A user profile can become corrupted and shown to be unloadable. This can be caused by anything from a bad software install to a sudden shutdown that corrupts registry items. Windows will serve a stripped down, temporary profile that you can use but it saves no customizations. To solve this, we’ll dive into the registry making changes as we go to get our regular Desktop and other settings back.

Modify the duplicate registry key

When the temporary profile is loaded, your regular one has “.bak” appended to it – it’s not removed from the system. Navigate to “HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\ProfileList” and notice all the profiles with “S-1-5” as their name. Click through these entries and notice the right pane that says “ProfileImagePath”. Look for your username under the “Data” field. In this example, we have MrSmith under the “C:\Users\MrSmith” profile.


Also take note of the two almost identical Keys to the left. One has the “.bak” appended – this is your regular one.


Windows is unable to load a profile with this invalid extension so it loads the next best thing – which is the temporary profile Windows has created.

Right-click the key that we want to load (the one with the “.bak”) and rename it to anything but, like “.Smith”.


Now right-click the temporary profile that we don’t want to load and rename that “.bak”.


An attempt to login now wouldn’t get you anywhere because there is no system reference to your account. Both your temporary and actual profile are invalid. Next, we want to change our real one back to what it should be which would be a key without an extension.


To ensure this temporary profile isn’t referenced by the system, we’re going to give it a zero reference value. Find the temporary string again (with “.bak”) and double-click the “RefCount” name on the right pane. Change  the “Value data” to “0” and OK out of it.


We’ll want to do the same to the “State” DWORD, a few items down from “RefCount”. Change the “Value data” to “0” and OK out of it. The last step is to close out of the Registry Editor and reboot. You can now login to your account without Windows loading a temporary, basically read-only, profile.


This failed logon error can cause a headache for hours. You may have even ignored this and simply made a new profile, copying all your data from the old one. Although that is quite possible, this is the best solution. It doesn’t take but a few minutes to make the name and value changes and you’ll be right back where you left off before the corruption.