Senior Computer Tutor Don Edrington
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Finding Lost Files
in Windows XP or 7

A WinXP user called to say she thought she had deleted all her digital photos and asked if I could help recover them. Well, she found them by simply going to Start>Search>All Files & Folders, and typing .JPG into the All or Part of File Name field. .JPG is the extension appended to most digital photo names, so using it as a search term found all such files.

The photos had previously been in the caller's My Pictures folder, but a recently installed program had moved them into a new folder created by the software.

In Windows 7, use the Search box that appears at the far right of your Taskbar (near the digital clock).

I get similar calls regarding lost files on a surprisingly regular basis; and most are found by using the Windows Search utility. In the above example .JPG found pictures while someone looking for MSWord documents could type in .DOC and Excel files could be found with .XLS.

If you are unsure of a file's extension, but know which program created it, you can click on More Advanced Options and then click the down-arrow alongside All Files & Folders to choose the exact program.


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If you type in the exact name of a file (such as, say, Chicago.MP3) only that song would be found. Just typing in Chicago, however, would find all file names containing the city's name.

If you can't recall any part of a text file's name but remember that the document contained a certain word or text sequence, type what you know into the box labeled A Word or Phrase in the File. The more distinctive or unusual the word(s) the better.

If you're looking for something you recently created or acquired, but can't remember any part of its file name, try using the When Was It Modified? option, where you can specify Last Week, Past Month, or Past Year. You can even type in a particular time frame by using Specify Dates.

It is also important for the Look In field to specify Local Hard Drive C (or whichever drives you want searched). If this field only lists a particular folder, such as My Documents, the rest of your hard drive will be ignored. Be sure that Search Subfolders is also checked.

For certain files, such as MSWord's infamous Normal.DOT, you also need to have Search System Folders checked. However, rarely would you be searching for Hidden Files & Folders.

Not surprisingly, various combinations of the above options can narrow down your search considerably.

As for manipulating what shows up under Search Results, you can double-click any file to open it. You can then use File>Save As to make a copy and store it wherever you want. If you prefer to move found files to other locations, you can select them and drag them onto the your Desktop or into any folder. Click View>Details to display a file's current location. You can likewise copy, delete, or rename any found files.


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