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I'm running Windows XP Professional on a PC which is less than a year old. About 3 months ago I got an error on boot saying windows could not find my profile. At this point it created a temp one. On this occasion I copied the temp data back into my existing profile and carried on using it. After another month it died again and, once again set me up a temp user. Each time this happens I lose everything related to my profile (desktop, start menu, etc). I ran checks on the hard disk and these suggested nothing was wrong so this seems a software issue not a disk problem.

On the advice of my computer manufacturer I am now considering reinstalling Windows but just wanted to check if there's any other ideas for things I might be able to try. Any suggestions for what could be causing the problem would also be gladly appreciated.

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Good question... I had the same thing happen to my machine a while back. There was a problem when booting. I tried several things but nothing worked. Then I restarted the computer once again, and the profile came back. I think it's an XP bug. –  nicorellius Apr 12 '10 at 17:58
    
Never heard of this before; I guess the usual check updates; software drivers; virus/mallware/spiware/trojans ect... –  Iceking007 Feb 17 '11 at 17:31
    
I hate to say it, but try formatting your PC and starting fresh. If you want to find the stuff from your old profiles, it should be in C:\Documents and Settings\YOUR-USERNAME\. –  Breakthrough Mar 2 '11 at 12:14
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1 Answer

Usually yes. When this happens and the profile folder was something like C:\Documents and Settings\Administrator before, you should find another folder C:\Documents and Settings\Administrator.something, where the .something part is variable.

To find out which one is your current active profile, use the registry editor to go to: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\ProfileList and look for the subkeys. They are named by SID of the user in question, i.e. S-1-5-21-XXX-YYY-ZZZ-RID (the last four parts being numeric values). Inside each key there should be a value named ProfileImagePath of type REG_EXPAND_SZ. That one contains the current profile in use.

Any profile except the one currently in use but fitting into the .something naming scheme could be your old one. It's likely the time stamp of the folder that will give it away.

Now, if you're after the data in the profile, load the ntuser.dat using the registry editor and explore whatever keys you want to recover. For files, simply use your file manager or command line.

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