Why did my pictures disappear?

Think of your computer's hard drive as a temporary solution for any files. It's not a matter of if things will disappear, but when. Regular readers can guess what I'm going to say next...

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About six months ago, I converted to Windows 8. I had approximately 2000 photos in Picasa and I now have about 50. I opened my library and found all the folders that were there were now empty. It appears that I’ve permanently lost a lifetime’s worth of photos.

I’m very sorry to hear this.

From your description, I’m not exactly sure what happened. I don’t necessarily have a specific solution to help you recover what you’ve lost, but I have a variety of thoughts on this kind of situation.

Back up

If I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again. I say it so often that people get annoyed with me.

And yet, I cannot stress enough the importance of backing up.

Many people set themselves up for disaster by keeping photos, files, and other important data in exactly and only one place. If photos are only on your machine or your camera, there is a high probability that you would have lost them anyway. If the loss wasn’t because of a Windows upgrade, it’s possible that you would have lost them because of disk failure, a power glitch, or a software problem.

There are many ways that files can disappear permanently.

This sounds like what happened to you. A backup of some sort would have saved you.

Photo CollectionAlways back up before you upgrade

The other problem is that you don’t say what you upgraded from or what options you selected when you did upgrade.

An upgrade from Windows XP to Windows 8 simply does not save all files.

Part of the process for upgrading is to back up first and then restore your data files after the upgrade is complete. In fact, that’s the most recommended option for upgrading from any prior version of Windows to a new one. It’s just too easy for things to get messed up.

That’s why I almost always say, “Back up first, and then do the upgrade.”

If you upgraded from other versions of Windows, there are options that will actually preserve your data. But as you don’t say what or how your upgrade was performed, I can only guess that this was the cause of the loss.

Check with Picasa

Just in case, check with Picasa online. In addition to being a desktop photo management application, Picasa is also Google’s photo sharing service. It’s possible that some of your photos were preserved online. Again, this depends on the settings and choices that you made. I’m not terribly hopeful, but it’s worth a look.

Photos are one of those things that simply cannot be regenerated once they’ve been lost. At this point, all that I can really recommend – not just to you, but to anybody reading this article – is this: if you aren’t doing so already, please start backing up.

There are 7 comments:

  1. Steven Reply

    What about undoing the upgrade, but I doubt it. The photos may be hidden by file extension. A virus can do that. They should have backed up and do a clean install. Undelete will most likely fail.

  2. Malcolm Reply

    Just two things – the OP referred to their library. Checked using file explorer and drill down from C:\users\yourname\. It’s possible that the photo folders aren’t part of the library. You could also use software like Recuva and see if they’re still there and can be recovered. Were the 50 still there new ones or ones from before the upgrade?

    But as Leo says, BACKUP, BACKUP, BACKUP

    • James Reply

      I agree with Malcolm. It would be worth using Windows Explorer to check the actual file location. At work, I can use the Documents library on my laptop with no problem (this library is connected to my folder on the network server). If I go to another computer (such as one that has a scanner attached) and save something using the library, most times the file will not be there when I go back to my laptop. Yet if I go back to the scanning computer, the file shows that it’s in my Documents. If I save the file on the scanning computer to my actual network folder (rather than using the library), the files will be there when I go back to my laptop. Our IT guy says libraries are just funny that way. So they may be there but just not showing using the library.

  3. James Reply

    Oh, and another thought, libraries don’t have to be just one location. For example, my Pictures library is a combination of my C:\Users\…\Pictures folder and the C:\Users\Public\Pictures, the shared pictures folder. It may be possible that the library is showing only folders/files from one location but not all locations (remember, libraries can do funny things sometimes).

    It may be worthwhile doing a search for jpg (or whatever format your pictures are in), just in case they are still there, just not where you think they are. And I’d make sure to show all files and folders (including hidden and system files), in case they got hidden somehow.

  4. Supin Reply

    Upgrading in Windows does not automatically backup and restore user’s data.
    Windows has Files and Settings Transfer Wizard which most people don’t use before upgrading Windows.
    After upgrading, everything once kept in the Windows partition will be gone forever.
    Many people keep their data (including Pictures) in My Documents. It is normally in the same drive/partition as Windows itself. So, after upgrading, they are gone with the old Windows. Many people don’t know the relation between User account and My Documents folder. I know someone who once tried to solve a problem by creating a new user and deleting an old one. The result was that his data (in the old user’s My Documents) disappeared.
    I don’t rely on My Documents or any folders which reside in the Windows partition to keep my data. I always keep my data in separate drives or partitions.

    • Connie Delaney Reply

      It certainly is a good idea to know how your data storage works. And as Leo says… backup!

  5. Simon Reply

    The same thing has just happened to me! Although all my stuff was backed up onto an external hard drive.

    I downloaded Picasa on to my new laptop with Windows 8 and plugged in my hard drive. It asked me if I wanted to Auto-backup my existing files. I said yes but now everything (including what was on my external hard drive) has disappeared!

    If anyone has any other suggestions please let me know – I’ve lost about 8 years worth of photos.

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