Windows Temporary Profile

Windows Profile

When Windows 7 came out, I often ran into a message when a user logged in that “You’ve been signed in with a temporary profile” followed by the uncomfortable addition of ” 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 more details or contact your system administrator”.

There have been many articles about this message, and alternatively “We can’t sign into your account. This problem can often be fixed by signing out of your account and then signing back in. If you don’t sign out now, any files you create or changes you make will be lost”, suggesting booting into Safe Mode, multiple reboots, changing the path in the Registry, etc.

While some of these methods work some of the time, I have found that the most consistent fix is actually removing a registry key related to the user in question and recreating the entry automatically by logging back in as that user.

Note: when modifying the Registry, always, always, always back it up first!

Now that that’s out of the way, log in as another user (preferably, as a local or domain administrator, to ensure you have the permissions you need) and open the Registry Editor.

  • Backup the users profile data by simply renaming the current profile folder or move it to an external source (or both!)
  • Open the Registry Editor (RegEdit)
    • Right click the root and export the whole thing to a location of your choosing
  • Navigate to the registry key:
    • HKLM\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\ProfileList
  • Under ProfileList navigate to binary key’s like this:
    • example: S-1-5-21-3656904587-1668747452-4095529-500
  • On the right side under ProfileImagePath you’ll see the usernames and profile paths
  • Chose the key of the affected user and delete that single key
  • Exit the Registry Editor

Now you can log in as the user in question and, while the profile is recreated, the key will be recreated. Simply copy the users backed-up data into their new profile and you’re done!

Obviously, if multiple reboots fix your issue, that’s easier then making sure a user’s profile is recreated like their old one. And if booting into Safe Mode and back out again works, that’s a little less intrusive, as well.

I’ve always opted for a fresh profile since something went wrong with their old one in the first place and I’d rather not later find out it’s still corrupt; however, if you’re already in the Registry, you can always attempt fixing the profile path in the key we discussed, before deleting it, if necessary.

Since Windows 10 rolled out, I haven’t seen this issue nearly as much, unfortunately, I have recently been in a position to attempt this fix on a Windows 10 machine. I did not receive any of the previous messages stating I was in a temporary profile and only realized this was the case when nothing looked correct and I started investigating. Luckily, I found that this fix worked on Windows 10 machines exactly the same as their Windows 7 predecessors, without changing a step!

I hope this helps but, as always, please let me know what works best for you!

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