A reader found that all his PC's programs had simply disappeared. Here's how to find them:

QUESTION I've lost all the programs installed on my laptop and System Restore hasn't fixed the problem. What else can I try? William Fisher

HELPROOM ANSWER Whether your programs can be restored will depend on exactly what has happened to them and how they came to disappear. It would also be helpful to know whether anything else is missing, such as your documents and photographs.

It could be that your programs are still present, but their Start menu shortcuts and desktop icons are missing. To find out, type %ProgramFiles% into the Start menu Search box. This will locate the folder containing all your installed programs. If more than one result is returned, first look in 'Program Files (x86)'. You should find folders for each of your installed programs, with the applications themselves contained within. You can create a new shortcut by right-clicking the program and choosing the relevant option.

If your programs have disappeared as the result of accidental deletion or data corruption on your hard drive, System Restore won't be able to retrieve them. Data-recovery software is also unlikely to help, since it can't guarantee to restore 100 percent of files. Any missing parts could cause your software not to work or to become unstable and crash.

If you're running Windows 7, try using the 'Backup and Restore' utility. Type restore into the Start menu Search box, then choose 'Backup and Restore'. Follow the onscreen prompts for retrieving files. If you're asked to complete a system image restore, ensure you have copies of any files created or altered since the backup was made.

If no backups are available, the only solution is to reinstall your programs. You can use the original discs or re-download them. If you've lost any program licence keys, contact the software vendor.

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