Correct Documents and Settings folder on Windows 2000

Today I get a frantic call from a client who’s experiencing a little bit of trouble with his laptop.

“When it all loads up, it’s not the same as normal, my Outlook icon is missing, I can’t get to my email and my favourites are gone from Internet Explorer.”

He’s using Windows 2000, so my immediate suspicion is that he’s logged on as another user by mistake, so, it should be nothing more than a 5 minute job right?


It turns out that since I set his laptop up on the router, Windows 2000 has decided it will create him a new profile in a new local profile directory under “C:\Documents and Settings\”, so now instead of “C:\Documents and Settings\User\”, it’s now “C:\Documents and Settings\User.Machine\”, and the original profile still exists, but is not being read.

So my initial though is this. Simple, what I’ll do is just delete the user, and recreate it using the original directory. How wrong I was…

What I originally tried was this (not recommended)… first make a new administrator user, restart (not just logoff/logon), then you need to delete the user, rename the directory, then add the user again. THIS DID NOT WORK. I just ended up with another “User.Machine” directory again, after another try and a rename of this and that, and a few reboots in between, I got it to use the original “User” directory as it should.

However I discover some of the settings have gone missing, such as passwords. Naturally, clients like this don’t remember their passwords or have them written down and stored in a safe place, and have no way of recovering them. Great. That’s no good!

I have since then learned how to corrected restore the user profile back to the original documents and settings folder…

  1. Get the Security ID (SID) of the user
    1. Download and install getsid.
    2. Go to Start -> Run, type CMD, press “OK”.
    3. CD to the directory you installed getsid to (ie: cd “C:\Program Files\Resource Kit\”).
    4. Type: getsid \\MACHINE User \\MACHINE User
      • Replace MACHINE with the computername and User with the username, and yes, you need it twice.
  2. Once you have that SID (the last 4 numbers in particular), you need to edit the registry.
    1. You need to run “regedit” (from Start -> Run).
    2. Find HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\ProfileList
    3. Find the one that has the same key as the SID, click on that.
    4. On the left you should have a value entitled “ProfileImagePath”, double click that.
    5. You should see something like “%SystemDrive%\Documents and Settings\User.Machine”, simply change this back to “%SystemDrive%\Documents and Settings\User”.

    Problem solved!

    Note: I’m not sure how useful this will be as nobody really uses Windows 2000 any more, and I couldn’t think up an appropriate title. Hope this helps someone.

    Also see: Cannot move or rename the Documents and Settings folder

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    1. Adam said,

      January 10, 2008 @ 11:26 pm

      My mom still uses 2000 (she never saw a need to upgrade since it does what she wants). She just ran into the problem, and you helped me out a lot. Thanks!

    2. Kris said,

      January 28, 2008 @ 7:39 pm

      Thanks dude it worked like a charm, helped me get back to my “User” account.
      Even now i couldn’t understand what got me there to “User.Machinename” account.

    3. Aftab said,

      March 22, 2008 @ 8:24 pm

      Thanks for your valuable help. I think you’ll find that many people still use 2000 as it was a lot more stable (and secure) than XP when that came out, and I think Microsoft recognise this by continuing to provide windows update security patches for 2000 to this day. Great Help topic you wrote there, Thanks.

    4. Steffen said,

      September 19, 2008 @ 8:37 am

      Thanks alot for the information the same thing just happened on my colleauges Win2k-machine. Apparently during an Update of Windows .Net Framework Components. Furthermore Outlook decided to move his mailbox to the new local folder…but didn’t manage to finish it. So all his files are lost. (makes me appreciate working under Linux even more).

    5. shoe said,

      November 6, 2008 @ 6:38 am

      Thanks that worked great. I have no idea why this suddenly happened in the first place though.

    6. Richard G. said,

      December 17, 2008 @ 10:44 pm

      I still have a Windows 2000 system that decided to do this as well. The difference was that instead of MACHINENAME, it tagged DOMAINNAME to the end of my username for the “new” Documents and Settings profile directory (it is a domain bound box).

      The same registry trick resolved the problem. Thanks much!!!

      Hint: if you cannot install getsid, just search the registry under HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\ProfileList for the bad (”new”) profile directory name, and change the “ProfileImagePath” accordingly.

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