Windows Server and Windows Desktop: How-To Reset a Local User Profile or RDS User Profile Disk

Once in a while we hit the wall when troubleshooting a problem with an application.

After running the troubleshooting gamut with the “problematic” application behaving in any other profile on that system, it becomes obvious that there is some sort of corruption in the afflicted user’s local profile.

Windows Server and Desktop

For a standalone Windows Server or Windows Desktop machine the following is the process to reset a local profile.

  1. Reboot the problematic system
  2. Log on with a Local Admin account
  3. Rename C:\Users\UserName to C:\Users\UserName.OLD
  4. Start RegEdit
  5. Navigate to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\ProfileList
  6. Navigate the folder list
    • Folder names are user SIDs from the local machine and Active Directory
  7. Once the user’s SID folder is located Delete it
  8. Reboot
  9. Log the user on
  10. Set up the user’s profile
  11. Copy data back in from the UserName.OLD folder under C:\Users
    • My Documents and following
    • Desktop
    • Custom configuration files from AppData
  12. Start the “problematic” application

The application should work. If not, then ProcessMonitor and/or ProcessExplorer would be our next step to see exactly where things are getting hung-up.

NOTE: For standalone machines set up with just the one user that operates as a local administrator, set up another user with a password on the machine and make it a local administrator. Then, log on with that account to run the above process.

SUGGESTION: Once the process has completed, set the day-to-day user account as a Standard User to help reduce the account’s attack surface.

Windows Remote Desktop Session Host with User Profile Disks (UPD)

We use a utility called Sidder to help figure out which UPD belongs to which user since the name they have is the user’s Active Directory SID.

  1. Have the user log off
  2. Use Sidder to obtain their UPD SID
  3. Rename the user’s UPD .VHDX file to OLD-UVHD-S-1-5-21-SID-Numbers-Here.VHDX
  4. Log the user account back on
  5. A new VHDX will appear with the user’s SID
  6. Have the user Log Off
    • We have the following on all user’s desktops and Taskbar
    • image
    • LogOff.EXE shortcut with button
  7. Mount both the new and the old .VHDX files
    • We usually run this process on the UPD host
  8. Copy the user’s Desktop, Documents, and following folders over
    • If Folder Redirect is being used this step is unnecessary
    • Custom settings files may be nested in AppData so make sure to copy them
  9. Log the user on and finish setting up the user’s profile
  10. Test the “problematic” application
    • It should work from now on
    • If not, the ProcessMonitor and/or ProcessExplorer would be our next step

The above process should clean-up the majority of issues caused by corruption in the user’s profile folders.

Philip Elder
Microsoft High Availability MVP
Co-Author: SBS 2008 Blueprint Book !
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