Temporary User Profile solution

Among the most frustrating (or crazily intriguing) problems are those that are almost like what is being talked about on forums or support websites, but either not close enough or do not respond to the recommended fixes. I think I fixed an issue just like this today.

Just like Grover's disease, there is no known (single) cause for why you might be logged onto a Windows computer and have a Temporary profile. You might get a popup from the task bar or an event logged in the Application Event Log. Possibly you may only notice because your desktop icons have gone, and in their place is a fresh, new profile. Most often, your settings, programs, icons and data files are still there, they just weren't loaded for you.

If you're lucky (sort of :\), you may be able to use a relatively straightforward method to resolve this. First, have a look in the Application Event Log, and see if there is a related event. Then have a look through the Microsoft Knowledge Base articles for something that seems right. Give it a go. If you get stuck on a step, or something doesn't match, don't just keep going. You could post on a forum, ask a tech-savvy friend or try out Super User Q & A.

If your issue, like mine, seems like it's not really covered, perhaps my solution will help you. Here were the symptoms:

  • A restricted user created solely for the purpose of running scheduled tasks did not seem to have a profile.
  • Every time the user "logged on" (i.e. the scheduled task ran), an new folder named TEMP was created under the C:\Users folder.
  • In the System Properties –> User Profiles –> Settings… profile list the user's profile was listed as Temporary status.
  • A warning was entered in the Application Event Log with a description similar to
    Windows cannot find the local profile and is logging you on with a temporary profile. Changes you make to this profile will be lost when you log off.
  • When the user "logged off" (i.e. the scheduled task ended), the TEMP folder disappeared, as did the User Profile entry in the Profile list.
  • Looking in the registry, there were no {sid}.BAK entries in the ProfileList node.
  • There did not seem to be any way to stop the warning messages appear, or to create a profile for the user that lasted between logins
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    The way I got it working in the end was to go through a rather protracted process (for Windows 7/Vista/Server 2008).

    1. While the user is logged in. Make a copy of the TEMP folder. Name it with the user's username.
    2. Also while the user is logged in, use regedit to go to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\ProfileList. Export the node matching the user with profile issues to a file. You can usually tell this based on the "ProfileImagePath".
    3. In the same location in the registry, export the node of a user that matches as closely as possible the user you are trying to fix.
    4. Edit the first file to match the second. Do not change "ProfileImagePath" or "Sid". The exact settings will depend on if the user is a domain user or local user, among other things.
    5. Wait until the user is logged off, and ensure that the user does not log in again while you are making the remaining changes.
    6. Merge the edited file back into the registry. Once merged, refresh the view, then open the new node. Change "ProfileImagePath" to match the path to the folder you copied from the TEMP profile folder earlier.
    7. Check the changes, then close regedit. Go to the User Profile list from System Properties and check that the user's Profile is listed, and has a Status of Local or Roaming. As long as it is listed, and is not Temporary, it should be good.
    8. When the user next logs on, there should be no warnings or popups, and they should be using a profile that will last between logins. The user should log out and in a couple of times to make sure.

    Hope that helps, and as always with these things, no responsibility taken if things get messed up.