Help me restore my Windows XP settings. DARN YOU SP3!!!
May 8, 2008 6:57 PM   Subscribe

How can I restore the settings I had from my previous Windows XP setup?

I recently made the mistake of installing Windows XP Service Pack 3 and, to make a long story short, I had to use the restoration feature. During the restoration, I had another HP_Administrator folder was created with the name HP_Administrator.computername and none of the system's settings will register from the original "Docuements and Settings" folder.

I would like to know if there is a way to redirect it back to the original settings and documents folder, as it is still there, just not referenced by the current account.
posted by slavlin to Computers & Internet (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I've used the moveuser utility from the Windows Server 2003 Resource Kit to reassign user profiles. It's pretty straightforward but you need the name of the account that "owns" the profile you want to take ownership of.

Just curious, have you looked in the User Profiles control panel to see if there are any Account Unknown listings? You can get there by right clicking My Computer, selecting Properties and clicking the Settings button under User Profiles on the Advanced tab.
posted by JaredSeth at 8:06 PM on May 8, 2008

Response by poster: I checked the User Profiles panel first and there is still only one account there. Oddly enough, it still has the custom picture that I set up for that User. I don't think it changed the user, just where the Documents and Settings section points to.

Would moveuser work for that situation? I have never used it.

BTW- if it matters, this is Windows XP Media Center 2005.
posted by slavlin at 8:26 PM on May 8, 2008

Not really. Moveuser is designed primarily for local-to-domain migrations, but I've used it give ownership of old user profile folders to new users. Unfortunately it's based on the user name (so if the "old" account was still present you could do moveuser oldaccount newaccount).

In that case, you may want to try this process. I get stuck doing a lot of profile migration at work and had this in my notes, but I must admit I haven't actually given this method a shot.
posted by JaredSeth at 9:03 PM on May 8, 2008

Oh by the way, in order to do what that link describes, you'll need to create another local administrator account and do the work while logged in to that account.
posted by JaredSeth at 9:05 PM on May 8, 2008

There's also User Profile Wizard. It is usually for moving over profiles when you join a domain, but you can use it for profiles on local computer.
posted by pombiki at 11:50 PM on May 8, 2008

Best answer: You can do this by hand, in three major steps:

1. Move all the existing profiles that could conceivably belong to HP_Administrator out of the way, and make XP create a new, fresh profile with the original name and update the registry accordingly.

2. Get rid of the new, fresh profile and rename the old, broken profile back into its rightful place.

3. Reset the NTFS access controls on the broken profile so that Windows finds it acceptable again.

This little dance is needed because when you install a new Windows, you get a new machine security ID (SID). User SIDs are based on the machine SID, so HP_Administrator in your new Windows installation will have a different SID from HP_Administrator in your old one. So, when Windows goes to connect HP_Administrator to its user profile at logon, it finds a C:\Documents and Settings\HP_Administrator folder whose security permissions don't let your newHP_Administrator user touch it, and at this point it creates a new profile folder for the new HP_Administrator user with a modified name.

Here are the steps in detail:

1a. Reboot in Safe Mode, in order to gain access to the Administrator account (as opposed to the HP_Administrator account) and expose the NTFS security user interface.

1b. Log on as Administrator (not HP_Administrator).

1c. Open C:\Documents and Settings; rename the HP_Administrator folder as HP_Administrator.busted; rename HP_Administrator.computername as HP_Administrator.unwanted.

1d. Log off Administrator, and log on as HP_Administrator.

1e. Log off HP_Administrator, and log on as Administrator again.

1f. Open C:\Documents and Settings. You should find that there is now a fresh HP_Administrator folder.

2a. Delete HP_Administrator.

2b. Rename HP_Administrator.busted as HP_Administrator.

3a. Right-click HP_Administrator and choose Properties, then click the Security tab. You should see three items in the "Group or user names" box: SYSTEM, Administrators, and a bizarre string something like S-1-5-21-2151726370-877617370-4280697890-1001. That's the SID for the HP_Administrator user from your old Windows installation, and you're seeing it in its raw form because there's no user in your new installation with the same SID.

3b. Click Advanced, to open the "Advanced Security Settings" window, and click the Permissions tab if that's not already the front one.

3c. Click the S-1-5-12... permission entry, then click Edit to open the "Permission Entry for..." window.

3d. Click the Change button to open the "Select User, Computer or Group" window. Type HP_Administrator into the "Enter the object name to select" field and click OK.

3e. Back in the "Permission Entry for..." window, you should see that the S-1-5-12... thing has changed to HP_Administrator. Click OK.

3f. Back in the "Advanced Security Settings" window, check "Replace permission entries on all child objects...", click Apply, and click Yes in the confirmation window.

3g. Click the Owner tab.

3h. Change the owner to Administrators (the group, not Administrator the user), check "Replace owner on subcontainers and objects" and click OK.

3i. Back in the Properties window, click OK.

There's one more step that may or may not be necessary but is worth checking.

4a. Click Start->Run type regedit into the box and press Enter.

4b. Navigate to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\DocFolderPaths.

4c. If the path shown for HP_Administrator is still "C:\Documents and Settings\HP_Administrator.computername\My Documents", double-click HP_Administrator and edit out the .computername part.

4d. Close Regedit.

If you now log off Administrator and log on as HP_Administrator, you should find yourself looking at an old familiar desktop.
posted by flabdablet at 4:07 AM on May 9, 2008 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Mmmmm... just reading over that, it seems to me it has a better chance of working if you do the take-ownership thing (steps 3g and 3h) before the change-permissions thing (3c through 3f).
posted by flabdablet at 5:02 AM on May 9, 2008

Response by poster: flabdablet, that worked great. It got everything back for me. Thank you so much.

Now I just have to figure out what I did to screw up my "Add or Remove Programs" listing, but that happened before I followed these instructions, so I know it is not related to the steps above.
posted by slavlin at 5:29 PM on May 10, 2008

If you did a full Windows reinstall, then you've effectively uninstalled all your apps, and your Add/Remove Programs list should be pretty much empty. What's wrong with it at present?
posted by flabdablet at 10:15 PM on May 10, 2008

Response by poster: I didn't do a full reinstall. I just did a restore from the Recovery partition on the disk. The Add/Remove Programs list has a bunch of oddly named items on it, the icons are all screwy and many of them don't have the modify/remove buttons on them.
posted by slavlin at 4:20 PM on May 11, 2008

I just did a restore from the Recovery partition on the disk

Hate to burst your bubble, but that's a full reinstall. I have always been cross about manufacturers who use the word "recovery" when what they mean is "destruction" but there you have it. If it was simply a repair install, it would not have generated a new machine SID, and your HP_Administrator would have kept its old profile folder without you having needed to fix it by hand.

The Add/Remove list is held in a registry key: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Uninstall and it seems likely to me that yours is corrupted. This happened to one of my customers' machines once (I seem to recall it was a Norton uninstall that screwed it), and the only way I could put it back involved performing a System Restore to a checkpoint made before the corruption occurred, exporting that key to a .reg file, undoing the System Restore, emptying that key, and then merging the .reg file. That method will not work for you. Attempting to undo a Windows reinstall with System Restore will not work. Even if you find a restore point made before the reinstall (which is wildly unlikely), attempting to restore to it will fail, as will the subsequent desperate attempt to undo that restore, and your system will end up broken again.

All I can suggest is that you optionally export the current contents of that key for future analysis, then delete all its subkeys to empty it again, then reinstall all your apps. This horrible, slow, painful procedure really is the least worst option at this point.
posted by flabdablet at 9:23 PM on May 11, 2008

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