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Lost files after reformat?

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about 2 years ago(late 2008), I inadvertently messed around with my computer and I think what I did was I reformatted the whole hard drive. I don't remember for sure if that is what I did since it was so long ago, but the screen went through what looks like the process of when you first install Windows on the computer. The following link is vaguely similar to what I went through at least in style: http://www.microcent....tall_large.jpg

When all was said and done, my computer was back to what appeared to be factory condition, including on the desktop only My Computer, Recycle Bin shortcuts, etc. I felt like I completely wiped out all of my personal files. The weird part was when I used the search function and typed in folders I knew the names of like "Paris Trip photos 2007", the search function actually found the folder and said it was still located at 'desktop' even though nothing was actually on the desktop. To fix the problem I just dragged my Paris photos onto desktop from the search window and voila! I had recovered a lot of my personal files that way, only because I remembered the names of those folders.

However, there are still some folders with photos, music, papers, etc, that I still haven't been able to recover and can't figure out why I can't use the search function trick on them. I know they exist because when I go to
"C:\Documents and Settings\Compaq_Owner
there is a transparent hidden folder called "My Recent Documents" (which is only showing since I enabled 'show hidden files and folders')
and it lists a whole bunch of files and folder shortcuts to the things I thought I had lost. Yet when I click on the shortcuts, windows cannot find them. It gives me the missing shortcut error and the option to 'browse' or 'cancel'. The properties box of these folders and files says they are still located in folders on my desktop.

Is there anyway to access these files or are they completely lost in the void forever since I only have shortcuts to their homes before the reformat? Also, how was I able to easily find and drag my "paris photos" for example , and not these other files I found in the hidden 'my recent documents'?

Also, most if not all of the programs I had installed previously like Word, Photoshop, no longer worked and needed to be reinstalled.

Thank you if you can help me recover these folders.
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