Sorry if this is a bit long, but I don't want to miss any details, so I won't have to clarify later on:

About a year ago, while messing around with my XP system, I enabled the "Make this folder private" option on a folder full of C++ programs and perl scripts I was working on (Also some documents and music, but these are more easily replaced). Later, my Windows installation got corrupted, and when I re-installed, I could find no way to access my files. I asked around on various boards and did a lot of Google searching at the time, but couldn't find a way to get into these files.

Something about my hardware configuration (or possibly software...I never figured out the problem, but it went away when I got a new motherboard) kept corrupting my windows files, so I would have to reinstall. Tired of loosing files to this, after the second time I repartioned my 40GB HD into a NTFS c: drive for Windows and programs and a FAT32 d: drive for documents, data, etc.

As if fate was still determined to destroy my files, I realize one day that several of my files are missing. I find them in the recycling bin, and the date deleted is a time when I was not on the computer. Nobody fesses up to it, but I figure one of my family members accidentally (?) deleted them. Used to NT and Linux file permissions, I try to use Administrative tools to change folder permissions on it to read only, but there didn't seem to be this functionality on XP. The closest thing I could find was the aforementioned option. It only seemed to work on the My Documents folder, and then only when the My Documents folder was in C:\Documents and Settings\ (I had moved it to D:\My Documents using TweakUI). So I moved the My Documents folder back, and enabled the privacy option on it. Take that, fate!

Several months later, my Windows installation gets corrupted again. Before, I had been doing a format c:, then a re-install, but now, since my important documents were on the c: drive, I just did a standard re-install that keeps all of your old windows settings and whatnot. I used the same username for the admin account ("Blaize"). When I went to c:/documents and settings, there was now a Blaize, and a Blaize.LOCAL. The Blaize folder, containing my documents, gave a "This folder is private" or similar error when I tried to open it.
running the hard drive as a slave on a NT 4.0 system, but nothing worked. Nobody on various message boards was able to help me either.

I tried at the time to get my data through boot disk prompts, and anything else I could think of, without success. As I had 10000+ lines in the folder, and about a month of work done since my last backup, I was quite despondant. I more or less have given up on those projects (they were recreational, not for work), but I'd like to get them back.

Now I have a new XP system and I would be able to run my old drive as a slave, so my question is how do I get my files back?

Also, what methods (other than more frequent backups) can I use to protect my files from deletion without this problem occuring again?