Hard drive suddenly wiped....mostly?
November 25, 2020 7:35 AM   Subscribe

I have no idea what just happened, but almost all the files have vanished from the desktop on my Dell laptop, Windows 10. For some reason a few things are still there....Audacity, Open Office, a VPN, but everything else I had on my desktop is suddenly gone. I don't seem to have a restore point. Am I fucked? It's not the end of the world as I save most things on google drive, but I did have some files on MuseScore I hadn't backed up other than printouts, and I'm sure if I think about it longer there will be some other stuff. Is there anything I should try as a person who just uses his laptop mostly for internet crap and is not good at the innards?

The only things I can think of that seem like recent big changes are that I started using Citrix to log onto my work laptop and I did torrent a movie a few days ago, so maybe virus. I had Malwarebytes but am not sure how much that does if you court disaster by torrenting stuff. Possibly this is just a several year old laptop in sudden death throes? Bleh.

Anyway, most things: gone, is what it looks like. Desktop background is blue. Nothing in any folders I've opened. I would just assume something crashed if it weren't for the weird fact of a few apps still being on my desktop. Advice?
posted by less of course to Computers & Internet (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Try this: click once on the desktop with your mouse and then press F5 on the keyboard.
posted by Lanark at 8:00 AM on November 25, 2020

Best answer: That sounds like what you see if you log into your computer as a different user: all the applications that are installed on the machine and available to everyone, but none of your personal customisation, files etc. Did you by any chance, probably when you were first setting up the machine, set up a separate admin account with the same password? If so, perhaps the login screen defaulted to the other account for some reason, and you didn't notice.

If not... well, someone else who knows a lot more than I do about this stuff will doubtless be along soon, but things I'd try if this happened to me would include:

- looking in C:/Users to see if there's more than one directory there that looks as if it's yours (no idea if you actually get to see other people's directories listed in there, but maybe!)
- looking in Control Panel -> User Accounts to see what's listed
- typing 'User Accounts' into the search field and looking in the user management app that it directs you to
- signing out, to see if multiple accounts are offered for sign-in.
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 8:06 AM on November 25, 2020 [5 favorites]

This sounds a lot like something that happens to me now and again - for whatever reason it forgets how to log you in on your account and sets you up with something basic. Try logging off and logging back in again and see if that helps.

If that doesn't - let me know. The first time this happened it went through an update at the same time and set up an alternate bare-bones-basic profile under my name and my roommate figured out a way to combine that with my existing profile, I'll just have to ask him what he did. But the "log out and log in again" should do it.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:11 AM on November 25, 2020 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Oh - and if what I'm suspecting happened HAS happened, your hard drive hasn't been "wiped". Your computer is just not letting you see those files because "those are less of course's files, and you're not less of course". If you log out and log back in again as less of course, it'll be all "hey, good to see you less of course, here are your files right where you left them."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:13 AM on November 25, 2020 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Try this: click once on the desktop with your mouse and then press F5 on the keyboard.

Or press Win-R, type "cmd" + Enter to get an old-school DOS window.
Type "dir c:\Users\(your user name)\Desktop" and see if anything is there.
posted by JoeZydeco at 8:48 AM on November 25, 2020

Best answer: +1 to it sounding like it may be an issue with the user profile. reboot and log back in, and keep an eye out for any messages mentioning profile related errors.

Checking C:\users for other profiles is a great idea. You can also use either Windows search, or a search tool ( I like Agent Ransack ) to look for some of the missing files.

If you have OneDrive installed, it may be moving your files to the onedrive location for backup. If that changed or broke, some stuff may have been left in an unexpected location. Look for your files in C:\users\username\desktop and C:\users\username\onedrive and its sub folders (particularly if there is one named "Desktop") for your files.
posted by nalyd at 8:54 AM on November 25, 2020 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: So, the files are still there (Thanks JoeZydeco) but logging off and back on/rebooting hasn't worked. Will reread these and try and figure out how to get to the alternate universe where alternate me is like "welp here are all my files!"
posted by less of course at 10:11 AM on November 25, 2020

Response by poster: It seems to have to do with "OneDrive." I'll stop threadsitting now, though.
posted by less of course at 10:15 AM on November 25, 2020

When something like this happens on my system, it's often because I've inadvertently dragged files into the wrong place, when using the File Explorer. If you can search and locate one of your missing files, Open File Location & see where it is, exactly. Sometimes, if I've noticed in time, a ctrl-Z moves everything back as it was.
posted by Rash at 11:14 AM on November 25, 2020 [1 favorite]

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