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  1. #1
    New Lounger
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    Oct 2011
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    copying user profiles - a tip and a question (long, sorry)

    Have seen many posts in various forums about people having problems with user profiles in Windows 7, largely because Microsoft disabled the ability to copy one user profile to another. Of course I was looking because I had a problem.

    The tips I've seen don't seem to work. Example: I've seen advice to copy all the files except ntuser*.* from one user's profile to another, sometimes with extras like 1: log on the each user at least once, then log on as user C to copy from A to B, and 2: make sure you are set to view hidden files and protected system files. I used to do this back in the days of NT 4.0 (or was it 2000?), but under Win-7, the resulting users seem to be corrupt somehow (sorry, its been a while and I forget exactly what was wrong).

    Now I have found a possible solution for one flavor of the issue. It involves not-quite-following some Microsoft advice.
    My question is: does anyone know of a reason why the trick below shouldn't work? (It tests ok so far, but who knows what I will run into later).
    The tip, of course, is that it might work for other profile-challenged Win-7 sufferers.

    Our version of the can't-copy-profile problem -- we want one profile for each PC, regardless of the user. Every PC here is different, with special apps for one person's job, desktop shortcuts for them, etc. In our company, if Jack is using Jill's machine, it's because Jill is out and Jack needs to do some of her job before he goes back to his machine to do his job. Back in the 9x days, the option to have all users use the same profile was perfect for us. Under XP I had a workaround that included copying a 1st user's profile to the others after the other setup was done. One weakness was that other users would not get the inevitable tweaks like new shortcuts that would happen later.

    Here's my summary of the Microsoft advice that almost works: (for Microsoft's own words, see the 2nd half of

    Step 1: set up a folder like "\profiles\mandatory.v2". They say to put it on a server and share it, but I have it on local drive C. The ".v2" required, the rest of the name is up to you.

    Step 2 part 1: copy the default user profile to that location, in my case "c:\profiles\mandatory.v2". In the copy screen, there is a "permitted to use" which you have to change to "everyone" before you click "ok". One way to find the copy screen is: Start-menu | right-click "computer" | properties | Advanced System Settings | click the "settings" under "user profiles". Then click on the default profile, click "copy to", browse, etc.

    Step 2 part 2: in your new location, rename "ntuser.dat" to "" (requires setting explorer to show protected system files, hidden files and extensions for known file types).

    Step 3: set up users to actually use that profile. Add them the ordinary way. Find the user profile screen and type the new profile location into the user profile - profile path box, but without the ".v2". Microsoft tells how to find that screen as a domain adminstrator with Active Directory, but for a PC in a workgroup, try: control panel | administrative tools | computer management | local users & groups | users, then select the user you want and click the “profile” tab.

    The problem is that every time I logged on, it was like a 1st-time logon, back to the original default, missing customizations like new desktop shortcuts.

    But it works if I skip the rename and leave "ntuser.dat" with its original name

    I have set up a couple users and I can switch back and forth and each seems to have the customizations I made as the other. Perfect so far. Now I'm back to applying all the customizations that I have previously done for my 1st user, except he seems to be a hopeless dead end because I can't copy him. Hint: if you want to try this trick on a new PC, do it first.

  2. #2
    Star Lounger
    Join Date
    Apr 2011
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    Wow! You're doing a lot of work. If you configured each PC to auto-logon, there would only be one account and thus, only one profile.

    It sounds like you do not have a domain and your work-flow description says that if Jack logs into Jill's PC, it is to do Jill's task. Unless I'm missing something, I see no reason for Jack to have a different account on Jill's PC.

  3. #3
    Super Moderator BATcher's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    A cultural area in SW England
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    I back up (my) user profile and the "All Users" one at home (W7-64), and back up the Roaming Profiles folder for all the XP PCs at work from the W2008 server. However, for Windows 7 I bypass NTUSER.DAT, in fact NTUSER.*, and UsrClass.*, because they don't copy.

    I've been trying ShadowSpawn (which uses VSS) to back up my Outlook PST while it is open, but I haven't yet tried it out on profiles. Maybe you'd like to pioneer?!

    By the way, the .V2 suffix on Windows 7 (roaming?) profile directory names is because Microsoft needs, apparently, to distinguish between those profiles created on XP (which don't have any such suffix), and those created on Windows 7. (I neither know, and couldn't care less, what happens with Vista!) Of course, a user can use the same username to log on to a Windows 7 box and an XP box on the same domain.
    Last edited by BATcher; 2011-10-20 at 10:26. Reason: v2 elucidation

    milliHelen (sub-unit): that quantity of female facial beauty sufficient to launch a single ship

  4. #4
    New Lounger
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    Oct 2011
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    FWIW,autologon has been part of my setup for years. Also, every PC needs a least 2 users because of file shares and cross-network backups. I normally start a new-pc setup as the user I use for backups and administration, then copy it to the real user's profile. My 1st post skipped over a lot of details to focus on my new idea.

    Anyway, people here aren't comfy with the security considerations of autologon and I would get rid of it if I could without too many side-effects.

    Also, autologon + employee-turnover have a side effect that drives me crazy, even if it might not bother anyone else in this forum. It's bad enough that when your browse the computer a folder like "My Documents" might sometimes show as "Username's Documents" and at other times "My Documents", depending what direction you look at it from (browsing network shares, etc). When you rename a user, the folders for that user are not renamed, under either XP or 7. Let's say Jack & Jill both leave and are replaced by Fred. If I rename user Jill to be called Fred, the folder "C:\users\Jill" is NOT renamed and I will still see Jill's name if I browse the wrong way years later, after I have forgotten who Jill was. This is more of a problem here than at many companies because a typical computer lasts at least twice as long as a typical user -- don't ask

    This is not a made-up example. There have been times when I was browsing and said to myself the equivalent of "who is Jill and how did she get an account on that box?" and "where did My Documents go?" (the latter because I was looking in the "M"s, not the "J"s).

    So I prefer to handle turnover in XP by copying the old user to the new, then deleting the old, rather than renaming. Less confusing in the long run and easier to keep track of who is who.

    All the users have the same documents folder (and some other critical folders) no matter whether they are created new, copied or renamed, because I always move the folders I care about to locations that do not have the username as part of the path, like "C:\My Documents". Then my backup routines always knows where to find them no matter what happens to users. This is a big deal here.

    Which leads to a problem with my idea in the 1st post. With a shared profile, it won't let you move those folders off their normal location. Also, the shared profile isn't completely shared. As I test two with 2 users on the same profile, I see some stuff going there and some stuff going under the old, separate C:\users\user1 and c:\users\user2. Might be a good idea for some sites, but it is dead here because it has enough flaws so I can't justify counting on tricks that Microsoft doesn't officially support.

    So I am unhappily planning to use autologon and handle turnover by renaming the same user over & over. If my administative/backup user has a similar setup to the real user, it will be because I did the same setup steps twice.

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