Why did my user files and settings suddenly disappear?

Tops April 20, 2010

Numerous files and functions suddenly disappeared from my laptop (Vista home premium). Worst affected folders include My Document and desktop. Also I can no longer log in to my main user account or use fingerprint.

About 99% of my icons are gone both from Start menu and desktop, though the programs folder show that the apps themselves are still there. The desktop theme is gone also. So many things have stopped working.

I have tried system restore to no avail and neither Panda nor AVG could detect any virus. Someone please help.

  1. pcoats
    November 3, 2011 at 4:23 pm

    I know this is an old post, but to let you know this is probably the results of a common virus that I deal with regularly.  What is does, is turns on the Hidden attribute in the All users profile and the profile that is infected giving you the illusion that everything has vanished.
    Creating a new admin profile will help as long as you know how to get to the All Users folders.  The fix for this is to unhide the common folders, folder under the effected profile.  You may need to drill down to lower folders in case the change does not propagate down.
    Locate the virus which should be in the %USERPROFILE%AppDataLocal. 
    This folder should NOT have any .exe files in it.  If you see any .exe files or files without a file extension these need to be removed as well.  
    You may need to kill the task first to delete it.  Also,  be sure to write down the filename of the .exe files found in this location and then search the registry for the same name.  The 2 primary placed you will find this is HKLMSOFTWAREMicrosoftWindowsCurrentVersionRun and
    HKCUSOFTWAREMicrosoftWindowsCurrentVersionRun but there may be additional locations that this is found. 

    Doing a system restore may work since it restores the registry settings, but don't count on it.  If you do this you still need to locate and remove the virus files.  Also, You should clean all your Temp and Temporary Internet folders as well.  In most cases the virus files is a creation from several other files received from the internet. 

    MalwareBytes will usually pick up these files and should be able to get rid of them for you.

    • Tina
      November 10, 2011 at 10:36 pm

      Thanks for sharing your solution, pcoats!

  2. Xia0jw
    June 3, 2011 at 12:53 am

    My boyfriend's computer had just experienced the same thing.. Woke me up in the middle of the night to help him fix it. At the end of the day, it's just a trojan virus lurking around the system. Lucky for my boyfriend he religiously do updates and his computer saved a couple of backups for him.

  3. junglejacko
    April 21, 2011 at 3:00 pm

    If you find that your "my documents " has suddenly disappeared. The quickest way to get them back is, right click on the empty folder, select properties, click on previous versions and wait for it to search for a previous version. Click on a previous version until you find the one with the disappeared documents, then click restore. Job done!

  4. Eclyburn
    November 25, 2010 at 12:49 pm

    I believe the issue is a registry issue. Have you installed or uninstalled anything lately. I have a friend that has the same exact issue. and from researching it it all points to a registry issue. The solution requires you modify the registry. It's not hard to solve just have to use some caution and back up your registry. A little tweaking and you'll be good to go.

  5. Xlina05x
    November 10, 2010 at 3:05 am

    I think this just happened to me! Essentially, I logged onto my laptop the same way I do every day and all settings, etc. seemed to be returned to factory defaults- no desktop icons, no internet bookmarks/settings, no music or pictures..

    Any ideas? My laptop doesn't travel and I can't imagine what would have changed between yesterday and today...

    • Tina
      November 10, 2010 at 6:32 am

      If none of the answers above are helpful for you you should post a new question. You are not likely to receive fresh answers to this thread.

  6. Jack Cola
    August 11, 2010 at 8:31 am

    Hi Ruth and topsoloja,

    Re-reading this thread that was from 3 months ago, I have a feeling that you are using a roadming profile (compared to using a local profile). A roaming profile essentually is your user account profile but your files like My Documents, Deskop etc is hosted on a server and when you log on, all that information is downloaded to your PC.

    And since Ruth, you said it used to be your Work PC, you may have been still been logging in as Work or something and they deleted your account - but that would require going through a internet connection.

    Can you just check something, right click on My Documents, select properties, and tell me the location.

    And topsoloja, with your last comment, "The User Profile Service service failed the logon" sounds like to me your are logging in to a remote server (without doing any research), but if you do a Google search on that, you should find your solution as there are a lot of results http://www.google.com.au/search?hl=en&source=hp&q=The+User+Profile+Service+service+failed+the+logon&cts=1281515427169&aq=f&aqi=g10&aql=&oq=&gs_rfai=

    If you two have any more questions, let me know.

  7. topsoloja
    April 22, 2010 at 12:57 pm

    When I tried to log into the administrator account, it first said "Logging off" (yes logging off), followed by "Please wait", then finally reverted back to the account users login window. I repeated this several times with same result. I then created a new administrator account and when I tried to log on, it said "The User Profile Service service failed the logon. User profile cannot be loaded".

    • Jack Cola
      April 22, 2010 at 1:35 pm

      What is the setup of your computer? Do you connect to your workplace, do you have a domain? Do you connect to a server? Or is it just a standalone PC with a normal installation? Who installed your operating system?

      For your main user account, what privileges do you have? Are you an administrator or just a limited user account?

      It's odd for it to automatically log off. Either it is a virus, or something is seriously wrong with your settings on how users should logon. I would suggest that you ditch the finger scanner altogether, just to eliminate some of the factors that could be causing your issue. When you log on again, use a username and password, and not your finger.

      Your problem could be really easy to fix, but without access to it, finding the problem is really hard.

      • Ruth
        August 9, 2010 at 10:46 pm

        Hi Jack, i am in a similar situation i am using an acer laptop with windows xp, this used to be my work laptop but now it is for home use...it was all working fine until one day somehow everything dissapeared, my desktop picture and folders etc. I can't system restore and it keeps saying that i am not the administrator so cannot download adobe or antivirus software...i get an "internal error occured' when i try this or "you have to have administrative rights' i am so frustrated, i go to user settings to see if i can change it but it is all unhighlighted so i can make no changes including on my firewall options, it won't even let me turn my firewall on! Help please!!

  8. Jack Cola
    April 21, 2010 at 12:41 pm

    When you say "not that admin account" is that the computers default administrator account or an account with administrator privileges, or do you have a user/limited account?

    Are you the only one who uses that computer? If not, maybe someone else deleted all your files?

    Can you see any of your files in C:Users in any of the user accounts documents?

    To me, it still sounds like a user account problem.

    Also, doing a System Restore will not recover your documents. The easiest way is to restore your documents from a backup - if you have one.

    • Aibek
      April 22, 2010 at 8:08 am

      I agree with Jack, seems like a user account issue for me. Let us know if the account you're trying to login with has administrator level privileges.


  9. Anonymous
    April 21, 2010 at 9:38 am

    Thanks guys, but Jack appears to not get me or I was not clear enough. The account I logged to is the one I use everyday (though not the admin account) so I know what should be there very well. 99% of the icons are gone from Start menu and desktop. Same with files in My document folder. Then I just realized another one: I was able to recover a .doc file and when I tried to open it, I was asked to go activate MS Office.

  10. Jack Cola
    April 21, 2010 at 2:21 am

    Actually, I don't think it is a virus like isonuz said.

    I think you are just logging into a different user account on your computer. That is why your document files are not there and neither are your desktop icons. Each user account on a computer has a different set of My Documents and Desktop files. And when you say your fingerprint scanner doesn't work and you can't log into your main account, you are obviously logging into a different one thus why your Documents and Desktop Icons are different.

    The reasons why your programs are all still there in the start menu is because those programs (well most programs for that matter) are installed to be accessed by all user accounts on the computer. Ie, if you install Microsoft Word on your computer, all user accounts can access that program. If save a file into My Documents, in one user account, another user account won't be able to access that file, and that's what is happening to you.

    AVG and other antivirus programs arn't picking anything up because there is nothing there and System restore doesn't restore a user's account password.

    My suggestion is to go to user accounts and change your password of your main account. If you can't there are steps around it, but I don't have the time to explain it now in detail. All I will say is press alt control delete twice at the welcome screen, type administrator as username, leave password blank. If granted access, go to user accounts and change your password. If done, you should be able to access your files and desktop. Reset your finger scanning password and details, and you should be all good to go.

    Let me know if anything is unclear or you need more help.

  11. Anonymous
    April 20, 2010 at 9:58 pm

    ok... first of, what im getting here, is a definite virus!
    and AVG is good, but dsnt rly give accurate results.. and panda, well, sux!
    use malware bytes and avira and avast!!
    avast detects almost everything suspisous as a virus, so that'll be in handy..
    also, vista is the worst OS any1 could have... i recommend XP!! (yh w7 is not right either[it is if you use it to study])...
    hope i helped (:

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