Fixing a corrupt user profile in Windows XP

If you have ever logged on to Windows XP and found that there was an error message greeting you, you may have a corrupt user profile. This will often follow a forced system shutdown or similar system problem. You might be presented with an error that says “The system has recovered from a serious error. Your user profile is damaged.”

To fix this problem you will likely be forced to create a new user account.  Making new user accounts can be a pain because you can lose all of your settings and preferences from your old user account that may have taken you months (or years) to get right. Here are some tips to help you to create a new user account profile without losing your favorite settings.

You can start by creating new user profile on the computer:

  • Log on as the Administrator or as a user with administrator credentials. Any profile that does not have administration rights will not be able to make the required changes.
  • Go to Start > Control Panel > User Accounts

windows-user-profiles

  • Click the Advanced tab, and then click the advanced button.
  • In the left section of the window, click the Users folder.
  • On the Action menu, click New User.
  • Enter the user information that corresponds with your networks naming conventions, and then click Create. Naming your user account is very important.  If the name does not match your networks current naming conventions it can cause trouble down the road with regular administration duties.

Creating a new user profile on a workgroup computer:

  • Log on as the Administrator or as a user with administrator access rights.
  • Go to Start, and then choose Control Panel > User Accounts
  • Under pick a task, choose Create a New Account.
  • Type a name for the user information (be sure this matches your current naming conventions as well), and then click Next.
  • Select an account type, and then click Create Account.

The following steps will tell you how to get your old profile copied into your new profile without losing any of the information. This will not copy your outlook profile; only your windows profile. It is important that you back up any office profiles separately.

  • Log on to a profile that is not the same one that you are trying to copy from.
  • In Windows Explorer (not Internet Explorer), click Tools > Folder Options.
  • Click the View tab > Show hidden files and folders > Clear the Hide Protected Operating System Files check box, and then click OK. Ignore any warning message for this time.

windows-folder-options

  • Find the C:\Documents and Settings\corruptprofile folder, C is the Windows XP hosting drive, and “corruptprofile” is the name of the profile you want to copy the user profile from
  • Copy all the files in that folder except the following files:
    • Ntuser.dat
    • Ntuser.dat.log
    • Ntuser.ini
  • Find the C:\Documents and Settings\newprofile folder, where C is the drive on which Windows XP is installed, and “newprofile” is the name of the user profile that you created.
  • Now paste in the data you just copied from your old profile. Be careful not to copy and paste the above files that were supposed to be left out.
  • Restart the computer and log on to your new profile.

This should correct typical problems you may have experienced as a result of a corrupt user profile.  If this option seems a little extreme for you, a System Restore might be able to fix the problem as well, but System Restore is usually a better option for a stand alone system rather than for a networked machine.

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