Wednesday, March 08, 2017

How to Fix New Windows Update Corrupting User Profiles

Recently, some Windows 10 devices have failed to log into the local user profile after installing cumulative updates. Cumulative updates pushed out to Windows 10 are larger than individual updates used in the past. These updates include all updates released after the last cumulative update rolled into a single, much larger, update. While updating this way can be more efficient, it provides fewer controls over updates being installed.

When a user profile is corrupted and cannot be loaded, the device will log into a temporary profile even though the original profile credentials were entered. If this happens, Windows will notify you that the profile could not be loaded and you were instead logged into a temporary profile. Custom settings, programs and documents will not be accessible so there is no mistaking being logged into a temporary profile.

How to Fix New Windows Update Corrupting User Profiles

If you find yourself logged into a temporary profile, follow the steps below to fix the issue without losing any files or deleting the user from the device which requires copying the user files twice.

Before anything else, try these things:
  • Reboot the machine and log in again to see if the issues resolves itself.
  • Do not delete the user account as this can remove all of the files associated with that user.
  • It is always a good idea to have a backup of your files. When things such as a broken profile occur, be sure you have a backup before making system changes. Be sure the backup includes the user folder to capture all configuration data for the user.
  • WARNINGDo not follow the steps below if you are not comfortable with the various programs used.

Verify there is another administrator account on the device
  • If there is another administrative user account on the device, verify you have the correct credentials or create an additional administrative account.
  • If the corrupted profile is connected to the only user on the device, create another user.
    • Open "User Accounts".
    • Click "Manage another account".
    • Below the list of users, click the link to "Add a new user in PC settings".
    • Click to "Add someone else to this PC".

Delete the corrupted user profile from the registry
  • Log in as the secondary administrative user account.
  • From search, type "regedit" then click to open the registry editor.

  • Navigate to the following HKEY by clicking the + signs next to each folder to expand.
    • HKEY_Local_Machine
    • Software
    • Microsoft
    • Windows NT
    • CurrentVersion
    • ProfileList
  • In the left pane under Profile List, click the user profile with a .bak extension.
  • In the right pane, verify the user listed next to the "ProfileImagePath" is the user experiencing the profile issue.

  • Once the right profile is found, right-click on it in the left pane and select "Delete".

  • Reboot the device and log in with the credentials for the user with the profile issue.
  • Open Windows Explorer and navigate to the user folder which is the same name as the user logon with the corrupted profile.
    • Local Disk (C:)
    • Users
    • Username folder
  • Open a second Windows Explorer folder and navigate to the new user folder which will have the user logon name with characters appended.
    • Local Disk (C:)
    • Users
    • New username folder (Example, "Jay" becomes "Jay.0308")
  • The version of the username with additional characters is the newly created profile folder.
  • Copy all files and folders from the old user folder to the new user folder to transfer all files and configurations.
    • Select all of the folders inside the old user folder.
    • Right-click and drag all of the files and folders into the new user folder.
    • Select "Copy all" when releasing the files in the new folder to copy all of the files.
      • Use copy rather than move because it protects the original files if the machine suddenly shuts down or if something goes wrong. Copied files can be copied a second time, whereas moved files do not provide this protection.
      • NOTE: Be sure the folder view includes hidden folders, which includes the "AppData" folder as this stores configuration files for many different applications.

  • Once the files finish copying, the desktop, documents, web browsers, downloads and application data should instantly be accessible.

Logging into a device and ending up with a temporary profile is extremely inconvenient and there is no good time for this to happen. Luckily the issue is fixable, and while profile issues are not always caused by updates, when they do happen, it is imperative to regain access to your files as quickly as possible. Being unable to access items on your desktop, browser favorites and documents makes a device can feel like starting over with a new machine. However, fixing the corrupted user profile is easier and more efficient than setting up a new machine or deleting the user account. Deleting a user account requires copying the user data twice, rather than a single time as is shown in this post. 

As always, when it comes to tech there is always more than one way to access your files, even when the user profile is corrupted. Knowing how to get the desired access is key!

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