Helping people with computers... one answer at a time.
I received an email from someone and was in the process of responding to it but it seems to have disappeared, hopefully just temporarily.
I clicked on "reply" and would write some, then clicked on the "minimize" box and it would be at the bottom of the screen ready to work on later. I did this several times; but over the weekend, with guests in the house and my wife downloading some photos off the camera my email (in the state of reply) seems to be gone. It is neither in items sent or deleted, nor is it in drafts. Do you know a way I can retrieve this email?
I'm afraid the news is not good. You've looked in all the places that it could have been (drafts, in particular). I would have expected to find them in drafts, but I'm not sure why they're not there, though I can make a few guesses.
The real "problem" here is that you've picked perhaps one of the most dangerous ways to manage your email under construction that I can imagine.
I have a strong aversion to just minimizing windows to "save" a work in progress. The fact is, when you minimize a window, the application may not save anything at all! The application, be it your mail client, your word processor, or anything else, may elect to simply leave the information in the computer's memory without writing it to disk in any way.
Now, in the normal case, these programs should be on the look out for things that might cause you to lose your data. For example, let's say someone comes along and asks Windows to shut down. The programs should notice that you have open windows with unsaved data, and ask you about each one. If it's someone else shutting down your computer, and they get tired of answering all these questions, they might just start hitting ESC to make the messages go away ... and discard all your data.
The abnormal case is worse. If someone hits the power button, or the computer unexpectedly reboots for any reason, *poof* - all your hard work could be gone.
Most programs "auto save" periodically. Mail programs will auto save to the drafts folder, word processing and other programs will often auto save to temporary files that can be recovered in case of a failure. But in all cases, if the program asks "do you want to save", and the answer is the escape key, or "No" - then the auto saved copy is removed as well.
So it's unclear exactly what happened in your case.
"Save early, save often" is something that most computer users learn by having lost hours of work at one point or another. I know I have! In short, don't rely on a minimized window to save anything for you. Save it yourself. If you're updating a document in Word, for example, hit CTRL+S every so often to write your work back out to disk. In email, the same keystroke typically works to save a copy of your email to drafts. If you need to step away from the computer, don't just minimize, close the window, making sure to say "Yes" when it asks if you want to save your work in progress. That way you don't have to worry about someone else answering "No" while you're not around, and when you return, you'll find it in the drafts folder.
Note: this does not apply to web-based email services like Hotmail, Gmail and the like. If you close your browser it will discard any mail being composed without asking. You must explicitly hit any "Save Draft" or equivalent button in the web mail interface if you want your email to be saved for later.