Windows 7 - how does a User Profile get corrupted, and what it is the REAL fix?

Asked By David C. Oshel on 28-Apr-07 09:54 PM
Some of my user accounts suddenly won't start properly, and users get a
that's me!) comes riding to the rescue.

How does a User Profile get screwed up by normal activity?  (By "normal", I
mean anything that can be done with the available user commands, excluding

The "fix" suggested (to create a new user account and copy all but three
hidden files -- out of the five or size that all share the same root, and
none of which are EXACTLY named the same as the docs suggest! -- to the new
account) is, IMHO, half-baked, but I'd do it if it worked, and gladly,

It doesn't work.

Any help?

David C. Oshel
Cedar Rapids, IA
E. Bester's _The_Demolished_Man_

GTS replied on 28-Apr-07 10:44 PM
The most common cause of of repeated user profile corruption (in my service
experience) is a failing hard drive with repeated instances of bad sectors
developing.   I suggest running chkdsk /r
David C. Oshel replied on 29-Apr-07 12:19 AM
Well, that is not it.  Any other ideas, people?

Steven Andrews replied on 29-Apr-07 06:29 AM
Power interrupted during logon / logoff, registry corruption via bad
application install / uninstall, virus, spyware, hacked, network dropout
during logon / logoff (roaming profiles), server issues (roaming
profiles), someone accidentally deleted a file.

List can be exhastive.  But I would be looking towards a stray
application install / uninstall, or virus / spyware.  Check for errors
in the event log.  Basically you'll need to recreate the profiles, but
the logs may be able to indicate what did it, so you can avoid it in future.

Personally I'd create a new profile, and only copy desktop icons, my
docs, *.pst + *.nk2 (or windows mail datastore) accross to the new file.
That way if it was the registry or a bad app install, the parts
(registry / appdata\roaming, appdata\local etc) don't come across again

Kerry Brown replied on 29-Apr-07 09:49 AM
There are many things that can cause it, bad hard drive, bad RAM, weak power
supply, virus activity, user error, poorly programmed application, etc.,
etc.. There should be many errors in the event logs which may point you in
the right direction.

Kerry Brown
Microsoft MVP - Shell/User
GTS replied on 29-Apr-07 02:00 PM
I concur that RAM and malware would be the next items to suspect.
Jerry replied on 30-Apr-07 10:40 PM
FWIW - Here's what I did to screw up my Guest Account on a post dated here on
4/16.  I renamed it to "Guest& Son" while logged on as Guest.  It must have
changed the User Folder name, too, and then gave me that temp user profile
whenever I'd log back into Guest&Son.  I tried renaming the account back to
the Guest& Son folder to "Guest."  Everything came back as it should be
without copying files to a new "Guest" account (which wouldn't work with
Guest anyway).
David C. Oshel replied on 01-May-07 01:30 PM
Yeah, I sort of suspect those...

file systems for about four years with Mac OS X, and NEVER -- i.e., NOT
EVER, EVER! -- lost files or blew up my user accounts because of power loss,
power switch stupidity or anything else.  IT. DOES. NOT. HAPPEN.  Except on
Vista, XP, '95, 2000, NT...  There is a bunch of programmers who can write
an operating system as sweet as Microsoft's Hearts game -- it's called
Ubuntu.  If only...!</RANT>

Thanks for the advice.  I'll take that as hardwon wisdom.
David C. Oshel replied on 01-May-07 01:51 PM
Vista should be able to repair itself.  It gives ordinary users an algorithm
to do so (in the "Help" files), and that should be automated.  Mac OS X
since Jaguar, with that klutzy journalled HFS+ file system, NEVER, EVER, NOT
ONCE boiled my users in their own oil the way Vista has.

Kerry Brown replied on 01-May-07 10:41 PM
Most user profile issues are caused by faulty hardware in my experience.
Apple's generally have better quality hardware. That's one of the reasons
they cost more.

Kerry Brown
Microsoft MVP - Shell/User
cquirke (MVP Windows shell/user) replied on 05-May-07 06:21 PM
On Sat, 28 Apr 2007 23:19:33 -0500, "David C. Oshel"

ChkDsk /r is potentially destructive, so I'd prefer HD Tune SMART and
surface scan, ideally from a Bart CDR boot.

The archilles heel of the user account is the registry hive there,
which is a slowly-growing file that's updated often, especially on
shutdown.  So things that botch shutdowns in particular, are likely to
hurt, but so can bad hardware (bad RAM, failing HD, overclocking..)

Because these hives are always in use, and slowly growing, they're
likely not to be moved or defragged by defrag.  That means the same
area of disk being hit again and again, plus long critical period to
update the file if it's fragmented.

So HD surface failures may appear to "pick out" the registry hives.

Tip Of The Day:
To disable the 'Tip of the Day' feature...
cquirke (MVP Windows shell/user) replied on 13-May-07 11:14 PM
On Tue, 1 May 2007 19:41:49 -0700, "Kerry Brown"

You mean there's a reason other than "because we can" Apple tax?  :-)

The more I see of this game, the more I see the same sort of things
happening across contexts, rather than being problems unique to one
platform or another.  Right now, there's more in common between MacOS,
*NIX and Windows than there was between late-'80s OSs like (say)
Windows, PICK or *NIX - and same goes for the hardware.

For example, I came across an old article about ?defective Apple G3
motherboards, which were nearing the end of thier 1-year warranty, and
Apple wasn't doing anything special for the increased failures.  The
cause?  The same old "bad capacitor" problems we saw around that time
with PCs.  At that time I switched from generic Intel chipset
motherboards to Intel motherboards, which were better on this, but
those of that vintage are beginning to fail the same way, and they too
are near the end of thier (3-year) warranties.

As to quality, "you get what you pay for" is a best-case guess.  You
get what you specify; if you don't specify, you can pay a brand-name
premium and get junk.  Folks buying on brand name (like Dell, etc.)
and avoiding "home" models in favor of "business" ones in a quest for
better quality, are just stumbling around in the dark.

Where there's a big brand, there's invariably some sort of gouging
going on.  The best way to avoid "modelism" and brand lock-in is to go
generic, with specified parts.  Here, that isn't costlier than the
branded PCs, especially as with the brands, you may have to go for a
premium "model" to get the core parts you want.

I always start with a good motherboard chipset and a good, large hard
drive.  The rest flows there; next, I'll care about motherboard brand
perhaps, and case airflow, and RAM warranties (the CPU and mobo are
3-year, the HDs I use are 5-year; I like 5-year RAM) etc. with the
processor being almost the least important spec.

On motherboard brands: You can't make a stellar motherboard out of a
duff chipset, and even the "mighty" Asus makes motherboards based on
duff chipsets, leveraging the brand name for the margin.  So pick your
chipset first, and then the brand of board it's in.

I'm baaaack!