After finding documents or emails missing that you did not specifically delete, trying the steps below may help you recover them.
What to Do When Documents or Email Go Missing
- Recycle Bin - it sounds silly, but perhaps the document was accidentally deleted and is sitting in the recycle bin. For instance, if you right-click on a file, Delete is listed next to "Rename" and "Create shortcut" in the pop-up menu. Either of these are easy to select by accident.
- If the file is in the recycle bin, click on the file name and select "Restore this item" in the top menu or right-click on the file and select "Restore".
- When a file is restored it is restored to its original location. This means a file deleted from the desktop will be restored to the desktop.
- User Account / Temporary Profile - If you have more than one user account on a computer it can be easy to log into the wrong account, especially if they have the same password. Also, if a profile is corrupted Windows will often log into a blank temporary profile even though user credentials were entered.
- Click the start menu to verify you are logged in as the correct user.
- Try logging off and back on and make sure you click on the correct user account. Be sure to watch the login process as Windows will briefly notify if it logs you into a temporary profile.
- Wrong Location - The busier you are the easier it is to forget where a recently created file was saved. Even with the best intentions of storing files in a logical location, at a later time this might not seem as fitting a place. It is also possible the file was accidentally saved in the same folder as the most recently saved document by accident.
- Open Windows Explorer and enter words or phrases used inside the document or as the name of the file to search for the document. Search results are displayed in real time as you type and the location of each document is listed below its name.
- Wrong Device - This may not affect all users, however, it affects most users in an office or place of business. In networked environments, like schools, manufacturing companies, government and more, user accounts are centrally managed on servers. Centrally managing user accounts is a much more efficient way to manage changes like creating new users, resetting passwords and disabling old accounts.
- Accounts located in a networked environment allow users to log into any machine with their credentials in most cases. Unfortunately, some files are saved to the local profile on that particular machine meaning a user would not have access to those particular files when logging into a different machine.
- Files saved on the desktop or stored in My Documents are stored within the local profile located on that device. This means they are not available on other devices.
- NOTE: Sometimes the My Documents folder is redirected to a file server. In this case, these files would be available when logging onto any machine within the network, however this is not the default setting.
- Files are Actually Missing - If files are actually missing, it is time to defer to your backups.
- Connect to a cloud file location and download the missing files or access the backup files from an external device and copy them to the computer.
- Be sure to keep backups up-to-date so a copy of all files is always backed up no matter how new the file.
- Wrong Folder - It is very easy to move an email and accidentally drop it into a folder other than the intended folder. Whether from looking away too quickly, or the screen scrolling as you dropped the email, moving emails into the wrong folder is a common occurrence for people who utilize sub-folders.
- Check the folders nearest the intended folder, both above and below, to see if the email landed in the wrong folder.
- If you find the email, drag it to the correct folder.
- Missing Folder - When an entire sub-folder goes missing it is usually the result of accidentally being moved inside another folder. While this may sound unlikely, it is easy to do. All it takes is left-clicking over the top of a folder and moving the mouse before releasing the left-click.
- If a folder goes missing, check the trash to make sure it was not deleted. If it is in the trash, left-click and drag it back where it should be.
- Also, check every folder with sub-folders. These folders will have an icon next to them indicating they have sub-folders. Click the icon next to the folder name to view all sub-folders. If the folder is there, left-click and drag it back to where it should be.
- Trash / Deleted Items - Even if you do not remember deleting an email, perhaps it was deleted on another device like a connected tablet or smartphone. It is always a good idea to check the Trash or Deleted Items folders to see if the email is there.
- NOTE: It is important to check for multiple deleted items folders as many email applications create a folder for items deleted within the application and another folder for items deleted from secondary devices like smartphones.
- Search - If all else fails, try searching for the email using the subject, the sender or a date range. It is possible that the email was moved into a sub-folder that seemed logical at the time while a different location makes sense later.
Documents and email are important to our everyday lives. The feeling of losing them can be overwhelming especially if we are dealing with a deadline. If you find documents or emails missing and are sure you did not delete the files, take a deep breath and try the steps above which may help recover the missing documents or emails.
As always, tackling hurdles when it comes to technology is most effective when done in a strategic manner!