If your drive is failing this program is very good at retrieving data from damaged discs.
Active@FileRecovery
I used this one to lift data from a failed drive awhile back and it worked great. And it's affordable too $29.95 for personal use

This is a great FREE! AntiVirus
AVGFREE AntiVirus
July 26, 2006 5:11:52 PM

Quote:
(which is a good as defending your pc from rubbish as a tin foil hat)


Uh...what?
July 26, 2006 7:39:45 PM

Quote:
(which is a good as defending your pc from rubbish as a tin foil hat)


Uh...what?

tin foil hat. keeps other rubbish and aliens away.
July 26, 2006 7:48:51 PM

Quote:
(which is a good as defending your pc from rubbish as a tin foil hat)


Uh...what?

tin foil hat. keeps other rubbish and aliens away.

You mean it tries to keep rubbish away. The way you said it, it sounded effective. Maybe I'll try it. Could look very fetching.
July 26, 2006 8:03:11 PM

Quote:
You mean it tries to keep rubbish away. The way you said it, it sounded effective. Maybe I'll try it. Could look very fetching.


you will be at the forefront of fashion. many may emulate you. few will sucssed
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