How to Recover Your Lost Windows 10 User Profile
If an error message prevents you from signing into your Windows 10 user account, it’s possible that your profile has become corrupted. We’re going to show you how to fix it or make a new account.
Your user account contains your personal settings, like desktop wallpaper, Taskbar preferences, and some program settings like browser history. It can be very frustrating to lose this.
If you’ve encountered this problem before and have your own solution to share, let us know in the comments below.
Signed In to a Temporary Profile
When you try and sign into your normal user account it won’t work, thus you’ll be taken into a temporary account. This usually occurs if a critical Windows update has been forcibly ceased midway through the process.
You’ll see one of two errors (or sometimes both):
- You’ve been signed in with a temporary profile. You can’t access your files, and files created in this profile will be deleted when you sign out. To fix this, sign out and try signing in later. Please see the event log for details or contact your system administrator.
- We can’t sign into your account. This problem can often be fixed by signing out of your account, then signing back in. If you don’t sign out now, any files that you create or changes that you make will be lost.
Obviously, the first thing to do here is trying to sign out and then back in. Chances are it won’t work, but it’s worth a shot.
Being signed into a temporary profile is unsuitable because any changes you make will be reset every time you log out, so let’s look at how to recover your usual profile.
Find Out Your Security Identifier
We’ll need to know the security identifier (SID) of the temporary user account you’re being signed into. This unique string is what Windows uses to control permissions and group your interactions.
First, do a system search for cmd and select the relevant result to open the Command Prompt.
Next, type whoami /user and press Enter. This command queries the system to tell you the SID of the current account.
Make a note of your SID. You can press Ctrl + M to enable highlighting, left-click and drag over the SID, and then press Ctrl + C to copy it.
Edit the Registry
We now need to make edits in the registry to recover the original profile. Editing the registry can be dangerous if you mess with the wrong thing, so please follow the instructions below carefully.
Do a system search for regedit and select the relevant result to load the Registry Editor. Paste the following path into the address bar and press Enter:
On the left-hand pane, you will see a list of SIDs within the ProfileList folder.
One of three options should apply:
- Your SID is listed twice, with and without a .BAK extension.
- Your SID is listed only once with a .BAK extension (e.g. S-1-5-21-2795999757-2048908912-3492586281-1000.bak).
- Your SID is listed only once without a .BAK extension (e.g. S-1-5-21-2795999757-2048908912-3492586281-1000).
The process is mostly the same for all three options, but with some slight differences. Follow all the steps below in order, but only those which contain your option number.
Option 1: Delete Duplicate Folder
If your SID is listed twice — and only in this case — you need to delete the folder without the .BAK extension. Right-click the folder from the left-hand pane and click Delete. Click Yes to confirm.
Option 1 and 2: Rename .BAK Folder
Right-click on the folder matching your SID with the .BAK extension, click Rename, and remove .BAK from the end of it. Press Enter to save the changes.
Option 1, 2, and 3: Adjust Folder Path and State
Left-click the folder on the left-hand pane matching your SID. On the right-hand pane, double-click ProfileImagePath. In the Value data field, input the correct path for your user profile.
If you’re not sure what this should be, press Windows key + R to open Run, input C:\Users, and press Enter. This will bring up a list of all your user profiles.
Once you’ve written the correct Value data, click OK.
Next, on the right-hand registry pane, double click State. Change the Value data to 0 and click OK.
Close the Registry Editor and restart your computer. Sign back into your user account and you should find that everything is restored and back to normal.
If you’re still encountering problems, read on to find out how to make a new permanent user account.
Create a New Profile
If the instructions above didn’t bring your profile back, it’s time to make a new user profile. Note that this won’t recover your desktop settings, like wallpaper or Taskbar preferences, but it will mean you’ll have a permanent user account again.
Step 1: Boot in Safe Mode
To begin, you’ll need to boot your PC into safe mode . To do this, restart your computer. On the sign in screen, hold Shift and click Power > Restart. When this has completed, you’ll be on the Choose an option screen. Go to Troubleshoot > Advanced options > Startup Settings > Restart.
Your computer will restart again. Press F4 to start it in Safe Mode.
Step 2: Enable Administrator Account
Once logged in, do a system search for cmd. Right-click the relevant result and select Run as administrator. This will open the Command Prompt. Input net user administrator /active:yes and press Enter.
Note you can reverse this in the future by running the same command, but switching yes for no.
This will enable the hidden administrator account on your computer. Restart and then sign in to this new account.
Step 3: Create a New Account
Press Windows key + I to open Settings. Go to Accounts > Family & other users. Click Add someone else to this PC. At this point, you can just follow the wizard through. However, if you want to create a local account instead of a Microsoft one, click I don’t have this person’s sign-in information and then Add a user without a Microsoft account.
Step 4: Transfer Your Files
Restart your PC and log back into the administrator account. Press Windows key + R to open Run, input C:\Users and press Enter. Navigate to your old and broken user account.
Now copy and paste all your user files from this old account into the new one. You’ll want to do this individually for each folder, otherwise, you might accidentally bring across some hidden and problematic system files.
To highlight all files in a folder, press Ctrl + A. To select specific ones in bulk, hold down Ctrl as you left-click. Alternatively, hold left-click and drag around the files.
Then press Ctrl + C to copy them. Navigate back to the Users folder, into the new account, and press Ctrl + V to paste your files.
Once done, sign out of the administrator account and into your new account. All the files you transferred will be there.
Account Recovered, Now Get Customizing
Now you have a permanent user account again. Luckily, in this scenario of profile corruption, it doesn’t result in much lost data, but regardless, you should regularly back up your files .
If you’ve lost your customization settings in the process of making a new account, perhaps it was time for a change anyway. Check out our articles on how to customize your wallpaper and some unique ways to use your desktop .
Have you ever had a corrupted Windows user profile? How did you resolve the issue?
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