Helping people with computers... one answer at a time.

A folder can go missing only through some sort of direct action. Finding it again might be tricky.

Last week, I was working on a folder from one of my customers which contained communication going back many years. On Saturday, I intended to look something up in this folder and it's gone. I just do not know how and when. Especially in view, if I delete a folder, then it appears under deleted folders, but this specific folder is gone, disappeared. Every minute this week, I've checked and checked, however, nothing.

In this excerpt from Answercast #17, I explain where I would go looking for a missing folder: in my backup!

Missing folder

So there are two things that come to mind here. I can't explain why the folder went away.

Just looking at a folder is not going to delete it. It's not going to make it disappear. There are ways to make it delete that bypass the Recycle Bin which is what you were talking about there:

  • If you were to Shift+Delete on a folder, that will make it go away forever.
  • If you delete a folder from within a Windows command prompt, that does not use the Recycle Bin.

You might want to look into file recovery tools, like Recuva, but ultimately, the bottom line here is that if this is a problem, then that means you weren't backed up or your customer wasn't backed up.

Backup to protect important files

I would strongly recommend that before you spend any more time trying to diagnose what may have happened here, that you put in a backup solution so that if (or for that matter: when!) this kind of thing happens again, you and your customer will be protected from accidental file deletion.

That's one of the many things that a good backup will do for you.

So I can't explain why the files or the folder just disappeared, but I certainly can tell you how you can avoid that being a problem in the future and that is (as always) to backup.

Article C5340 - May 14, 2012 « »

Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

Not what you needed?

May 14, 2012 7:49 PM

This sounds like the windows "drag n drop without telling you" feature. Open windows explorer, choose search folders and files, start from the root (typically C:\) and type in just the folder name and search. If it has been moved and not deleted this should find it.
Best of luck.

Frank x5
May 14, 2012 11:37 PM

This thing happened to me last year? I did find it soon after using the trick Byron posted. But it scared the living daylights outa me for a while.... It was my fault as I must have selected it and dragged it into the next folder because that is where I found it!!

Bill F
May 15, 2012 11:50 AM

Ditto to Byron and Rrank:
I have done it and seen others who are in a hurry accidently move a folder by shifting the mouse while clicking on it to open it. It just ends up hiding inside of something else and is easy to move back to the right place once you use search to find it.

May 15, 2012 1:32 PM

Yep - many of us have temporarily lost folders that way. Really weird where I sometimes have found them moved to...

Ron Chiodo
May 15, 2012 2:23 PM

Well, I was having folders disappear, e.g. bank statement folder. The only thing I found is that I had several bad sectors on my hard drive. Ran MSFT's repair utility, about which I don't think much. Ran it a couple of times. Bad sectors disappeared. Unable to get GRC Spinrite to work on that drive. Problem did go away. I now have two external drives back up daily incrementally to one and weekly mirror back to the other, automatically. But if something is gone for awhile the weekly will have been overwritten, so the daily incremental is a back stop. Part of me lives in fear. I have several dead externals and have lost internal hard drives as well from time to time. (No smoking. No liquids. No kids.) If the house burns I'm screwed. Now thinking about putting more into the cloud. Evernote Pro is my first step. I do not trust cloud security, however.

May 15, 2012 6:54 PM

I use XP and I 'twitched' once while the mouse pointer was on the Left column of Windows Explorer and I saw a Folder disappear.
I found it the next day when I did a DIR /S/P from a CMD C:\ prompt.
Somebody told me later that IF I had clicked the Edit menu item and then click on Undo the missing Folder would had reappeared where it was originally.
I wasn't doing any Drag and Drop when it happened to me, I was just moving the mouse pointer over to where I was wanting it to be and accidently touched the left button while the mouse was moving.
Instead of using Drag and Drop I do this now:
1. Select the file or files I want to Copy or Move.
2. Click Edit on the menu bar.
3. Select either "Copy To Folder..." or "Move To Folder..."
4. In the window that appears I choose the Drive and Folder where I want the selected files placed in to.
4a. There is also a button marked "Make New Folder" if You need to put the selected files in a new sub-folder.
5. Click the Copy button (or Move button).
6. I still will check the destination folder to see if the files are in there before doing something else on the computer.

May 18, 2012 2:14 AM

Another possibility is that the file/folder attributes were somehow changed to hidden. If the folder options in explorer are set to the default settings, hidden files and folders will not be shown. The attributes should not change by themselves, but I have experienced this on one occasion with a back up drive after a computer crashed.

January 23, 2013 10:16 AM

I know this is an older thread, but I wanted to say thanks. I was in a panic when my file of current work was suddenly gone; not in the recycle bin or anywhere I could think of to look.
Turns out it was this mysterious drag and drop sensitivity thing. Phew! Found it from a search from c: just like was suggested. Saved the day! Well, saved the whole week really!

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