It is a common misconception that Starter Edition 'stores', or copies, your files into it. But the program does not move or copy files at all, rather it scans your system's My Pictures directory, and draws (from scratch) miniature versions of your pictures (called thumbnails) so that you can browse a 'flat' list of thumbnails of your photos without having the inconvenience of separate folders to have to navigate. But the thumbnails are significantly smaller than your original files, and double clicking on them to load them for editing or sharing will cause the program to go find the original file, and open up a copy for editing. The original remains intact in ints orignal stored location.
Occasionally, the program can lose track of your original files (such as if you move or delete the files); the program calls thumbnails in this state 'disconnected'. Disconnected files will appear with a small red torn file icon at the bottom center of your photo's thumbnail. To reconnect the files, you can use the File>Reconnect Missing files command to see if the program can locate the original files in their new location, and once again link the thumbnails in Starter Edition with your files. It's a possibility, unfortunately, that the files that Starter Edition once tracked were deleted. That would have happened outside of the program, using Windows Explorer, in all liklihood.
I understand how upsetting it is to lose pictures, particularly of family (it's happened to me, too), but Starter Edition is only a layer 'on top' of your photos, NOT the photos themselves. What having the photos in Starter Edition actually did for you, in your case, is give you at least the thumbnail versions of the photos, which you would not have had, had you deleted the files without this program installed.
I haven't figured out a way to 'harvest' the thumbnails that are in Starter Edition, other than to do screen captures at the largest possible size which also look good on screen. The larger thumbnails in Starter Edition are probably 640 x 480.
Wish I had a magic way to restore files, but without knowing when the files may have been deleted, it's impossible to say how successful a hard disk recovering program might be at retrieving deleted files; that's the last possible approach that could be used to restore the files.
many thanks for giving me the confidence to keep searching for my photos. I did find them, quite easily as it turned out.. Using the search on Windows XP and putting in .jpeg, which produced 5 reults, I then ticked photos,video, or music on its own,Hey Presto all my pictures came up as thumbnails, then by clicking onto them they came up full size ready to be played with or printed.
My sincere belated thanks.
That's great news; now would be a great time to do those backups that we never seem to find time to do. There are few things more precious than those familiar memories, and being a bit on the paranoid side about backing them up is not a bad policy.
User was able to find photos using Windows Explorer.