"You have been logged on to a temporary profile. You cannot access your files and folders. You must fiddle with system reg in the dark now. Please hold while we wipe your computer clean. Thank you and have a nice day."
November 4, 2012 11:14 AM   Subscribe

Windows 7: "You have been logged on to a temporary profile. You cannot access your files and folders ..." Whoa. An empty slate. But I reboot and my old profile is suddenly back up and running. So, what just happened there? What can I do to make sure this doesn't happen again? Several related questions inside.

I've googled around a bit and the "solutions" techs propose revolve around messing with the register key, deleting the corrupted profile and uploading all the data again. I'm not too fond of this "solution".

Why do these errors happen in the first place? Is it because my main profile is too bloated?
I realize that I save everything to about 4-6 folders that are sitting on my main profile's desktop.
Should I be using win7's libraries? Can libraries be shared amongst profiles? Should I make another profile just for my music and films? What can I do to make this mind-blowing bad disaster never come back (or minimize the pain, if/when it does.)

Thank you in advance for all your ideas and help. I feel like I dodged a bullet but I'm too stressed to log off my profile now..
posted by ruelle to Computers & Internet (6 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I've been doing deskside support for years, and I've seen this pop up from time to time. Windows usually just gets stupid and thinks something is wrong with the profile and refuses to load it. It will usually go away on the next reboot, and that will just be that. If it happens often, it's time to make a new user account on your computer, and move your files to it.

Files in the profile do not make it bloated, and it's not because of the folders on the desktop, nor the fact that you aren't using libraries (even though libraries rock!)

If it happens again, your files and folders aren't gone, they usually are right in place, just the things that make a profile load aren't working right. You should be able to go through Windows Explorer and dig your movies/music/documents right out and into a new profile.
posted by deezil at 11:29 AM on November 4, 2012

Best answer: I agree with the others: it's not a files thing. The idea that your OS is "bloated" because you have too many files on the disk is a pretty antiquated idea[*]. Modern filesystems are great at doing their job. They transparently move hot files to better locations on the disk, defragment on the fly, and can recover transparently from many errors.

Most times I see issues like this it is because some misbehaving program locked up in the background and Windows couldn't/wouldn't kill it when you logged off. When you log off Windows wants to unload your user's portion of the registry, but it can't if some bad program is keeping it open. So the next time you log in, the registry is still locked, Windows can't load it, and you get a temporary profile.

Reboot solves the issue because even the worst misbehaving program can't survive a restart. I wouldn't worry about it. If it keeps happening you might have a virus, so take it in to be looked at. But a sporadic occurrence isn't unusual (like: once a year).

[*] assuming your disk isn't full to the brim, that is.
posted by sbutler at 12:07 PM on November 4, 2012

Best answer: This is normally user hive related (ntuser.dat, or the operating system's ability to find and open it successfully).

You shouldn't have anything to worry about when it comes to your files however. Those will stay in tact unless your HDD itself is failing (eg. you might want to invest in backups anyway if you haven't already).

What do you see in your system event logs? (right-click computer/manage/Event Viewer)

If you find that your HDD is having hardware issues, use the Windows Easy Transfer wizard in Accessories/System Tools to back up your profile to a portable drive. You can then re-apply it to a new HDD. It's also possible however that a driver or process (virus scanner etc) locked your NTUSER.DAT registry hive (c:\users\yourname\ntuser.dat), thus forcing Windows to revert to using a temporary profile (c:\users\temp) based off your default (c:\users\default). A third possibility is NTFS/Registry permissions related, but I currently doubt this was the case since it came back on its own.

Let us know if you find anything questionable in those logs!
posted by samsara at 12:18 PM on November 4, 2012

Best answer: Oh also, the pointer to the details of your profile is in the local machine Software hive under HKLM/Software/Microsoft/WindowsNT/CurrentVersion/ProfileList/). If you see .baks here it may be a sign that it had trouble matching the SID listed with the security identifier associated with the folder's permissions (still probably not a possibility since your system recovered ok...but there are odd things that can happen with file locking that can trick the OS into thinking that it's simply a permissions issue). If you need it in the future, Here are instructions on how to repair ProfileList in the event your normal ProfileList entry ends up as a .bak with the correct SID.
posted by samsara at 12:28 PM on November 4, 2012

Best answer: I had this happen once when I rebooted and after I rebooted again the problem went away and has never returned.

FWIW while it was booted up in that temporary profiled I created and saved some files and those files were apparently saved somewhere under the temporary profile and disappeared forever when I rebooted.

So I would strongly urge anyone who has been booted up under this 'temporary profile' to do nothing under that profile but immediately re-boot--otherwise you risk losing any work you do or files you save under the temporary profile.

It sounds like you're past that point so this is more of an FYI.
posted by flug at 12:56 PM on November 4, 2012

Best answer: The two standard rules for Windows system administration:

1. For minor problems, reboot.
2. For major problems, reinstall.

I tend to exercise rule 1 far more often than rule 2.

The fact that rule 1 works so well for such a large range of problems is, I think, the single thing I dislike most about the design of Windows.
posted by flabdablet at 3:38 PM on November 4, 2012

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