How to Recover Your Lost Windows 10 User Profile

Joe Keeley 26-07-2017

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.

can't sign into your account


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.

whoami user

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 How Not to Accidentally Mess Up the Windows Registry Working with the Windows registry? Take note of these tips, and you'll be much less likely to do lasting damage to your PC. Read More 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:

Computer\HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\ProfileList

On the left-hand pane, you will see a list of SIDs within the ProfileList folder.

registry profilelist

One of three options should apply:

  1. Your SID is listed twice, with and without a .BAK extension.
  2. Your SID is listed only once with a .BAK extension (e.g. S-1-5-21-2795999757-2048908912-3492586281-1000.bak).
  3. 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.

delete sid without bak

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.

rename sid with bak

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.

edit string

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.

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.

state string

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 How to Boot in Safe Mode on Windows 10 Facing Windows booting problems? Safe Mode is a built-in Windows 10 troubleshooting feature you should try first. Read More . 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.

net user adminstrator

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.

create an 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.

user profile folders

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 The Ultimate Windows 10 Data Backup Guide We've summarized every backup, restore, recovery, and repair option we could find on Windows 10. Use our simple tips and never despair over lost data again! Read More .

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 6 Ways to Customize Your Desktop Wallpaper in Windows Drab desktop? It's time to change your wallpaper! We've got tips for single and multiple monitors, virtual desktops, and lots of creative ideas. You'll love your new desktop backgrounds! Read More and some unique ways to use your desktop 5 Better Ways to Use Your Windows Desktop Than for Shortcuts Your desktop space is too valuable to be cluttered with shortcuts. We show you how to make better use of it. Your desktop makeover will increase your inspiration, creativity, or productivity. Read More .

Have you ever had a corrupted Windows user profile? How did you resolve the issue?

Image Credit: Dooder via Shutterstock

Related topics: Troubleshooting, Windows 10, Windows Registry.

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  1. Eshan
    April 5, 2020 at 6:13 am

    I've accidently deleted the folder with .bak at the end. Now how do I recover it?

  2. Barb
    December 14, 2019 at 5:35 pm

    This method worked perfectly! I think the profile was corrupted during a background Windows update that was inadvertently interrupted.

  3. Doug
    October 14, 2019 at 7:21 pm

    Very clear, detailed and precise instructions. Solved the problem and all is well again. Very much appreciate your essay!

  4. Matthew Wells
    August 30, 2019 at 5:45 pm

    Followed instructions for option 1 and it worked perfectly. Thanks so much for the detailed explanation. Saved us a lot of heart ache!

  5. Superman
    December 25, 2018 at 1:40 am

    I followed this method twice. After first time, it loads up with my original profile but as soon as i restarted it, it again did PREPARING WINDOWS thing and i had again temporary profiles. So i performed the same method twice. But, when i restarted it, it starts and shows blacl screen. Then i shut it down and start it again. Now it started with everything normal. But before it opened, it asks me to set few settings (the last setting related to CORTANA when we first installed Windows 10). I don't know why it gave such option. But then it opened to my own desktop like before.

  6. joeri
    February 8, 2018 at 8:36 am

    It fixed my parents laptop, with two user profiles in a snap.
    Great solution Joe!

  7. Davis
    January 23, 2018 at 4:09 pm

    Thanks for this article!
    A client (Win10) upgraded to v1709 and in the process was given a temp profile. She only had the one record in her RegEdit ProfileList, so I changed the ProfileImagePath as you suggested, and it booted right up into her normal profile.

  8. BeedleTheBard
    July 26, 2017 at 1:22 pm

    Useful and detailed article. When creating a new profile, after booting into safe mode and typing the above specified command, should you restart in normal mode?

    • Joe Keeley
      July 26, 2017 at 5:33 pm

      Thanks for your comment. You can keep using safe mode until the entire process is done. Once you're ready to sign into your new account, you can boot as normal.