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What Causes a File to Suddenly Disappear?

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File disappearance from a computer’s hard drive is caused by several factors, such as malicious software, physical damage and user error. You can prevent file disappearance through primary, secondary and tertiary prevention methods, such as data backup, running consistent security scans and maintaining the hard drive’s physical integrity.



·         Computer viruses, such as Trojan Subseven and Trojan Y3K Rat, alter a hard drive’s directory structure and eliminate a user’s files upon opening. Other viruses, such as file infector and multipartate, overwrite files while maintaining the file names, causing the files to disappear from the hard drive. Executing a system scan is the ideal manner of examining your computer to determine if a file disappeared as a result of the aforementioned viruses. Anti-virus programs have system-scan functions that determine the name of the virus, the system event and the amount of data seized during the attack. Anti-virus programs run system scans periodically if the user enables the option. However, running a real-time system scan, accessed by launching the anti-virus software and selecting the search system or system scan function, will detect if file disappearance was initiated or caused by a malicious program.


File System Corruption


·         File system corruption, also referred to as data corruption, refers to hardware or software errors caused by malfunctions that cause a computer to lock, improper restarting or shutting down of the PC, or exiting a program during the recording or transmission of data. Indicators of file system corruption include open-file error messages, slow disk operation and computer crashes. Preventing file system corruption requires creating backups of your files, maintaining a constant power supply to your computer during file transmission and using diligence when prompted to run non-native programs, such as those that pop up during routine Internet browsing.




·         Defects in a computer’s hard drive cause files to disappear as a result of poor maintenance or mishandling, degradation over time and bad sectors. Bad sectors often result from magnetic weakening of the hard drive and, while magnetic weakening is inevitable, maintaining file backup preserves your data. Like bad sectors, degradation of the hard drive is inevitable, and requires primary prevention for file preservation. Maintaining your hard drive requires consistent defragging, or optimizing the disk for data storage.


User Error


·         File disappearance is often caused by user errors, such as inadvertently moving a file to a different folder, searching the incorrect directory or entering the wrong file name. In addition, disconnecting removable media, such as flash drives and portable hard drives, prompts users to think their data disappeared when it is still in place on the removable media and portable hard drive. Finding files that disappeared as a result of user error is corrected by ensuring the correct file name was entered during browsing, searching removable media for the file and searching the computer’s hard drive for the file.

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