How to restore individual files from System Restore points

Martin Brinkmann
Sep 14, 2012
Updated • Sep 14, 2012
Backup, Tutorials, Windows, Windows tips

Today I noticed that all of the files that I had saved on the desktop in Windows 7 were gone. The only icon that I saw on the desktop was the Recycle Bin. Since I needed to access the files, I started to investigate the issue. First thing that I did check was to make sure that I had not unchecked the show desktop files option. I verified that despite the fact that I saw the Recycle Bin icon on the desktop.

The option to show desktop icons was checked, so that was not it. Next thing on the list was to search for the files on the system, which turned up that they were not anymore on it. I also fired up Office 2013 to load some of the recent files but that did result in an error message that the documents could not be found on the system, and that I should check whether they had been moved.

Research on the Internet showed me that I was not the only user with the issue. Not all issues were resolved in the various forum threads on the Internet, but some solutions included scanning the file with up to date antivirus software to make sure that malware was not to blame for the disappearance of files on the desktop.

Scans with Malwarebytes Anti-Malware and Dr. Web Cure It did not find malware on the system that could have been responsible for the removal of the desktop files.

Next try System Restore. I had multiple System Restore points at my disposal. The last ones were created after Windows Updates, the installation of the ramdisk software, and SlimCleaner.

I restored the points but the desktop items did not return. Last chance file recovery right? Recuva found some of the documents but not all. I was about to give up when I decided to browse some of the System Restore points just to find out if one of them had the documents listed. They should have, considering that I have been working with the documents yesterday.

I have used System Restore Explorer for that. You can use the program to mount system restore points so that you can browse and restore individual files.

restore individual system restore files

And guess what, the first system restore backup that I mounted contained the files and folders that I had stored on the desktop. I'm not entirely sure why the files have not been recovered when I restored the backup that contained them though. It could be a issue with files on the desktop, but that is just a guess. I can create new icons and files on the desktop, and they remain there even after reboots.

system restore files

I already did a sfc /scannow on the console to make sure that no important files were corrupted that caused this. I also checked the disk which required no repairs as well.

If you have an idea what could have caused this let me know please, I'd really like to find an answer for the issue. I'm also not sure why restoring the System Restore point did not restore the files on the desktop, as they were included in the backup.


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  1. Glenn McKinney said on October 9, 2012 at 4:34 am

    My internet explorer just quit working and it won’t allow me to access my hotmail address but I can still access my yahoo e-mail. I tried Fastagain PC Booster but that didn’t fix my problem. I was told to reset internet explorer but if I do that I’m afraid that I will loose everything I’ve added since I got my PC about 4 years ago. Is there some way that internet explorer can be reset without loosing everything ? I’m a novis and know nothing about how to restore or reset anything that ai might loose.

    1. Paul B. said on October 9, 2012 at 5:02 am

      You should back up your personal data before you do anything.

      That said, Resetting IE via the Internet Options/advanced tab should not affect personal data. But if something deeper is going on being fully backed up is a reassurance, and should always, always be your normal state anyway.

      You also could try another browser to see how hotmail behaves. This could be a scripting issue, or even a cookie issue, that somehow got messed up in IE. Try clearing IE’s cache and making sure cookies are allowed. Make sure hotmail isn’t in a restricted zone in internet options. Otherwise go with the reset.

  2. Miguel said on September 16, 2012 at 5:47 pm

    Not sure if it may happen in Windows 7, but in Windows XP, if a user profile fails to load for any reason, the user gets the default desktop, without his/her icons, files, and settings, because a temporary empty profile (in a different user folder) has been created for that session. If the profile is damaged, this may happen everytime the user logs in, but if it is some temporary problem (the profile was locked because it was already opened…), a reboot may solve it.

    At least in Windows XP, System Restore does not restore user files (documents, etc.) even if it has saved them, it just reverts changes in system or programs files. Maybe that’s the cause System Restore did not get the files back even if they were saved.

    Anyway, glad to hear you restored the files :) I’ll get that System Restore Explorer program, as it appears be useful to extract files from System Restore points. Thanks :)

  3. Anomaly said on September 15, 2012 at 11:43 pm

    Did you try right clicking the desktop folder in Windows Explorer and checking previous versions of the folder? That basically goes into your restore points and gets the versions of files and folders that are in there.

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on September 16, 2012 at 9:14 am

      I tried that and there were none.

  4. Braco said on September 15, 2012 at 6:11 pm

    Try with iCare Data Recovery Standard. Commercial program that costs $ 69.95.Mozete ga get free if you go to the link:
    Fill out the form … mail can be either on the next page is your licenca.Akcija runs until 20.IX. ..

  5. Dwayne said on September 15, 2012 at 7:47 am

    Is it possible your user profile is corrupt, and Windows has created a new profile for you ? Check your c:\users directory.

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on September 15, 2012 at 9:34 am

      I did that and I’m still using my old profile. I did however notice the UpdatusUser user account there that seems to get created by NVIDIA.

  6. Anonymous said on September 15, 2012 at 4:51 am

    One thing I noticed with Windows 7 is that in folders with lots of file changes in them, Windows Explorer will eventually not display any of the files in them. It just shows a blank folder. However if I put an asterisk in the search box it will magically find them again.

  7. Paul B. said on September 15, 2012 at 2:51 am

    Is anything else missing? Seems odd desktop icons would go.

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on September 15, 2012 at 9:37 am

      No, only the files on the desktop are gone, everything else is still there.

  8. Anonymous said on September 15, 2012 at 1:44 am

    the problem turned out to be a great article. :)

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on September 15, 2012 at 9:42 am

      Actually, problems usually turn out into great articles. Not saying that I’d like more problems though ;)

  9. Jay said on September 14, 2012 at 8:29 pm

    Rootkit. I had one. Had a similar issue with things on desktop disappearing. Try TDSSKiller (may not run, rootkit may be blocking it). If it won’t run that’s another sign. Mount as a non booting drive on another computer (usb connection) from Kaspersky and run tdsskiller. My understanding is that some rootkits inject stuff into System Restore points, so when you Restore, you keep putting the bad stuff back.

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on September 14, 2012 at 8:42 pm

      Nope, nothing found. Good suggestion though.

      1. ilev said on September 15, 2012 at 7:11 am


        Have you installed/ run InfraRecorder app ? this app unchecks Show Desktop Icons .every
        time it is run.

      2. Martin Brinkmann said on September 15, 2012 at 9:35 am

        No I do not have the program installed. The files are not there on the desktop.

  10. PixelWizard said on September 14, 2012 at 8:26 pm

    Thank you Martin. Great advice. This utility looks good, surely will come in handy at some point. It and its cousin you pointed out in another article (Shadow Explorer) are programs I had no idea existed, or were even possible.

    1. clas said on September 15, 2012 at 2:50 pm

      ah, i couldnt have said it any better…i too had no idea this
      existed and now have it and it looks like a great tool. thanks
      ghacks to bringing it up.

    2. Martin Brinkmann said on September 14, 2012 at 8:59 pm

      It is definitely a great program.

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