Preparing Desktop - User Profile Corrupted


T

Tom

Hello,

If I have posted this to the incorrect Windows group, please advice to a
better location. :)

I keep my less than one year old ASUS N81 laptop with Windows 7 (x64)
bedside to fall asleep listening to Internet streaming audio from
distant radio stations. This is the N81's primary purpose and has worked
well as a Internet radio. As I usually do, when I wake up I shut the
laptop down. Last night, and the next time I went to use it, I pressed
the power button and instead of a normal boot, the computer said that it
was 'Preparing the Desktop'. With no error messages, the desktop
appeared and it was the stock ASUS desktop and all customization to the
profile were no longer available. There is only one user profile/account
and it was the correct one.

I've been Googling now for almost a day and found folks with similar
issues. I would like to point out that this isn't quite the same as the
"temporary profile is loaded" or the "user profile service failed the
logon" type issue. The reason is because I do not receive any warning or
message about using a temp user profile, it appears to be the correct
user name. The 'Preparing Desktop' only happened once and doesn't happen
with each successive reboot. And, according to Services, the User
Profile service is set to Automatic and is running by the time I get to
the Desktop. However, I do get a error in the Event log which states:

'User Profile Service' Error ID: 1542

Windows can't load classes registry file.

Basically, the desktop behaves as if it's write protected. In that, if I
try to do simple things, like set the "Always show menu" option in
Explorer and click Apply, nothing happens. As soon as Apply is clicked,
the menu should appear, but it doesn't. The Explorer window can be
re-sized and moved, but it's not remembered after a reboot.

I tried going back at different times to two System Restore points. The
first restore point predates the issue by days and the second by about 2
weeks. Each restore point, when the laptop rebooted, said, 'Preparing
Desktop' and I was again back with the stock ASUS desktop. I presume the
restore was successful because Firefox did revert back to an earlier
version, it's just that the User profile information wasn't restored or
corrected.

One Microsoft article suggested creating a new user account, so that
there were a total of three accounts available. Since I only had my
account, set as admin, I created two new user accounts and made them
also admin. The new accounts work fine. For example, if I change in
Explorer option to "Always show menu", as soon as I click Apply the menu
appears. Of course, the new accounts lack everything too, and are in a
sense duplicate of the stock ASUS desktop. Although, it does show that a
new account does work and in that respect Windows 7 isn't totally borked
and that the issue has to do with something with the original user
account profile.

In any case, I proceeded to follow the Microsoft article which suggest
to log into the second account and copying the old User profile
directory from the old account, to the third new user account. Logged
into the second newly created admin account, I selected the recommended
items and proceeded to copy the files to the third newly created admin
account. However, this didn't work due to permissions, even though all
were admin accounts. I changed the old account to a standard account and
again from the second account attempted the copy, but received the same
permission error. Strange that an admin wouldn't have full control over
a standard account.

The last thing I tried was logging back into the old account and copying
the files temporarily to a C:\T directory. All of the files were copied.
I then logged out and back into the second admin account and copied the
files to the newly created third account. The copy almost made it, but
there was an excessive file/directory name length issue and about 7
files didn't copy. However, when I went into the third account, many of
my old user account settings returned, but not enough to call it a
success. But it does seem to indicate that the old user profile settings
are there, just something got corrupted which won't allow it to
completely function.

Another article at Microsoft suggested going to the
HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows
NT\CurrentVersion\ProfileList branch in the registry and to swap the
..Bak SID key for the current SID. However, there is no .Bak SID key to
rename.

I also ran SFC (System File Checker) and received a 100 percent
verification. I finally got CHKDSK on a reboot to run and all 5 of 5
tests passed. Ran SeaTools and the drive passed. S.M.A.R.T. test passed.
If I go into Profile Management, it shows the old user profile has a
size of zero bytes.

Oh, another thing about the above Event ID 1542 error, I looked up the
error and one website suggested that the "UsrClass.dat" is missing.
Because I can't change any settings to view hidden files with the old
user account, I switched over the one of the other accounts I created
and the file is there.

I do have a Acronis 2010 image of the drive, but unfortunately it's from
2010-08-06 and is missing many subsequent changes. However, if the
backup does work, at least I wouldn't have to reinstall Windows 7 from
scratch. Prior to doing the restore from the image, I would at least
write down all the applications and use them as a road map for what's
missing. Of course, many settings would need updating, but that's the
price I have to pay for not making a more recent backup.

I did called ASUS and was given four choices. One, find a reg cleaner
and see if it can repair the registry. Two, use one of the new accounts
and delete the others. Three, re-install Windows 7. Four, restore from
the Acronis backup.

I would very much appreciate it if someone knows a fix for this issue.
If you need additional information, please don't hesitate to ask.

Thank you for reading.
 
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S

Stan Brown

(I deleted your long narrative.)

I don't *know* a fix, but that "Desktop appears to be read only"
suggests to me either a driver problem or a malware exploit.

Have you done a thorough virus scan with updated definitions?

Then...

Try rebooting, and if you get an option for "last known good
configuration", take it. If you don't, if that doesn't help ...

Try rebooting into Safe Mode with Networking and see if any of your
hardware drivers need updating, particularly the video driver.

I wish I could promise that any of those is the solution, but I
can't. I do know they're what I would try if I had the same problem.
 
T

Tom

In said:
I don't *know* a fix, but that "Desktop appears to be read only"
suggests to me either a driver problem or a malware exploit.
Well, lets take these in order. When the desktop appears to be in
read-only mode, that could be a sign of corruption. When Profile
Management indicates a question mark instead of the actual size of the
profile, that could be a sign of corruption. When a newly created user
profile works and at the same time the old user profile doesn't, that
could be a sign of corruption.

These things taken individually don't amount to much, however
collectively they add weight to each other. At this time I don't think
it was a driver or a malware issue, but a Windows 7 timing bug. I've
read a lot of web pages from people who have experienced this issue and
while the cause is not fully known, it's happened to many people, on
many different configurations and it appears to be random.

My current belief is that the issue occurred at the time the laptop was
shutdown. Windows 7 didn't completely flush something properly before
the power was turned off to the hardware. The following night when the
laptop was restarted, a 'Preparing your desktop' message appeared and by
that time the damage was already done.
Have you done a thorough virus scan with updated definitions?
Normally, every time the laptop is started, Avast automatically checks
for new definitions and if available, downloads them. Both Avast and
Comodo firewall were up to date as of the time I shutdown the laptop
prior to the issue. The last full Avast scan was about 4 days ago and
nothing was found. Both Avast and Comodo require a functioning user
profile due to the way information is stored at the time of their
individual installs. So, at this time it's understandable with a
corrupted user profile that Avast is only partly working and Comodo
crashes as soon as the computer starts. Until a fix is found, or the
backup image is used, I have disabled the NIC.
Try rebooting, and if you get an option for "last known good
configuration", take it. If you don't, if that doesn't help ...
Since this issue started, I rebooted countless times and have never been
offer a "last known good configuration". Believe me, I would take it.

The closes to that is when I tried using System Restore, twice, which
said that each restore was successful. However, it did not fix the
corrupted user profile.
Try rebooting into Safe Mode with Networking and see if any of your
hardware drivers need updating, particularly the video driver.
I'm sure there are updates available, but that doesn't fix the user
profile. Even if I did download a driver, I'm not sure in the laptops
current state that the driver could be installed. I think the user
profile issue needs to be fixed first.
I wish I could promise that any of those is the solution, but I can't.
I do know they're what I would try if I had the same problem.
I appreciate you giving it a shot.

Thanks.
 
T

Tom

Anyone knows how to fix a corrupt user account/profile on Windows 7?
 
T

Tom

In said:
That's the one written for Vista. Although they appear to be the same,
the one I originally wrote about is located here:

http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows7/Fix-a-corrupted-user-profile

As mentioned in the original post, that doesn't work do to permission
and file/directory name length errors.

Initially, if you follow the instructions you hit a permissions error,
even though the old account was set to standard user and the new
accounts were administrative.

And, after I figured out a round about way to copy the old account
hierarchy into the new account hierarchy, Windows reported that, even
though everything was being copied to the _same directory level_, they
would not fit due to limitations of the NTFS file system.

Thanks for the link, but it doesn't work.

Any other suggestions?
 
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P

Paul

Tom said:
That's the one written for Vista. Although they appear to be the same,
the one I originally wrote about is located here:

http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows7/Fix-a-corrupted-user-profile

As mentioned in the original post, that doesn't work do to permission
and file/directory name length errors.

Initially, if you follow the instructions you hit a permissions error,
even though the old account was set to standard user and the new
accounts were administrative.

And, after I figured out a round about way to copy the old account
hierarchy into the new account hierarchy, Windows reported that, even
though everything was being copied to the _same directory level_, they
would not fit due to limitations of the NTFS file system.

Thanks for the link, but it doesn't work.

Any other suggestions?
So then, is the issue the actual copy step ?

I did some experiments a while back, which showed if you used regular copy
methods, there was one particular length of path which was still valid, but
caused a problem for Explorer. Perhaps what you need, is to use a different
tool to do the copying.

I was using PERL as the programming language, and when compared to dealing
with the maximum path length, Explorer would fail, while PERL would still
work. (Which means, other programs may have placed a file with path length "X",
which Explorer can then not deal with.) Then the trick is, to find a tool flow
which is not the same as using Explorer. Long file names might be associated
with MP3 music files, as a typical annoying case.

Length My program Explorer
can create can delete

X-1 Yes Yes
X Yes No
X+1 No ---

Now, I didn't test it, but give Robocopy or its successor a try.

http://technet.microsoft.com/en-ca/magazine/2006.11.utilityspotlight.aspx (Robocopy GUI)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robocopy (table of versions - XP026 minimum recommended)

http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/magazine/2009.04.utilityspotlight.aspx?pr=blog (Richcopy)

I've used Robocopy for cloning entire partitions. The GUI version may make this a bit
easier to deal with. This particular command is mirror mode, and if you aren't careful
specifying the destination, it can delete an entire partition (ask me how I know
this :-( ).

robocopy F:\ J:\ /mir /copy:datso /dcopy:t /r:3 /w:2 /zb /np /tee /v /log:robocopy_f_to_j.log

Paul
 
C

Char Jackson

That's the one written for Vista. Although they appear to be the same,
the one I originally wrote about is located here:

http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows7/Fix-a-corrupted-user-profile

As mentioned in the original post, that doesn't work do to permission
and file/directory name length errors.

Initially, if you follow the instructions you hit a permissions error,
even though the old account was set to standard user and the new
accounts were administrative.

And, after I figured out a round about way to copy the old account
hierarchy into the new account hierarchy, Windows reported that, even
though everything was being copied to the _same directory level_, they
would not fit due to limitations of the NTFS file system.

Thanks for the link, but it doesn't work.

Any other suggestions?
Did you try it when you are logged into the Administrator account?
 
T

Tom

In said:
So then, is the issue the actual copy step ?
Partly.

The primary problem is that the Microsoft instructions, as written, just
plain don't work due to Window 7 permissions issues. Secondarily, the
instructions are hampered further by using Explorer to copy the files
due to file and folder name lengths.

The laptop has only one account and that account type is set to
Administrator. In order to follow the instructions, two new accounts
must be created and they are also set to Administrator. This creates the
first inconsistency in the instructions.

Before beginning, I log off of the old account and log onto the first
new account. Windows displays "Preparing your desktop" and once the
desktop appears, I completely log off. Then select the second new
account and repeat the process.

Now that both new accounts are created and back at the account log-in
screen, I log into the first new user account and change the old account
type to Standard.

In step 2 of the Microsoft instructions it says to "Open the My
Documents folder" in the new account in order to change Explorer to
"Show hidden files, folders, and drives" and clear the "Hide protected
operating system files" check box. I'm not sure why it's important to be
in "My Documents" since those Tools/View options can be applied to all
files and folders from anyplace and are applied globally. Plus, the rest
of the instructions have nothing specifically to do with being in the
"My Documents" directory.

Moving on to step 6, you are instructed to locate the profile you want
to copy files from (eg: C:\Users\Old_Username) and select all of the
files and folders, except:

Ntuser.dat

Ntuser.dat.log

Ntuser.ini

When I look in the old user account I don't specifically see a
"Ntuser.dat.log" file. This is another inconsistency with the Microsoft
instructions. However, I do see a "Ntuser.dat.log1" and
"Ntuser.dat.log2" files, which I don't include in the select. I then
click Copy from the menu.

In step 9 and 10, I navigate to the second new account and click paste
from the menu. The copy process begins, but I never make it to step 11
due to repeated permission errors.

I would think that an account set to Administrator would have elevated
privileges and permission over a Standard user and I would be able to
copy everything from the old account to the second new account. It seems
what Windows 7 needs is a super administrator account to avoid such
issues. It's things like this that make me really miss Windows XP.
I did some experiments a while back, which showed if you used regular
copy methods, there was one particular length of path which was still
valid, but caused a problem for Explorer. Perhaps what you need, is to
use a different tool to do the copying.
I ran into path lengths in my attempt to get around the permission
errors. Since the permission errors reference the old account, I thought
that if I put the old account back to Administrator and used that
account to copy everything, I could avoid the permission errors.

The first thing I did was logged back into the first new account that I
created earlier and changed the old account back to Administrator.
Logged out and into the old account and deleted both new user accounts
and all their associated files. This was followed by creating two new
accounts with different names to start fresh. As before, one at a time I
logged into each new account to "Prepare..." their individual desktops.
Then logged back into the old account.

Since the old account is screwed up, I can't change Explorer to "Show
hidden files, folders, and drives" and clear the "Hide protected
operating system files" check box. So, I had to include the old account
name directory in the copy to get everything. With the exception of:

Ntuser.dat

Ntuser.dat.log1

Ntuser.dat.log2

All of the remaining 3,937 items were successfully copied to the c:\t
directory without any permission errors. These three files that were
skipped here, would only be skipped later anyway. So, they don't matter
whether they were included. With the old account successfully copied to
the "T" directory, I then logged off the old account and logged into the
first new user account.

Since the new accounts allow me to see the hidden stuff, I change
Explorer to "Show hidden files, folders, and drives" and clear the "Hide
protected operating system files" check box. Then navigated to the "T"
directory and into the old user account stuff that I copied. The only
file that I don't need is the Ntuser.ini, so I selected everything but
the INI file and pasted everything else into the second new user
account. That's where I ran into the path length issue.
I was using PERL as the programming language, and when compared to
dealing with the maximum path length, Explorer would fail, while PERL
would still work. (Which means, other programs may have placed a file
with path length "X", which Explorer can then not deal with.) Then the
trick is, to find a tool flow which is not the same as using Explorer.
And, indeed this is the case. Explorer is choking on the path length. I
deleted and created two new accounts. Then did what I just previously
mentioned using a real file manager. With the exception of the expected
warning about overwriting existing files and read-only files, which I
told it to just "Replace All", I was able to copy the 3,937 files
without a path length issue into the second new account using the new
tool.

The sad news is, even after successfully using the first new account to
copy all the files from the old account into the second new account, it
didn't fix the original problem. While Logged into only the second new
account, I'm still not able to fully use certain programs (eg: Avast)
and others are continuing to crash (eg: Comodo). Even the old account
desktop background image didn't reappear.

As I wrote in my original post; after successfully shutting down the
laptop the day before, the next time I went to use it, I pressed the
power button and instead of a normal boot, the computer said that it was
'Preparing the Desktop'. With no error messages, the desktop appeared
and it was the stock ASUS desktop and all customization to the profile
were no longer available.

Apparently, whatever cause Windows 7 to generate a new profile on the
next boot, must of corrupted a lot more. Who knows how many other
programs are in the same dilapidated state or if I could ever get them
to work properly. :(

Unless anyone has any further suggestions, I think the only option I
have left is to restore the laptop from the old disk image I created
back on 2010-08-06.
 
T

Tom

In said:
Did you try it when you are logged into the Administrator account?
Yep, I was logged in as Administrator. See the reply I just posted in
response to Paul's reply for more details.
 
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C

Char Jackson

Yep, I was logged in as Administrator. See the reply I just posted in
response to Paul's reply for more details.
Ok, the way I read that reply it sounded like you were using accounts
that had administrator privileges, rather than using the actual
Administrator account.
 
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T

Tom

In said:
Thanks for the link.

If it's necessary to use a hidden Administrator account in order to
complete the Microsoft instructions, that just added another layer of
complexity. That, plus based on my recent experience detailed in my
reply to Paul of copying one profile to another, I doubt the hidden
Administrator account is going to help.

Ok, the way I read that reply it sounded like you were using accounts
that had administrator privileges, rather than using the actual
Administrator account.
I take it that you're referring to the (above) hidden Administrator
account? If so, then no I wasn't using that. I did plan on at some point
to use Safe Mode to make the copy, but never got around to it.

It might also be that the Microsoft instructions do work as written, but
because the profile is so badly borked, even if followed to the letter
they don't work here.

This morning it occurred to me that talk of using the 2010-08-06 full
image was just that, talk. Having never used Acronis to restore a hard
drive, I didn't know if I was relying on a program and ultimately an
image, that wouldn't work.

So, I created a new full image of the laptop as it is today, and after
verification, rebooted and restored the laptop back to 2010-08-06. The
first boot was a little scary considering when the Desktop appeared
there was something like 20 Task Managers running and while they took up
space in the Notification area, their icons were missing. I rebooted the
laptop again and all of that disappeared and the laptop is working as it
did back in August.
 

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