Monday, February 23, 2009

How To Recover a Damaged User Profile in XP


Windows XP is a really good operating system as long as it is running fine, but when it doesn't, you have to scurry around looking for solutions to get it back to normal. Once in a while, it so happens that you get a message that reads something like this:


Windows cannot load your profile because it may be corrupted. You may log in using a temporary User Profile.



Or


The system has recovered from a serious error.
This happens when the user profile becomes damaged.



Empty Windows XP desktop after logging in post a damaged user profile 



Windows does boot up, but when you arrive at the desktop, you are shocked to find that the desktop items are missing. That's not all; you find that all the personal settings such as theme, wallpaper, and icons are gone too. As if this is not enough, you find that the my Documents folder doesn't contain any of your documents. Internet Explorer bookmarks and Outlook Express personal settings are gone too, along with your emails. Sounds nightmarish, doesn't it? Don't worry, today we will show you how to get everything back in order.

We will first explain how the above scenario takes place and the cause for it. The reason behind such a situation is that the user profile gets damaged (as we mentioned earlier). A user profile contains all the files and settings for a particular user, and when there are many users using a Windows XP computer, there are as many user profiles, each with its own unique settings. When a user profile gets damaged (due to various reasons such as the file system getting corrupted), Windows XP creates a new user profile and logs you into this new profile. The new profile will be that of a user logging in for the first time  - bland and devoid of any customizations.



The Rescue Work

You have to login as an administrator to do the following; in other words, the user needs to have administrative rights. To do this, you must log off and then log on to the default administrator account.


Start by Securing Your Data
Since your data in the original account is your priority, you need to secure it first and only then proceed further. To start the backup process, open Windows Explorer and go to C:\Documents and Settings folder. Now locate and then open your original account folder. You will be able to view all the files and folders in the original user profile as seen in the screenshot. You must configure Windows Explorer to show hidden and system files before doing this.





You can now back up all the files and folders inside this folder to another location in another drive. Probably the first folder would be your my Documents folder, which you can see as UserName's Documents (like Temp's Documents). You can also copy the contents of the Favorites folder.





Outlook Express users can find the files related to their emails at a location such as "Local
Settings\Application Data\Identities\ {D10E00AF-FC98-4E44-B5CC-F13E6D3AE304} \Microsoft\Outlook Express" folder, as seen above.





Address Book is another important thing you may want to back up. You can find the Address Book file in "Application Data\Microsoft\Address Book" folder. Outlook 2000/XP users will find the PST file in the "Local Settings\Application Data\Microsoft\Outlook" folder.


After you are done backing up your most important files, you can proceed with the recovery procedure. We shall start with System Restore.
Plan A:  System restore

System Restore utility allows you to return the computer to a state it was in an earlier time period. It can therefore allow you to recover a damaged user profile, if the damage is not too extensive.





System Restore utility can be found in Start > All Programs > Accessories > System Tools. After it is launched, you can see the Welcome to System Restore page, where you can select "Restore my computer to an earlier time" and click Next.





In the next page, you can select a Restore Point when your computer did not have any problem and click Next. You are given a confirmation message, and you must click Next to start the restore operation. The system will restart after the System Restore operation is complete, and you can then attempt to log on to your original user account.


Before attempting System Restore, we would like to tell you a few things. If there are multiple user accounts on the system, returning to a previous Restore Point will return all the user profiles to the earlier state. If the damage to the user profile is due to something like a bad sector on a hard drive, then System Restore will not be able to correct the problem.


The above-mentioned process was plan A.


If this solution works, then things should look the way they did before with all your user profile settings and data restored. If it doesn't work, then we shall go to Plan B.





But before that, you must undo the System Restore operation. To do that, launch System Restore again. This time around, you will see a new option "Undo my last restoration." Select this option and click Next. Follow the instructions to undo the System Restore operation.

Plan B: Copy your user profile

In this method, you can try to restore the user profile by creating a new account with administrative privileges. Here is how you can create an administrative account. Open the Control Panel and then open User Accounts.













Make sure that you select Computer Administrator as the account type. Click Create Account to create the new user account.







You will now have to copy the old user profile to this newly created one. Though this may sound a little complicated, it is actually a simple process. Log onto the newly created user account and log off. Log back into the administrative account.





Open System Properties from the Control Panel and select Advanced tab.





Click the Settings button in the User Profiles section. You can now see a User Profiles window that lists the different user profiles present on your computer.





You can see the old user profile here (in this case, it is Temp). Select the old profile in the list and click "Copy To" button. In the next window, click the Browse button, locate the Documents and Settings folder, and select the new account. Click OK. You will see a confirmation dialog box informing you that the original files will be deleted and you will be prompted to confirm the copy operation. Click Yes.


Once the copying is done, close the User Profiles and System Properties window, and log off. You can now attempt to log on to the new account again. If this method works, well, then things should be back to normal.


If, even after doing the above, you are still not able to log on to your account, then we will have to go to Plan C. But before we move on, you need to delete the new user account and user profile. Log on to the Administrator account, open User Profiles and click Delete. Then, open User Accounts in the Control Panel and delete the new account and its files.


Plan C: Moving to a new user profile manually

In this method, you will create a new account and a new user profile. You can then manually copy your data files and other parts of the user profile from the original to the new one. Please note that when you move to a new user profile in this manner, you will lose all the personalized settings such as themes, wallpaper, and icons.


First, create a new account as we did before. Log on to it to create a default new profile and then log off again. Log on back to the Administrator account. Open Windows Explorer and go to C:\Documents and Settings folder. Locate and open your original account folder. Make sure that you have enabled viewing of hidden system files and folders to be able to view all the files present in that folder.

Copy the contents of the folder containing the data that you want to move to the new user profile. In our case, we will copy the contents of C:\Documents and Settings\Temp\Temp's Documents folder to the C:\Documents and Settings\JCL\JCL's Documents folder. Copy the contents of the Favorites, Outlook Express (or Outlook), and Address Book folders.

Make sure that you do not copy any file related to the operating system, as there is a chance that  this may be the root cause of your problem. You should not therefore copy Ntuser.dat, Ntuser.pol, or Ntuser.ini from the original profile to the new one.


After you are done copying the files and folders, log out of the Administrator account and log on to the new user account. You should now be able to access all your data files as you did before and also most of your applications. You may need to reinstall or reconfigure some of the applications, though. You will also need to recreate all your personalized settings.


Clean up the old user profile

After you are done restoring the new user profile, you no longer require the files and folders of the old profile and can get rid of them. You can do it by once again opening the User Profiles window, selecting them from the list of profiles, and clicking the Delete button.


Backing up the user profile automatically

After having been through the nightmarish experience of a damaged user profile, you might not want to go through it again. We will find out how to safeguard against a repeat of such a scenario. This can be done by making Windows XP believe that the local user profile is a roaming user profile. The advantage of this is that Windows XP will back up your user profile each time you log off. To achieve this, you have to log out of your new account and log in to your Administrator account. Open User Profiles window in System Properties, select the new user profile, click Copy To button and type the name of a folder on another drive in the Copy Profile To text box.





After this procedure is done, open Computer Management by simply running "compmgmt.msc" (without the quotes). Go to System Tools\Local Users and Groups\Users folder. Next, double-click on your account name and select the Profile tab. Type the path to the backup in the Profile Path text box, as shown in the next screenshot.


We are done. This is just one more step towards a crash-free Windows and one thing less to worry about.






Thanks To:Jayesh Limaye,from techtree

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