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There are few things as frustrating as getting your Windows system all set up just like you want only to see all your hard work and custom settings gone the next time you log in. Just what is going on? Today’s SuperUser Q&A post has the solution to a very frustrated reader’s problem.

Today’s Question & Answer session comes to us courtesy of SuperUser—a subdivision of Stack Exchange, a community-driven grouping of Q&A web sites.

Shattered glass image effect courtesy of PhotoFunia.com.

The Question

SuperUser reader Konamiman wants to know why Windows 10 has “erased” all his settings every time he signs in:

My Windows 10 system has suddenly started doing something really weird. Every time I log in, I see a “Preparing Windows” message, and once I am logged in, I see that all of my settings are gone. By that I mean:

  • The desktop background has been reset to the default one (with the Windows logo)
  • All of my pinned taskbar shortcuts are gone
  • The Cortana search bar is back (I had disabled it)
  • All my accounts in Google Chrome are gone
  • My custom regional settings are gone
  • My installed keyboard layouts are gone
  • All applications act like it is the first time running them (no applications seem to have been uninstalled)

The current Windows 10 build number is 10.0.10586. A couple of days ago, I set things up so that I would receive Insider builds as they came out, but to the best of my knowledge, no updates have been installed yet.

Another weird thing is that when viewing the insider build configuration screen, I see the message “Another administrator has set up this device to receive builds“. I am the only person using this computer and there are no additional user accounts set up. What is going on here?

Why has Windows 10 “erased” all his settings every time he signs in?

The Answer

SuperUser contributor Oded has the answer for us:

I have seen this before. Windows loads an empty profile instead of the existing one, something previously seen with Windows 7, and now Windows 10 as well, but the operating system has not changed that much in this aspect.

One thing that can work is removing the affected profile from the profile list in the registry:

  • HKLM\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\ProfileList

The problem profile will have two folders starting with the same GUID, one with a .bak extension and one without. Rename the one without the .bak extension to something else (add a .tmp extension, for example), then remove the .bak extension from the one that has it (which has your correct profile settings).

Reboot and log in as you normally would. Your settings should be back to normal. This “problem” is described in full in this blog post:

How to fix: Windows 7 loads default instead of user-modified profile wiping off all settings, files, email accounts, bookmarks


Have something to add to the explanation? Sound off in the comments. Want to read more answers from other tech-savvy Stack Exchange users? Check out the full discussion thread here.