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There are several levels of ownership when it comes to your computer. There’s the default or generic setting. You also have your own profile where your background images are saved and you’re able to access all of your files and programs. If other members of your household use the same computer, they may have their own profiles on your machine as well.
Sometimes the computer gets a bit confused about all of these profiles and it chooses to load the wrong one. Or it can’t load anything but the default profile – the one that’s missing most of your stuff. When this happens, you’re faced with an error.
Info Center . . .
What is a User Profile?
When you first get your computer, you’re usually prompted to put in personal information and a password. Then, all of the things you change and set up preferences for are stored as part of your profile. For example, if you save Chrome as your preferred browser, or default browser, it will stay that way in your user profile.
- The user profile extends to many things including programs, images settings and files saved to the machine. The vast majority of the time when you log into your computer, you’re taken directly to your user profile without any trouble.
What is a Default Profile?
The default profile in Windows is simply the template that all profiles start from. Think back to the first time you turned on your brand new computer. The machine likely took you on a tour of Windows and had generic wallpaper.
- What you saw that very first time you booted up the machine is, in essence, the default profile. It’s a template or blueprint profile that the computer has saved deep in its memory. When a new user logs in, the default profile is copied to that user’s profile and then as the new user makes changes, they are saved. But the default template lives on in the background, and with certain errors, can suddenly show up unexpectedly.
What are Userenv.dll Errors?
Your computer stores information almost like digital reminders on .dll files. Userenv.dll files are registry files and errors that originate from these files seem to pop up the most when you’re logging in or when you’re trying to install a new program or operating system.
The Userenv.dll errors can account for some of the problems with your profile when it does load correctly. To correct the userenv.dll errors, if this is what is causing the problem with your profile, you’ll need to clean your registry and update or replace the corrupted or missing files.
Fixing a Broken User Profile
There are several ways to attack this particular problem with your computer. Like many issues that spring up on your machine from time to time, you may have to try a few different techniques before you find the solution that works for you.
In order to perform the next few steps, it will be necessary to view files on your computer that are normally hidden. See our reference article on showing hidden files.
Step 1: Recreate UsrClass.dat File
It’s possible that there is a single user file that has gotten corrupted or isn’t working properly. Fortunately, your computer makes a new usrclass.dat file if it finds the first one missing. So we simply need to make the first one disappear.
- In Windows Vista & 7 | Go to C:\Users\"Your User Name"\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows\ Then, find the Usrclass.dat file and move it out of that directory (folder). An easy thing to do is cut it (shortcut for cut, Ctrl+C) and then move it to the desktop.
- In Windows XP | Go to C:\Documents and Settings\Current User\Local Settings\Application Data\Microsoft\Windows\ to find the file.
- Exit back to your Desktop and right click again to paste the file (shortcut for paste, Ctrl+V). By keeping it on your desktop, you’ll be able to find the file again if this method doesn’t clean things up for you. Now, Windows won’t be able to find it when it looks in the normal place. This will signal it to remake the file.
- Once the file is moved, restart your computer and log in as you normally would. You should be able to login correctly without errors or extra messages if your computer recreated the proper login file. If this is the case - everything worked and you got no errors - you can simply delete the old file you just saved on your desktop. You don’t need it anymore.
- If, however, the solution didn’t work, check the original directory to see if Windows restored the Usrclass.dat file. If it did, you can delete the copy on the desktop. If it didn't, go ahead and restore it to the original folder.
- Proceed to step 2.
Step 2: System Restore
Did the problem loading your profile just start happening? Did it start occurring after you made some sort of change on your machine, perhaps after downloading a new file, installing a new program, or implementing a Windows Update? If you can pinpoint a time when your computer worked right, you can activate a system restore to revert Windows back to a former state. By typing “System Restore” into the Windows Search bar, you can find the Restore Point Manager.
Open System Restore and you’ll see a list of dates and times when your computer made a backup. These are called Restore Points. Pick a point before you were having trouble and select Next to revert back in time.
If the system restore works and the error stops, try to determine what action you took that could have changed permissions in your system and see if you can find an alternative. If it didn't, proceed to step 3.
System Restore is an invaluable tool, just be sure to backup new documents or files before restoring to an earlier point as there is a chance they could be lost. Windows is designed to prevent this, but it's better to be safe than sorry.
For more information on backing up and restoring Windows, see our Article on Windows protection.
Step 3: In-Depth System Restore
If a normal System Restore doesn’t work, you can try doing the same thing, but with a bit more technical application. Boot into safe mode and log in as Administrator. (You can learn more about safe mode here.) Navigate to the administrator directory by going to C:\Users\Administrator\. You’re looking for a file called ntuser.dat. If it’s there, copy it and paste the copy in
- In Windows Vista & 7 | go to C:\Users\"your user name"
- In Windows XP | go to C:\Documents and Settings\"your user name"
Now do the system restore process, going back to a point in time before you think the corruption message started showing up.
Last try: Change Caching
You can test for the cause of the problem as well by changing some additional settings on your computer. This isn't the best solution as it could cause some computer slowdown, but if the errors are hampering computer performance anyway, it may be worth it - at least until you can get some help.
On the desktop, right click on My Computer. Select Properties, then Hardware and Device Manager. (You can also just search "Device Manager" in the Windows Search bar.) Look for your hard drive in the list of devices. When you find the hard drive, double click on it.
A box will open with information and selections to make about the hard drive. Un-check the box that says "Enable Write Catching on the Device." By un-checking the box, you’ll slow your computer down a bit, but it may clean up the errors you’ve been experiencing.
Professional cleaning applications like FixCleaner are designed to do coordinated fixes. That means they don't just change things arbitrarily but adjust settings, remove duplicate entries and optimize permissions in such a way that manipulating one part of a computer does not cause problems in another. For some errors, there really is a need to get professional IT help, but a good system cleaner can work wonders. If a manual fix just doesn't seem to be working, try an accredited app to remove the errors correctly.