Many people may not realize this but a person’s user profile in Windows is like their own personalized world, full of unique, personal items like photos and music which are frequently irreplaceable. So when a user profile gets corrupted, it is like forcing that person to reset their digital lives, at least somewhat. If you are one of the admittedly few people who makes frequent backups, losing your user profile is not the end of the world. Everyone else, however, should stick around and see how they can get their profiles back.
You will know when your user profile is corrupted because you will be unable to log in and an error will frequently accompany your login efforts. The error will likely say something like “The User Profile Service failed the logon. User Profile cannot be loaded.” or some variation of that. The profile should still show up at the log in screen though, otherwise it may have already been deleted from your computer.
In order for the following fixed to be applied, you will need to log in with an administrator account. This is absolutely vital so I am going to assume you will follow this instruction before moving on. You can either log in with an admin account that you have created or use the one that comes with Windows. To do that, boot into Safe Mode and simply select the account from the login screen as it has no password. Otherwise, run a command line via another account, type the following command and press enter:
net user administrator /active:yes
In case you use this method, remember to go back and run the command again with a “no” in place of “yes” in order to hide the account once more.
Method 1) Fix the corrupted profile
This method will require you to modify Registry files so make sure you follow the steps below closely and do not alter anything else other than what is mentioned here. Furthermore, consider backing up the Registry before doing anything else.
1. Open your Start Menu, type regedit.exe and press Enter to open the Registry Editor.
2. Go to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\ProfileList.
3. Locate the folder/s that start with S-1-5 followed by a long string of numbers and pay close attention. Open the ProfileImagePath and check which account each folder corresponds to. If your folders end with the .bak extension, there are some additional steps you must take.
3b. If you have two folders and one of them has the .bak extension, you must remove the extension from that folder and give it to the second one instead so it would be something like this:
3c. If you only have one folder and it ends with .bak, just rename the folder to remove the extension.
4. Once you are done, click on the folder without the .bak on its name, double-click on the RefCount DWORD from the right-side pane, change its value to 0 and click on OK.
5. Double-click on the State, enter 0 again and click on OK once more.
6. Feel free to close the Registry Editor and restart your computer. Try to log in with your account again and everything should be okay.
Method 2) Copy your data to a new profile
In case your profile’s restoration fails, you can simply create a new account and then copy your data into that account so it will almost be like nothing ever happened. The process of creating new accounts varies across different versions of Windows but the easiest method is to type user accounts in your Start menu, press Enter and then go through the Control Panel menu. There will be an option that says “Create new account” or “Manage another account” so you can simply head there and follow the on-screen instructions. In newer versions of Windows, the User Accounts Panel will simply redirect you to the appropriate section of PC settings.
Do not log in your new account just yet. Instead, restart your PC or just log off and then on again in order to force the system into creating the necessary files for it. Log in with the administrator account again and go to “C:\Users” (or whatever your drive’s letter is). Find the corrupted account and feel free to move everything to the new profile’s folder, with the exception of these three files:
If you cannot find these files, open the Folder Options and go to the View tab. Check the “Show hidden files, folders and drives” option and then remove the checkmark from the “Hide protected operating system files” option. The Folder Options menu can be accessed via the Tools menu in Windows 7 and in the View tab in Windows 8.1/10.
Method 3) Restore to a previous state
System Restore Points
The Restore point method is undoubtedly a very generic solution but that is simply because it works for everything. If neither of the above methods is right for you, try restoring to an earlier point and there is a pretty good chance you will be able to log in your account normally. The best way to do this is to boot into safe mode, log in with the administrator account and then run System Restore from there. Should you go down this path, make sure to note what changes you have made to your system since the restore point and you might be able to pinpoint the issue too.
Bonus: Delete the corrupted profile and start anew
Corrupted user profile errors frequently happen because people delete their accounts the wrong way, especially by manually deleting profile folders. The correct way, especially for a profile that is already corrupted, can be a bit more complicated than that.
The automatic way
Microsoft actually provides a “Fix-it” tool that scouts your Registry for profile errors and then automatically deletes bad entries along with any remaining files for the corrupted user account. You can download the tool here but if it does not work, you can also do everything yourself.
The manual way
- Open the Start Menu, right-click on “Computer” or “File Explorer” and select the Properties option in order to open the System information window.
- Click on “Advanced system settings” from the sidebar on the right.
- In the “Advanced” tab, click on the Settings button for the User Profiles section.
- Wait for a bit until the User Profiles menu pops up, select the offending account form the list and click on “Delete”.
- Close that window by clicking on “OK” and then open the Registry Editor.
- Go to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\ProfileList.
- Find the corrupted profile’s Key and delete it.
- You are now able to create a new profile with the same name once again.