damaged files

Microsoft Office Word

I'm using windows & office XP.  My system has become very
unstable, crashing 2-3 times a day.  I'm planning to
reformat but have discovered that about 50 word files
appear to be corrupted.  Their file names are similar but
the 1st 2 letters have been replace with a squiggle &
$sign.  They are 'grayed out' & only contain a few words of
the original document.  

I have virus protection & have scanned so I think the
problem must have developed with the crashes.  Is it
possible for files to randomly corrupt like this?

My backup files are about 12000 miles away on another
computer.  Am I able to recover these files (my file
searching has been fruitless so far).
Hi Trevor

The ~$ files are Word's temporary files. They were "orphaned" by the crashes
and should be deleted. See
http://www.gmayor.com/what_to_do_when_word_crashes.htm for instructions.

It's very rare that any temp file contains more than a small piece of the
document they came from, so you probably won't be able to recover anything
from them. If you want to look anyway, try opening them in Notepad. This
article explains what they're for:

How Word for Windows Uses Temporary Files