An increasingly common problem on Microsoft Windows computers is the corrupted user profile error.  Everything seems fine until one attempts to log on.  Then the error strikes.  Your user profile is corrupted and you cannot log on any longer.  This is an interesting problem, because how can one fix an error without being able to log on to their PC?

Fortunately there are a variety of solutions at one’s disposal, but unfortunately none of them are very simple.  Below we will explore three potential resolutions that will work for users that have their data backed up and are simply looking to re-gain access to their user accounts.  But first let’s talk about what a user profile is so that we know what we’re trying to repair!

The Windows user profile is essentially your account’s configuration data.  It contains critical information for Windows to determine how your account is configured, such as the where your libraries (Documents, Pictures, Music, etc) are located, your NTUSER data (personal settings, software locations), cookies from your web browsing, temporary as well as cache files, etc.  The user profile dates back to the days of Windows 95 when user accounts were given unique configurations to allow multiple users easier access to their own files and settings.  If the user profile is not functioning properly one would not be able to use their computer properly without having to reconfigure parts of their user account from scratch.

Please keep in mind that these solutions are somewhat advanced.  If you have any reservations about performing them you should ask a professional to help you instead.

1: Try running a check disk to see if the corruption is due to a bad file system.  If you can boot in to the recovery console, which is installed on most Windows Vista and Windows 7 computers you will be able to access the command prompt.  Most systems allow access to the recovery console by hitting F8 before the Windows screen appears.  When you are in the recovery console you’ll want to select advanced repair options and choose command prompt.  From the command prompt you need to determine which drive hosts your operating system.  For example if you issue the command:

dir C:

And the command returns a list of directories including a Windows directory, then chances are your OS is also on the C: drive.  If not you can check D: or E:.

From there you want to run a full chkdsk to examine the disk for any bad file system data.

WARNING if your data is not backed up this command can result in data loss.  DO NOT run a chkdsk if your data is not backed up.  In fact if your data is not backed up you shouldn’t perform any troubleshooting until it is.

chkdsk /r /f /x C:

Once the chkdsk finishes (it may take several hours) the final log will tell you if there were any errors corrected.  If so, then perhaps the issue is resolved.

2: Run a system restore to repair damaged system files. If the chkdsk does not help, you can re-visit the recovery console and attempt to run a system restore.  These restores are non-destructive and should not overwrite personal data, but if your data is not backed up please do not proceed. A damaged hard drive may fail during a system restore.

Try to choose a date that pre-dates whenever the system profile corruption began, but not too far back as the further back one goes, the less likely a restore will be successful.

Wait for the process to complete, it may take quite a while.  Once it completes please reboot and see if you can log in.

If none of these methods resolve the corrupted user profile on your Microsoft Windows computer or your data is not backed up and you want a professional to examine the computer, we are happy to help. Wilmslow Computers is a friendly local shop that has been serving customers in the local area for over 11 years.  We have a lot of experience dealing with this problem and providing customers with resolutions that get them back up and running. Contact us today for help.