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Windows 7 Profile Copying

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For Windows XP, see my earlier EE article titled, Windows XP Profile Copying

Revised for Windows 7

This article is for non-techies, using Windows 7 who just want to copy their existing Windows 7 settings to a new computer which is also running Windows 7, or for users who want to replace their existing desktop profile with a new profile.

Note: haven’t figured yet figured how to migrate the printer/drive mappings if not mapped automatically.  The previous Windows XP article explained how to do this so make sure to do print screens of the printer/drive mappings if needed before recreating/creating the user profile.

These are the steps used to copy over existing Windows 7 user's desktop profile settings from their old Windows 7 computers to a new (or second) Windows 7 computer--or to recreate a user's profile on an existing Windows 7 computer if the existing profile is corrupt and needs to be replaced.

1) Reboot the computer then login as the local Administrator or as another user who has Administrative privileges.

2) First Make a profile backup of some type either manual or via the GUI.
Personally prefer option “B” the manual profile backup as you do not copy over a ton of unneeded temp files etc., or in the situations where the profile is corrupt you don't bring over corrupted files. I'd also suggest using the GUI backup to make a complete profile backup just in case something goes wrong or something gets lost when removing the old profile. Even recommend backing up the hard drive first as a disclaimer to prevent any type of data loss.

A) Backing up the profile via the GUI: just go into the Control Panel and click the System icon via Control Panel\All Control Panel Items\System
Then click the left menu option titled, “Advanced system settings”
Then click the “Settings…” button under the “User Profiles” section
From here, backup the entire profile to another location before making any changes.

B) Backing up the profile manually: start Window’s Explorer and go into the folder
C:\Users\JoeUserName” changing the drive letter and user name where needed.

(Note: view settings may need to be changed in Windows 7 from the default to view the necessary folders, i.e., “AppData” folder. To view this folder, click the Window’s Explorer menu option titled “Organize” then click “Folder and search options” then click the “View” tab and uncheck “Hide extensions for known file types” and change the radio button from “Don’t show…” to “Show hidden files, folders, and drives”)

Backup these folder/files – if needed, not all folders will have files in them:
C:\Users\JoeUserName\Desktop
C:\Users\JoeUserName\Downloads
C:\Users\JoeUserName\Favorites

( the IE toolbar favorites are under the C:\Users\JoeUserName\Favorites\Links folder)
C:\Users\JoeUserName\Links
C:\Users\JoeUserName\My Documents
C:\Users\JoeUserName\My Music
C:\Users\JoeUserName\My Pictures
C:\Users\JoeUserName\My Videos

C:\Users\JoeUserName\( any misc. non-standard application specific folders that you are concerned about, i.e., SapWorkDir, Saved Games( save those important Minesweeper games!)

Now go into this normally hidden folder:

C:\Users\JoeUserName\AppData

There are two main folders to be normally concerned with here:

C:\Users\JoeUserName\AppData\Local
C:\Users\JoeUserName\AppData\Roaming


For the C:\Users\JoeUserName\AppData\Local folder:
Pick and choose whatever folder is important to backup here--I'm mostly only concerned with one folder:
C:\Users\JoeUserName\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Outlook

In this one folder are possibly some of the user’s PST files namely archive.PST so make sure that this archive file gets backed up before deleting the old profile… Note: no need to backup the files using the file extension “.OST” (offline storage file) in this folder as this file gets recreated the first time you start Outlook while setting up the new user profile, i.e., when setting up corporate email accounts.

For the C:\Users\JoeUserName\AppData\Roaming folder:
Again, pick and choose whatever is important to backup here, but I'm mostly only concerned with the folders under( depends on your users) C:\Users\JoeUserName\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\
So get these sub-folders:
C:\Users\JoeUserName\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Word
C:\Users\JoeUserName\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Templates

( the normal Word templates are located here as well as the saved Outlook “Quick Steps”)
C:\Users\JoeUserName\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Excel
( the user’s Excel macros are stored here so if they’re using Excel macros, make sure that you get this folder.)
Again, back up more of these subfolders if needed.

That’s it for step 2)!

3) If this is the same computer and you are replacing a corrupt user profile, delete (after making the previously described backups of course) the old user profile via the GUI:  just go into the Control Panel and click the System icon via Control Panel\All Control Panel Items\System then click the left menu option titled, “Advanced system settings” then click the “Settings…” button under the “User Profiles” section.

Note on deleting old Windows 7 profiles compared to Windows XP:
With Windows XP, a person could just highlight the old profile folder after making your profile backup, then press ‘delete’ in Windows Explorer…but I've found in Windows 7, that Windows 7 will have a heart attack on reboot if you try this old method so best to just remove the old/corrupt profile via the GUI to be safe. If intent on using the Explorer delete user profile folder method, there is a key in the registry that lets you avoid this Window’s heart attack on reboot under the ProfileList key, but I never delete old user profile folders with Windows 7 via Explorer and don’t recommend it...the GUI method works best imo.

4) After logging in to the same or new computer using the user's login to create a new profile, copy the backed up folders into the user's new user profile folders with the same name, or use cut and paste the old folder contents if easier or faster.

Note: I say contents here, not the entire folder. As an example, if copying over the old Favorites folder, I rarely overwrite the existing files/folders as I usually choose to keep the newer version of existing folder/files in the new profile folders…a decision based on your preference/experience though.

Using the above steps will not copy over programs that haven't been installed on the new computer, or replacement hard drive; but it will help preserve some application specific settings which will make the transition from Windows 7 on one computer to Windows 7 on another computer less painful. You can also use the above steps to solve existing Windows 7 profile corruption without reinstalling Windows or all your applications!

Tech Note: still learning what is best here for Windows 7 so if you have any tips suggestions, please comment!
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