Locating Lost or Missing Files on your Computer

Reference Number: KB-00369
Last Modified: July 1, 2016

The information in this article applies to:

Chief Architect Premier or Chief Architect Interiors

Home Designer Professional or Home Designer Architectural or Home Designer Suite or Home Designer Interiors or Home Designer Essentials or Home Designer Landscape & Deck


My Chief Architect or Home Designer file was here yesterday, but today it seems to be missing. Where is the first place I should look for my missing plan or layout* file?

*Layout files only available in Chief Architect Premier, Chief Architect Interiors and Home Designer Pro.


Chief Architect programs save files to the location on your computer that you have chosen to save them; the program cannot delete files from your system.

In this article, we will discuss how to check your Recycle Bin/Trash for missing files, search your operating system for the missing files, and check the Chief Architect or Home Designer Archives.

To check your deleted items in the Recycle Bin/Trash

  1. Often your "lost" file are files that have simply been deleted - either accidentally or intentionally. Check your Windows Recycle Bin or Mac Trash.

    You should check your Recycle Bin/Trash immediately, as continued write activity increases the possibility of an unrecoverable loss.

  2. For more information on how to use the Recycle Bin/Trash, please see the appropriate link for your operating system below.

If the missing or lost files cannot be located in your operating system's Recycle Bin or Trash, it is possible they haven't been deleted, but may be at a different location then you initially checked. Use the search function in your operating system to locate them.

To search for files

On a Windows computer:

  1. Open File Explorer by clicking the File Explorer icon on your taskbar. It may also be called This PC

  2. In the upper right of the Explorer Window, there is a Search box. The search will look in all the folders and sub folders in the current location. 

  • Try searching for the exact name of your lost file.

    If that does not work, or if you are not sure of the exact name, use the following WILD-CARD search.

  • To pull up only files with the .plan extension, type in *.plan

  • To pull up only files with the .layout extension, type in *.layout
    Layout files are only available in Chief Architect Premier, Chief Architect Interiors and Home Designer Pro

  • Sort by the Date Modified in order to quickly locate the most recent files if using the WILD-CARD search option.

  • If the missing files are from Chief Architect 9.5 or earlier, or Home Designer 6.0 or earlier, then their file extension will instead be *.pl1, where the 1 represents the first floor plan, and each other floor will be a separate file, such as *.pl2 for Floor 2 and *.pl0 for Floor 0. 

    All of these files must be in the same location in order for the current version of the software to open and view them. Once saved in the current version, they will then be combined in to a single .plan or .layout.

  • To learn more about searching your Windows computer for files, please see the appropriate link for your operating system below.

  • On a Mac computer:

    1. Click on the magnifying glass icon located in the top right corner of a Mac's menu bar.

    2. Type in .plan to search for plan files.

      Double click on Show all in Finder to show every plan file and its location on your system.

    3. To learn more about searching for files on a Mac, please see the appropriate link for your operating system below.

    4. Mac OS X El Capitan
    5. Mac OS X Yosemite
    6. Mac OS X Mavericks

    Accessing the archives

    If you encountered a power failure or forced system restart before you were able to save your most recent changes in the file, you may be able to locate a recent backup which has much of the data still saved in it.

    Note: The first time a plan or layout is saved, Chief Architect software creates an Archive folder in the Data folder. The Archive folder contains Auto Save and Archive files.

    If the plan or layout has not already been saved once and given a name, then no archive or auto save files have been created.

    Every time a drawing is saved, Archive files that keep a historical archive of your plan are automatically created or updated.

    Files can be archived by hour, day or most recent save. They are renamed according to which archiving option is selected in the Preferences  dialog. However, regardless of what archiving option you select in the Preferences dialog, if you do not save your work regularly, then your archive files will not be updated.

    To learn more about utilizing the Archives, please see "Accessing Your Archive Files" in the Related Articles section below.

    Archive files are meant to be for emergency use only and should not be used as your primary backup method for plan and layout files.

    If you do not already have a backup system in place, please see "Implementing a Data Backup Strategy" in the Related Articles section below.

    Seek professional assistance

    If you are not able to access your hard drive, or if you are unable to find your missing data, contact a computer professional in your area.

    Alternatively, use another computer to search the Internet for a data recovery expert, as you may be experiencing a hard drive failure resulting in data loss that could become more serious as time goes on.

    For future reference on how Chief Architect recommends organizing your files, please see the "Guide to File Management" linked in the Related Articles section below.