Troubleshooting Guide: All Files Disappeared from the Computer

All files disappeared from Windows 10 computer have disappeared

Do you know what to do if all your files disappeared from the computer, particularly if your important files disappeared from Windows 10? It’s not difficult to find those missing files, especially with a bit of (digital) elbow grease. In the best-case scenario, recovering disappeared files brings them back in one piece. In other situations, you may find missing files in Windows 10 but in a corrupted form.

Remember to always back up your files – use cloud storage, an external hard disk, or set up a system restore point. Windows and plenty of other operating systems encourage users to create backups of their data, which helps in recovering disappeared files. It is possible to find missing files in Windows 10 using a Linux-based rescue disk as well.  This works well in case your system won’t boot.

Note: It’s important to remember – don’t save new files to the hard disk along with missing files. This overwrites your old data and hinders getting your files back, especially in case of accidental deletion.

What Causes Missing Folders In Windows?

If your files disappeared from Windows 10, there is a valid reason for this. When trying to find missing files in Windows 10, it is best to know the cause. Some reasons for missing documents in Windows include:

  • Hidden file icons
  • User account errors
  • A virus/malware corrupted your files
  • System corruption
  • Errors due to updates

While these reasons are due to system errors, user errors can also result in missing documents in Windows. For example, deleting the wrong partition; overwriting disk space; deleting the wrong files to free disk space; not allowing Windows to shut down properly, and so on.

Most operating systems have checks to prevent this from happening, but hey, accidents happen. Always take particular care when working with partitions. If other people use your laptop, ensure your files and important settings are safe.

Related: Troubleshooting: Bluetooth is not working in Windows 10

How to Find Missing Files in Windows 10?

Solution 1: Restoring Missing Desktop Icons

Starting with the simplest case of missing documents in Windows: If your formerly cluttered Desktop is now barren, your desktop most likely has a case of hidden icons. Your other files should be safe in this situation.

To restore your Desktop icons, simply open your Desktop and right-click anywhere on the desktop wallpaper. When the menu opens, expand View > “Show desktop icons”.

show desktop icons

Solution 2: Logging Into the Correct User Account

If your laptop is home to two different user accounts, check if you have logged into your own. System errors can also sign users into a “temporary” account,  after a major update that went awry. In both situations, you end up thinking that all your files are disappeared from the computer.

Fortunately, you may not lose files in situations like these – you just cannot access them. There are two ways to resolve this. In the first method, simply check which account you logged into. If it is the wrong account, just sign out of that account and sign in to the right one. In the second, you should look for an error message that indicates whether your account is temporary or has some other error.

Related: How to Run Dell Hardware Diagnostics Test

First Method – In Case of an Incorrectly Logged Account

To see which account you logged into, follow these steps:

  • Go to Start, find the user account picture on the left above the shortcut icons, and mouse over it. It automatically expands to show the user name.
change user account
  • Simply right-click on the user name and select “Sign out” from the menu. It takes you back to the login screen, where you can log into the correct account.

Second Method – In Case of Temporary Account/Other Account Errors After Updating

  1. Go to Start > Settings > Accounts.
  2. In Accounts, look for the “Your info” section to see the profile details to ascertain they are yours (if not, log out as before), and click on “Sync your settings”.
  3. You might see one of the following messages under the screen title:

You are logged on with a temporary profile. Roaming options are currently unavailable.”

To fix this, reboot and sign in through your account. If your user account does not appear, reboot until it does. Your files and folders can only be accessed through your original user account.

Some Windows features are only available if you are using a Microsoft account or work account. A few fixes for this issue exist. The less drastic options involve signing in with your Windows account through either Microsoft Store or Microsoft Edge browser using settings in either app.

If nothing works, you are stuck with uninstalling the update or performing a reset of Windows. Performing a reset also provides an option to preserve your files and folders.

Resetting Windows 10

  • Navigate to Start and launch Settings. Open Update & Security > Recovery.
  • Here, you can find the option to “Reset this PC” – click on the “Get Started” button and follow along. You get a reset for Windows and are successful in getting your files back this way!
  • The second option below is to “Go back to the previous version of Windows 10”. However, this option is unavailable if you installed the update more than ten days ago and you won’t be able to use this method to recover the files that disappeared from Windows 10.
recover pc to get disappeared files back

Related: How to install April Windows 10 Update 2020

Solution 3: Reveal Hidden Files and Folders

Sometimes, missing files in Windows are hidden by the system. To reveal your hidden files, simply launch File Explorer (Windows logo key + E), go to the View tab, and check the box for “Hidden items” towards the right.

uncheck hidden items

Solution 4: Scanning For Errors and Viruses/Malware

If your files disappeared from windows 10, hard drive errors or viruses and malware can be a cause for it. First, you can scan your drive for errors. Often, Windows prompts users to scan and check a drive for errors if it has issues, but you can also do it yourself. Second, scan your drives for viruses – while some are merely inconvenient, other viruses can cause serious damage.

Scanning for Errors

Launch This PC and find the hard drive to scan. Right-click the drive icon, and select “Properties”. In the Tools tab, there is a section titled “Error-checking”. Click on the “Check” button. The tool scans your selected drive for any issues and helps fix them as well.

Scanning for Viruses

You can use the built-in protection offered by Windows, or download a third-party app to scan for viruses. Some also offer portable versions, in case you can’t log into your system and must use a different PC to download it.

Antivirus and anti-malware programs to try include Bitdefender, Malwarebytes, Adaware antivirus, Microsoft Malicious Software Removal Tool (32-bit, and 64-bit). Once your system is clean, you can focus on getting your files back using a suitable recovery program.

Solution 5: Finding Windows.old Folder After Updating

Recently upgraded and can’t find your files? You’re in luck – Windows 10 keeps a folder containing data from the previous version of Windows, aptly titled “Windows.old”. This is retained for at least a month after the upgrade.

Check the drive where the main Windows operating system resides. While this is usually C:/, some users may have installed it on a different drive.

There, you will find a Windows.old folder with your old folders in it. Copy files from there to your new location. Now you can find all the files that disappeared from the computer.

Solution 6: Uninstall Updates

If your files disappeared from Windows 10 after a major update, try uninstalling them. Navigate to Start > Settings and select Update & Security. In the Windows Update section, click on “View update history”.

uninstall windows updates

Next, click on “Uninstall updates” near the top.

click uninstall updates

A new window launches, like Control Panel’s program uninstaller – except this uninstaller only lists the new updates you can delete. Select the trouble-causing update, and click the uninstall button. Check your drive to see if you were successful in getting your files back.

uninstall updates from control panel

Solution 7: Recovering Your Files

If all files disappeared from the computer, recovering your files depends upon whether you can boot into Windows or not. If you can log into your Windows account, you can use a third-party app to recover your files, such as Minitool Data Recovery, EaseUS Data Recovery, Recuva, or TestDisk.

Got a backup on OneDrive or another cloud storage service already? Use that to recover all files that disappeared from the computer. It’s best to shift recovered files to an external storage drive. This way, you can narrow down what seems to be the problem.

If you are unable to log into Windows and your system seems kaput, it’s better to contact your local tech support especially if you are working with sensitive data.

If you know your way around computers, you can also make a “rescue disk” to recover your data. For this you need a USB drive to put the recovery software on, another PC to download the recovery software, and an external storage drive to save your recovered files. Hiren’s BootCD PE and the Trinity Rescue Kit are two examples of feature-filled rescue disks. If you use this method, you can easily find missing files in Windows 10.

Now you should know what do to if your files disappeared from the computer. After recovering disappeared files, you can perform a fresh Windows install – with backups this time!

Note: Does this article provide the info you’re looking for? Is there any information you think of missing or incorrect? You can give your opinion in the comments section below.

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