Posted in Tech Tips

Tech Tips: Where Did My File Go?

Have you ever saved a file, closed the open version, and then been unable to find it again? Don’t worry, it’s an easy mistake to make. When working under a deadline or on a public computer it is not uncommon to forget a file name, confuse different versions of the same file, or lose track of the destination folder for saved files. The good news is that is very easy to correct.*

Option 1: The Usual Suspects

Recent Documents: If you are using a program ( Office, for example) that offers a view of “recent” documents check the list for your file and simply open it again when found. Be sure to double check your settings and save the document again under the proper name or in the correct destination. You can find the list by opening the program (in Word, for example, open the program, go to “File”—>”Recent”) or many computers will show recent documents for a given application in the start menu. Call up your start menu and mouse over the program’s icon to see a list of recent works.

Temporary Insanity: Often lost documents are saved to the Temp file on your computer’s hard drive. Check it out by opening the start menu—>Computer—>C:—>Temp.

Track the Path: If you think the save file destination may be the issue create a new document using the same program and track it by trying “save as” to view the default destination. This method is not 100% accurate but can be of great use.

Option 2: Search Your System

1. Before you begin, check your computer for external storage devices such as flash drives or CDs. If a previous user was saving items to external sources there is a chance the default save destination has been set to said device. You may check your system by clicking “My Computer” from your start menu (see next.)

*On a related note, we keep a secure box of lost flash drives behind the counter at the circulation desk.

2. Call up your start menu by clicking in the Windows logo on your desktop or take a shortcut by pressing the Windows key on you keyboard

3. In the “Search Programs and Files” box at the bottom of your screen type in the name of the file you want to find and press “Enter.” Don’t worry if you can’t remember it exactly-for now, take your best guess.

4. You should now see a list of files bearing your search terms. If your file is not present, think of other words that might be in the file name. If the file remains hidden, proceed to 5.

5. Add a search filter by clicking on the search box in the top right hand corner (it will contain your search terms) of your screen. You can filter by type, kind, size and, most helpful of all, date modified. Each filter is useful in its own right but the date modified option is often your most accurate as it is often easier to remember when you finished a document than its exact file name or destination.

Option 3: The Big Reveal

There is a small chance that your files are being dropped in hidden folders. Reveal hidden files by opening the start menu—>Control Panel—>Appearance and Personalization—>Folder Options—>Show Hidden Files and Folders. Make sure to  select the option to show what’s hidden and hit apply. Now try the search described in Option 2.

*It’s also very easy to avoid. Always clearly label your work, avoid saving multiple versions of the same document using the same name (document1, document2, etc) and back up your work constantly. If it’s not in 2 or more places, it’s not backed up. Some files may be corrupted or incorrectly saved and therefore cannot be retrieved through any normal means. There are several good free file recovery programs available that may help, but do your homework and verify the source before downloading.



We are the librarians at Haywood Community College in Clyde, NC. We offer great books, a variety of research & educational services, and a staff full of general awesomeness to the HCC and Haywood County communities.

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