When I open Adobe Premiere Elements 12, I get a choice of Existing Project or New Projects. Both choices will still bring me to a new project. I know I saved the Project I was working on because I saw it using the Windows8 File Explorer under Documents, Adobe, Premiere Elements, 12.0, and finally Adobe Premier Elements Auto-Save. The only way for me to open the correct file is to use those steps. Surely there is an easier way. Someone please help.
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What computer operating system is your Premiere Elements 12 running on? Make sure you update from 12 to 12.1 Update using an opened project's Help Menu/Update.
Now for the immediates...
Your project exists if you find the project.prel file in the Adobe Folder. If your Premiere Elements 12 is on Windows 7, 8, or 8.1 64 bit, then you should see the project.prel file (if it still exists) in
In that 12.0 Folder these are folders (including Adobe Premiere Elements Auto Save with snapshots of your project at various stages - depends on how you set up AutoSave in Edit Menu/Preferences/AutoSave). The project.prel is a file in the 12.0 Folder. Your project file is not your AutoSave. Consider your AutoSaves as emergency backups which may or may not contain the latest edits of your project when you thought that you saved closed it.
From what you wrote, the project file (project.prel) does not exist any longer. Did your lost project file close with a crash last time you saw it?
When you go to File Menu/Open Recent Project, do you see a path to the lost project...one that leads to a project.prel file and not an AutoSave?
I would advise you to do some mini test runs in which you open a new project, save/close it, and follow its path. Once you are confident about the details on that, we can proceed.
Your project details may be at issue, including computer resources, project preset, source media properties, nature of edits, and most importantly what you are doing with your source media once you save/close your project.
Please review and consider and then we can decide what next.