So, this morning, I boot up my computer and find a black desktop with no icons on, and I get that error:

C:\Windows\system32\config\systemprofile\Desktop refers to a location that is unavailable. It could be on a hard drive on this computer, or on a network. Check to make sure that the disk is properly inserted, or that you are connected to the Internet or your network, and then try again. If it still cannot be located, the information might have been moved to a different location.

I do some snooping around, and I find that system32 indeed doesn't exist, but System32 does. However, the Desktop file or folder doesn't exist. I can access all my old files. They're still in the User folder, but everything profile related seems to be inaccessible.

Also, all the fonts seem to be using the old fonts, not the new Windows 7 fonts. And there seems to be an old version of System32 from the Old Versions tab, but the restore option is disabled. Somehow I'm trying to get it copied now. It's about 1.5GB.

Any idea what I should do?

EDIT: In this case, it seemed like a corrupted account. I'll outline what I did below.

  • 3
    That sounds like a mess. I'd just backup the data and re-load windows – dtmland Jul 3 '13 at 21:37
  • Windows isn't case sensitive thus the directory you found is the same folder has the directory you don't find – Ramhound Jul 4 '13 at 8:18
  • 3
    I just got this error after a Windows Update reboot. I rebooted again and everything came back as it was originally. – MatthewD Feb 1 '14 at 0:10
  • Just for the record: The Desktop folder in the system profile does not exist by default and is not required. – Daniel B Jun 23 '14 at 14:33
  • Like @MatthewD this problem for me was fixed by another reboot, this strange problem happened to me after I installed a long series of updates (all the way back from SP1) using wsusoffline. Related question about that here. – jrh Apr 6 '18 at 19:18

Right. So by the recommendation of my local IT guy, I found out it was a corrupted account, and did the following:

  1. Created two new accounts. One of them, I was going to eventually migrate into.
  2. Log into the account that I'm NOT going to migrate into.
  3. Go to Folder options to see all hidden files and OS files.
  4. Copy stuff over from the old account to the new account EXCEPT the ntuser*** stuff.
  5. Log on to the other account. Do stuff.

Apparently, that was the easiest way of doing stuff with the stuff I had on the spot.

If I was doing this proper, I should have had reinstalled the whole thing, but I really wasn't in the position to do that, as I needed the lappy in a hurry.

Hope this helps someone!


I faced the same issue. Nothing to worry. Just boot into safe mode(in case of win 8/8.1 press and hold shift and perform a restart. You will be booted into advanced menu select troubleshoot in submenu select adavced start option and select restart after restart press 5, you will be booted into safemode) there your computer will back to previous good config and perform normal restart. Everything works fine thereafter.

Above process helped me. Hope it will also help for u guys.

  • Perfect - thank you, worked for me. Any idea what causes this issue? – Darío Martín Mar 30 '18 at 10:20

Similar situation: I booted up an old computer that was missing the drive that has this folder. I have no need to recover it, though this solution may work for recovery as well.

My fix involves the registry, so general caution is advised.

Open up the registry editor and navigate to: HKEY_CURRENT_USER / Software / Microsoft / Windows / Explorer / Shell Folders

From there you can edit the value for Desktop, assigning a new location. I created a new desktop folder in C:/Users/me (me being my user name) and assigned this location.

Once done, open the task manager and kill/restart explorer.exe

  • 1
    "edit the value for Desktop" change it to what exactly? Please clarify your answer. – DavidPostill Dec 30 '16 at 12:32
  • @DavidPostill, this can vary but I edited the answer to include what I chose to do. – Web and Flow Jan 2 '17 at 22:53

Backup your Users folder to an external device/share before you do anything else. If it is in fact your hard drive failing, you will want to utilise as much time recovering any data as it could die at any time.

Once you have backed the data up. Try downloading Crystal Disk Info and run it on the drive. If it shows up healthy then I would re-install windows. If however it shows up anything other than a healthy drive I would acquire a new HDD and install windows on to that.


Copy your desktop folder from c:\users\username. Once you are in your username folder, copy the desktop folder. Then go to c:\windows\system32\config\systemprofile. Then paste it in there and restart your PC.

  • No. Like Kindofnerd's answer, this is fighting symptoms, not the cause. Also, creating an empty folder is enough. – Daniel B Jan 2 '17 at 23:14

Okay, I guess this is an old forum or something, but I had the same problem and you are doing it the hard way. So all you have to do, is look where the computer is trying to find the "desktop" folder ( in this case "C:\Windows\system32\config\systemprofile" ) and go to that folder it says. Then you copy the "desktop" folder from your other files and paste it to the destination where the computer is trying to find the file. Sorry this might be written very weird, I don't speak English, but its really simple if you understand what I wrote. I had the same problem and I thought I should share my solution for you and other people that have problems with their computer. If this works, you´re welcome :)!

  • 2
    This is more of a workaround as it results in your user profile data folders being placed into another user's profile folder (the SYSTEM user in this case) rather than actually resolving the root problem of Windows looking in the wrong location for the profile folders. But there may be value to this workaround for some situations nonetheless. – Twisty Impersonator Sep 15 '14 at 19:08
  1. Run chkdsk /f /x /r c:\
  2. if your system drive is c:
  3. then run defrag c:\
  4. c:\ It could be drive problem
  5. Run the commands in commandPrompt eg. cmd

  6. if you dont know how. open notepad

write this in

chkdsk /f /x /r c:\
defrag c:\
pause > nul
  • and save it as fixdrive.bat and remember to chose all files under filename
  • ! If your OS drive is different then c:\ then replace it with drive name
  • 6
    No no no. Do NOT run defrag. Defrag does not fix things. I can improve performance in some cases, but it will get in the way if you need to recover now deleted files. – Hennes May 24 '14 at 21:13

protected by JakeGould Dec 30 '16 at 7:01

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