You can retrieve tables, queries and macros yourself but only because these objects don't have any code associated with them. But you can't get back the code behind the forms, reports and modules. The code in an MDE has been converted to an interpreted or compiled format. There is nothing in human readable format available to retrieve without special tools.
You can get back the controls and layout information on the forms and reports. See MDE forms/reports extractor. Also a Polish version is at Warsztat 2: Konwerter plików MDE do MDB (MDE to MDB converter)
MDE to MDB Conversion Service for Microsoft® Access is a service which can get back the VBA code behind the forms, reports and modules. However no comments are retrievable.
You must keep the original MDB when making an MDE. Preferably in multiple places including offsite unerasable backups such as CDRs.
I have a bi weekly, roughly, backup of all my data files such as Word and Excel documents as well as all MDBs I've ever created on CDR. These have been placed into a safety deposit box. I now have about five or six years worth in the largest box my bank rents and I'm just about running out of room. I zip them first as then they will fit nicely on a CD. .
But according to this article, Time To Check Your CDRs, I should double check those CDs.
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