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I reinstalled Windows and lost a file on my desktop, what can I do?

I put a new motherboard in my computer and was forced to reinstall Windows 7. I lost my budget spreadsheet that I had saved on my desktop. I tried to find it in Windows old and windows old 000. I couldn’t find it. Am I out of luck because I didn’t back it up? Or are there some tips that you can give me before I give up?

Reinstalling Windows is a pretty serious operation no matter which of the installation options you choose. There’s a very small chance that the file is still there, but to be honest, I’m not very hopeful.

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Back up!

And yes, I have to start by saying, back up! This is one of those scenarios where I strongly recommend backing up your entire machine prior to reinstalling any operating system, changing a motherboard, or making any other major change to your machine. You never know what you might need, or what you might lose in the transition. A good image backup before any major change like this is just good protection.

Of course, you should be backing up regularly anyway. You just never know when things like the hard disk will die. But on to your question…

Documents aren’t typically in the Windows folder

Windows old or “windows.old” isn’t really where I’d expect to find anything, certainly not your spreadsheet. Windows.old contains the previous Windows folder, but unfortunately not the User’s folder. You won’t find your desktop files there at all. In fact, you won’t find anything there that may have been in your Documents folder that was associated with your account.

The Documents folder is located off a different path: it’s under either the User’s folder, in C:, or the “Documents and Settings” folder, in C: on older versions of Windows. That’s not part of the Windows folder, and it’s not part of Windows.old that may get created when you install or reinstall Windows.

Where you might find your document is exactly where it was to begin with: on your Desktop, or maybe in your Documents folder. Depending on exactly how Windows was reinstalled, on which options you chose in the installation process, the setup may or may not overwrite those folders with a new setup.

If you’ve checked your Desktop and Documents folder and your spreadsheet is not there, it’s gone. And unfortunately, I really don’t know of any way to recover it.

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2 comments on “I reinstalled Windows and lost a file on my desktop, what can I do?”

  1. You can try Recuva, and do a search for undeleted files, but the chance that it’s not overwritten is remote.
    Would have been better to mount the hdd as external drive on another computer and transfer the data you need.
    Would have been better unfortunately is always in the past tense.

  2. This whole article is a lie. I’ve reinstalled windows on my computer and others hundreds times and used the “windows.old” folder to save files. Everything on the C drive will be put into the “windows.old” folder EXCEPT for windows files which you do not need. So it will save your “User’s” folder which contains your entire profile and all the files that you were ever store in Desktop, Downloads, Documents, Music, Pictures, Videos, etc…


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