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How can I recover data after rebuilding my machine?

If you're not careful, data recovery after rebuilding a machine may be impossible, as you can lose any necessary recovery agents for your data. Read what security expert Jonathan Hassell has to say about recovering data after you've reformatted your hard drive.

I rebuilt my machine. Now, when I open some .xls files, a Windows message box appears saying, "the file may be read only or encrypted." I lost my private key. How do I open my files?
Unfortunately, if you've rebuilt your machine, data recovery is out of the question. Without your private key, you cannot decrypt the files you originally encrypted via the Encrypting File System feature in Windows.

If you detach yourself emotionally from the issue and think about it, this is the behavior you would want: If you were a thief trying to rebuild a machine to gain access to its encrypted files, you wouldn't be able to. This is what's happening to you now. Sorry.

If you hadn't rebuilt your machine, this article on recovering encrypted data files would help you with your lost key problem, but now that you've formatted the disk and lost any recovery agent that had been configured, it doesn't apply in your situation. I include it here in case future readers encounter this problem.

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