Recover lost Windows 7 user profile

At work, I had just received a new Dell desktop computer pre-installed with Windows 7.  First thing I did was to ‘join’ the computer into our internal Active Directory domain.  That was all good and I was able login to my desktop using my domain user id.  Then I started installing software and ‘personalizing’ my windows 7.  At some point, for some stupid reasons, I somehow removed my user profile folder (C:Users{myuserid}) … oops :-(   

From that point on, I wasn’t able to persistently store any personalization.  Everytime I logged off and re-logged in, a new ‘temporary’ profile is created.  On every logged in, windows would present me with a ‘warning’ message that in essence said it was not able to find my ‘profile’.  I did a few things to try to fix this issue, including:    

  1. manually adding C:Usersmyuserid folder
  2. removing/re-adding my domain user to the desktop
  3. detaching/re-joining the desktop to the domain

None helped.    

Finally, after googling and researching this issue, I found the best solution that worked, short of reinstalling Windows 7.  The discussion and solution about this issue can be found on this microsoft forum article: http://social.technet.microsoft.com/Forums/en-US/w7itprogeneral/thread/5ec0b949-effa-4e30-ba09-dc948a4c7a8b.  Here, I will attempt to outline the steps in more details with the hope that I can help those who do not understand or those who are not familiar with windows registry editing.    

First of all, editing windows registry could be dangerous.  A small mistake can result in unpredictable problem with your windows operating system. In this case, however, since I was not able to properly use my own login and profile on the computer, I had nothing to loose.  If you are reading this article, and assuming you have run into the same issue I had, you would have nothing to loose also … just go for it and take this as an opportunity to practice editing registry 😉    

There are two ways to start the windows registry editor. The first option is to click on ‘Start – Run…’ and  enter regedit on the ‘Open:’ text input area then click ‘OK’.  If you don’t see ‘Start – Run …’ option, then you can either customize your Start Menu to make it show up or you can, otherwise, click ‘Start’ then enter regedit in the ‘Search programs and files’ field.  I do like to have ‘Start – Run’ option shown, however.  To enable it, follow these steps:    

Enabling Start-Run menu

Enabling Start-Run menu

  • Right click your mouse on the ‘Start’ menu icon
  • Select ‘Properties’
  • Select ‘Start Menu’ tab and in there click the ‘Customize…’ button
  • Scroll down the list until you see ‘Run command’ check box and enable it
  • Click ‘OK’ twice

Before the Registry Editor actually runs, Windows 7 will prompt you with a User Account Control action.  It asks you if you want to allow the program to make changes to this computer.  Select/Click ‘Yes’ to allow the Registry Editor to start.  

User Account Control

Allowing Registry Editor to run

On the left hand side pane of the Registry Editor, navigate to ‘HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINESOFTWAREMicrosoftWindows NTCurrentVersionProfileList. Under ProfileList, the affected profile would show as having .bak extention.  You could just delete it or rename it so it has a different extension.  I just added .old at the end as shown below.  Once you do that, close the Registry Editor and restart/reboot your windows OS.  After loggin in, you will see a new C:Users{myuserid} folder is created.  You will also see through the Registry Editor, a new entry, with the same ‘key’ as the old (renamed) key is created.  Your problem has been solved. 

Registry Editor

Registry Editor

2 Responses to “Recover lost Windows 7 user profile”

  1. zam says:

    well it does not work for me. i even deleted the .bak but still stuck at temp profile. i can see my old files in user.

  2. Eric says:

    I there is no .bak file located within the location mentioned above. Any other ideas?

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