Access old user account files under WinXP?

Dennis Faas's picture

Infopackets Reader 'farzee2k' writes:

" My friend has windows XP installed on his system. Somehow, he deleted his account so he is not able to access the files stored in his My Documents folder. He does not have access to the Administrator account either, so when he logs on through another user account, he cannot access the files stored in his original account. Is there anyway he can access those files?"

My Response:

All user account folders are (by default) located in C:\Documents and Settings. And, some user folders in the Documents and Settings directory are hidden. Therefore, I believe it is possible for your friend to access his old user directory by revealing the hidden folder under the Documents and Settings directory.

To enable hidden and system files:

  • Go to the Desktop
  • Double click My Computer
  • Double click the C drive
  • Navigate to Documents and Settings
  • Next, click Tools -> Options, and go to the View tab
  • Scroll down the list and ensure that "show hidden and system files" has a dot beside it

If your friend is unable to enable the 'show hidden and system files' option (if his access level won't allow it), he should be able to reveal the folder name under an MS DOS prompt. To open up a command prompt, click Start -> Programs -> Accessories -> Command Prompt. Once the command prompt opens, type in:

  • c:
  • cd \Documents and Settings
  • dir /ah

This should reveal all directories (including hidden ones); look for a directory with the old account name. If the directory is there, he should be able to access the folder through windows Explorer -- just copy and paste the full path name into the address bar (example: C:\Documents and Settings\MyOldUserName).

If he cannot access the directory through a command prompt under Windows, he should be able to boot from an MS DOS disk and access the folder the same way I described -- providing that his C drive does use the NTFS file system. In that case, he'll need a DOS program that can read and write to NTFS partitions.

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