This article is for non-techies, and for user's still using Windows XP who just want to copy their existing Windows XP settings to a new computer which is also running XP, or for users who want to replace their existing desktop profile with a new profile.
(Yes, this article is actually several years late as it's for Windows XP only, but here it is anyway as a bit of a historical archive before Windows XP disappears into desktop operating system oblivion.)
These are the steps I use to copy over existing Windows XP user's desktop profile settings from their old Windows XP computers to a new (or second) Windows XP computer; or to recreate a user's profile on an existing Windows XP computer if the existing profile is currupt and needs to be replaced. These steps should not be used if copying from Windows XP to Windows 7. I'll probably add more info about this later, but not five years from now =)
1) Reboot the computer then login as the local Administrator or as another user who has Administrative privileges.
Use step 2 below if you are replacing an existing corrupt user profile: 2) Cut and paste the user's old user profile( C:\Documents and Settings\<insert user name here>)
to a tempsave folder (a folder you will 'NOT' delete by accident).
3) Have the user login now creating a new user folder.
4) Reboot the computer again, and login as the local Administrator or Administrator equivalent account again.
5) Copy these folders from the old user profile folder on the old hard drive, or from the tempsave folder you created in step 2 above:
C:\Documents and Settings\<insert user name here>\Desktop C:\Documents and Settings\<insert user name here>\Favorites C:\Documents and Settings\<insert user name here>\My Documents
(more info on the NTUSER.DAT at bottom of article)
Copy also this one file (rename the newly created one first):
C:\Documents and Settings\<insert user name here>\NTUSER.DAT
The NTUSER.DAT file stores the printer and drive mapping info so you do not have to resetup these for the user.
There are more folders that can be copied over from the old user profile to a new profile (Windows XP --> Windows XP) but not if the old computer is having problems or if it was infected with a virus.
These other folders are: C:\Documents and Settings\<insert user name here>\Application Data C:\Documents and Settings\<insert user name here>\Local Settings\Application Data C:\Documents and Settings\<insert user name here>\Local Settings\Apps
After copying these folders over to the user's new user profile folder, login to the computer using the user's login.
First step after logging in as the user, if the user has any mapped network drives or mapped printers, is to click on each mapped drive and mapped printer reestablishing the connection.
Sometimes it takes a few tries clicking on the network printers as Windows has to redownload the network printer drivers from the server...you want to make sure the network printers redownload the network printer drivers as the network printer drive mappings copied over are only just snapshots--and the actual driver still needs to be reinstalled which can be done easily by double clicking the network printers. Local printers will have to be manually reinstalled the normal way. Click once on each network drive mapping to reconnect the drive mapping as well.
I use these steps everyday, and makes setting up replacement computers running Windows XP easy.
Important Note regarding the above comment about NTUSER.DAT: C:\Documents and Settings\<insert user name here>\NTUSER.DAT
It is important to rename the newly created profile NTUSER.DAT because this file stores more than just the printer and drive mappings. It stores desktop configuration info as well.
What will happen on a rare occasion, is that the old NTUSER.DAT copied over from the old drive or profile is corrupted and you'll want to put back the newly renamed created NTUSER.DAT. For example, if the user profile starts acting strange doing wierd stuff, timing out, applications hanging, etc, then reboot using the local Administrator or equivalent account, and rename the old copied over NTUSER.DAT to NTUSER.BAD for this user and rename the other backup copy of NTUSER.DAT you made earlier back to NTUSER.DAT
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 a lot of application specific settings which will make the transition from Windows XP on one computer to Windows XP on another computer less painful. You can also use the above steps to solve existing Windows XP profile corruption without reinstalling Windows or all your applications!