Copying Windows 10 User Profiles

While helping a person with a new Windows 10 Home computer I realized the person needed the user profile copied from the old Windows 10 Home computer. Turns out this is not a straightforward exercise. Once upon a time the Microsoft folks included a transfer utility to do that but the tool no longer exists in Windows 10.

In my first run I copied all files. Just a simple copy to a spare disk. That corrupted the new profile. In my second attempt I copied all files except NTUSER.DAT. That too corrupted the new profile. In my case the corruption was seen in that I could not open the File Explorer or Start menu.

Some selected user data files, such as from Firefox, Thunderbird, and LibreOffice — which are all free and open source products — can be copied without insult. Not so with Windows specific data.

One recommended online option is to perform a backup and restore that backup on the new computer. None of the information I read revealed anything about how Windows is designed to handle the different user ID and registry idiocy. I presumed somehow the backup utility handles all of that. I hoped.

With my first attempt I aborted the backup because I only wanted the user profile backed up and not everything including the kitchen sink. From that point forward Windows would not provide me a button to change the options. The only way I found to restore the Options button was to perform a backup. I then was shown the missing button and could change the options. I deleted the recent backup. Lots of wasted time.

At one point while fiddling with the options I changed the backup schedule to monthly. When trying to save the settings Windows displayed a typical useless error dialog with the odd text The parameter is incorrect. (0x80070057). I repeated the exercise a couple of times and then realized I was not selecting a day of the month. Sadly the utility contains no error trapping to catch that mishap. Instead the result is an ambiguous and useless error message.

I wanted to browse the previous backups on the old computer. Not possible. Selecting the folder in the Windows File Explorer results in a dialog prompt to restore the files. I can browse the files with a Live ISO, but this is a bit nuts.

On the old computer I performed a test run. The backup drive is actually a second partition on the internal drive. Not a great configuration but better than most home systems that have no backup at all. To be able to restore the backup I changed the options to only backup the user profile and to use an external USB SSD rather than the internal disk.

As the original user account on the new computer was corrupted, I deleted the account and created a new account. I logged in so I could create the initial user folder in C:\Users.

I connected the USB SSD to the new computer. I was not confident the restore would succeed. To my surprise, the restore succeeded and I was able to login with no problems. Yet not fully successful. When launching some apps I noticed the respective profiles had not been restored. I had to manually copy those files. Thereafter everything seemed to be functioning as expected.

Computers have become too complex. The complexity increases unnecessarily when developers and vendors decide that customers need to be monetized and treated like idiots. The maddening part of Windows is how so much is deliberately hidden from users. Pretty much everything in Windows is done through blind faith.

Linux based systems have many usability warts and blemishes. That said, Windows 10 is a B grade horror movie. I find Window exhausting.

Posted: Category: Usability Tagged: Windows

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