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All files and folders missing from users desktop, still viewable in explorer, but two desktop folders

jrm213jrm213 asked
Medium Priority
Last Modified: 2010-04-21

I have a user on a windows vista laptop. This morning she came to me with the problem that all her files were gone. While this isn't true, they do not show up on her desktop anymore, or maybe more correctly, her desktop is not showing up when she logs in.

If I use windows explorer (windows key + e) when I click on desktop, underneath that it shows the users name, if I expand it, it shows two folders named desktop (which should be impossible). One is empty, and one contains all her folders, files, and shortcuts.

If I delete the empty one, windows recreates it. If I create something new on the desktop, windows puts it in this empty desktop folder.

This makes absolutely no sense to me. Seems like something must be corrupted in how Windows is handling the desktop folder functionality.

Thanks for any help
Watch Question

Can you copy all items from the full desktop (the one with the files) to the empty one?
What is the value Data for value Name "Desktop" (no quotes) in this key in
the Registry (in the right-hand pane)?

Shell Folders

The default data should be "%USERPROFILE%\Desktop" (no quotes).


I copied all the items from the one desktop folder to a new folder on the C drive just to have a backup. I am sure we can copy all that stuff to the "new" desktop folder but I am worried this will happen again. I don't understand how this has happened. I will check the registry key when I get a chance.
Most Valuable Expert 2015

Make a new user profile and check if it is OK there. If yes, try using the "Windows Easy Transfer Wizard" to export the old profile to the new one.


The profile is tied to the active directory on our server, won't changing to a new one and transferring it cause even more problems?
Most Valuable Expert 2015

You can create a new AD profile. You can always delete the corrupt one after that and create it again if this is the error.
Sorry guys, all wrong.
YOur problem is that you have not activated your windows vista and it entered into reduced functionality mode.

Try activating it, in case you have a original licence.


hmm...  I will check that but I believe we activated it when we upgraded the OS from home to business. This machine has been in use for over 9 months.
If you activated it with any of the old cracks, that might be why it is not working. Microsoft has been eliminating one by one the old activation cracks. I have a machine to make some compatibility tests and it had the same problem after 7 months working fine...

Good luck.


No not a crack, this is a business, I have all the CD's etc. We bought the laptop from Bestbuy (not my choice) and it came with Vista Home (they didn't listen and purchased this not realizing home wouldn't work at office correctly) so we purchased an upgrade from Home -> Business, installed it and activated it.


Finally got the time to check into it, and yes, the registry entry was incorrectly set, it was set to %USERPROFILE%\Contacts\Desktop

The user doesn't know how this happened. I don't understand how this is possible either, the user does not have permission to edit the registry.

If you have any further info as to the "Why or How" this happened that would be cool, but you get the points because changing that registry entry back definitely fixed the problem.

Thanks so much!

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