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Google Chrome supports both multiple users and multiple browser user profiles. To add to the confusion, the end of the latter Google Support page reads:

Creating a new Chrome user is another quick way to create a new browser user profile. Learn how to add a new user in Chrome [N.B. which links to the page on multiple users]

What exactly are the differences and pros & cons of each, aside from how they're created?

Labnol seems to superficially cover the topic, implying in a March 2012 article there is a difference in password and browsing history storage. I've created a profile via Chrome's Settings mechanism, and a new directory was created in %LOCALAPPDATA%\Google\Chrome\User Data\. That's exactly what Labnol instructs you to do the hard way. That new profile did not inherit anything from the Default profile. The history was empty, and there were no passwords stored. This suggests that the Labnol article is wrong. It instructs on to copy the Default profile directory, which will, of course, copy the history. Finally, the claim that "Unlike Firefox that ships with a Profile Manager, you can only manually create user profiles in Google Chrome.", is patently obsolete.

Furthermore, Chrome 26 created a shortcut on the desktop launching chrome.exe with the --profile-directory parameter, not with the --user-data-dir suggested by Labnol. The latter, however, is documented by Chromium.

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1 Answer 1

System users vs local settings profiles

A User Profile is system specific, stored in its User folder through that %LOCALAPPDATA%. Meaning that if you log on into Windows with two different users you cannot access eachother's user profile folder without prior linking or other form of permission access and setup.

C:\Users\Adam\
C:\Users\Eve\

Eve can't load Adam's cookies or saved passwords, nor vice-versa.

Basically it ties those User Profile folders in Adam and Eve to the local security layer and permissions defined for each user in questions, including Admins.

The Browser profiles in-browser User is in case you have need for a different set of settings for a site or just want a fresh profile without extensions to test or browse in case some extensions make trouble.

For example: you don't want to create a new system User for your sister just so she can go on Facebook and have to switch between accounts through the shut down button or task manager, you'll use your own user, so if you both want to log onto Facebook, each with your own account, at the same time, you have to create a new browser profile in-browser User. In the Default profile in-browser User you are logged in with yours and you have your own settings, cookies, passwords and in the second profile in-browser User your sister will get her own privileges without interference, both of them can run simultaneously, switching between them is simpler and faster. All extensions need to be installed again in the second profile if need be.

Fixed meaning, typically Google should have used the 'profile' and 'user' words accordingly, a user is a private account, similar to the local user account, and a profile a second separation entity which is working within the same local user account. Mozilla named them accordingly: profiles, Google named them Users they should have named them in-browser Users if they wanted to stick with the word.

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I'm not sure that's the case. What you describe are Windows users (which lead to completely different Google Chrome users/profiles/whatever because of different c:\users\<username>\Google\Chrome directories they're stored in, while the confusion I ran into is Chrome's own user profiles system. Do you have a citation? –  Dan Dascalescu Apr 28 '13 at 3:30
    
The confusion you might have come from not understanding the multiple users explanation page you've linked to. still writing... –  emm980 Apr 28 '13 at 3:37
    
"Manage multiple users on Chrome" shows how to create multiple users, each of those will be stored in the same profile location. Create a new browser user profile shows exactly that, how to create/restore/backup a profile location where each profile's users are stored, it can only be changed if a new system user is used or if used like this --user-data-dir=C:\foo where C:\foo is the equivalent of 'C:\Users\<username>\AppData\Local\Google\Chrome\User Data' stored on a thumb drive for ex or in a TrueCrypt container. –  emm980 Apr 28 '13 at 3:49

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