Win 7 copy settings between users on same machine

Posted on 2011-04-20
Last Modified: 2012-06-21
This should be really obvious question, but I just can't find a reasonable answer to it.

I want to copy JUST the settings from one user account to another on the same Windows 7 install.  In my current case, it's from a user account with admin rights to the actual Administrator account.  (My user account is large and I don't want to transfer all those files, just PREFERENCES dealing with File Explorer, Internet Options, Personalization, and so on.)  But I want to know how to do this anyway, on ANY Win7 install, and I don't want to have to download some piece of software that I might not have access to in the future.

If I try to use the "User Profiles" dialog, I've noticed that other people have the same problem I do with it:  the "Copy To" button is grayed out.  Some claim you can right click the user name...I have not found this to be the case, no menu appears.

What gives?  How is this done?  This should be spectacularly simple.

The response I am looking for should work on Windows 7 and should not use a 3rd party tool and should not be to just copy the user tree on over (I'm concerned about having to take the time to trim down folder sizes and also rights/priviledges issues, especially if I want to use this technique on just any machine).

Question by:coder1313514512456
    LVL 21
    Do you consider Microsoft's utilities to be 3rd party tool?
    LVL 7

    Assisted Solution

    Most of the customisations are in 2 places within the profile, appdata, and the ntuser.dat file.

    The way I do this is log on with an account that isn't one of ones you want to copy settings from or to. (Reboot the machine first to make sure none of the files in the profiles are still open by the system)

    Then under folder options turn on show hidden files and folders, and turn off hide protected operating systems.

    Copy the appdata folder and the ntuser.dat file from the profile with the settings you want to the profile you want to copy them to.

    Because you're copying the files they will inherit the permissions of the profile folder so the other user shouldn't have problems using them. The first time you try it you might want to rename appdata and ntuser.dat to appdata.old and ntuser.dat.old, so you can revert back to them if you have any issues.

    Hope that helps.

    Author Comment

    TheHiTechCoach:  No, I don't consider Microsoft's utilities to be 3rd party -- feel free to point me in the right direction!

    Martin81:  This sounds like exactly what I want.  I can't try it right now, but as soon as I am able I will.  My only concern is when I'm in a situation with large appdata folder sizes (or ones that contain confidential information and all I'm trying to do is transfer settings.)  But right now if I were to guess I'd say you probably answered my question...can't wait to try this, thank you!
    LVL 8

    Assisted Solution

    Yep,Copying ntuser.dat and appdata should work most of the time.

    You can try Windows easy transfer as well...


    Author Comment

    So I finally got a chance to try this out.  Unfortunately it's not quite right.

    Here's the problem:

    Despite having a short username which is only 2 characters longer than the original username, there are some files and directories which won't copy (or at least, won't copy without me finding their location, shortening them, and then maybe they'll accept a rename after being copied).  And then there are some files which state (even though I'm logged into the Administrator account, which for this test was not a part of the data being transferred, except I suppose to transfer it) -- they state thtat access is denied to copy them.

    This results in not being able to login.  I get an error...something like "The group policy service failed the logon.   Access is denied."

    This is the kind of thing I'm looking for, though -- just copy a directory and a file  -- so I'm interested to hear feedback on this!



    Author Comment

    Further clarification:  the error the system complains about in the first instance about the copy is because the file name (and/or path) becomes too long.
    LVL 7

    Accepted Solution

    If I remember rightly the maximum file/folder path is 255 characters, if you're going over that I don't think there's much you can do about that. I guess it's something in the appdata that's failing to copy, I wouldn't expect that to stop you logging on with the profile completely though, rather that whichever application uses that file would just recreate it and the setting wouldn't be retained. Did you reboot before you started copying the files? Sometimes windows locks the files in the profile even after the user has logged off, it might be worth turning off uac as well, I find that causes no end of problems with copying files/permissions.

    Is the error you're getting 'the user profile service failed the logon'? If it is you may need to delete the SID from the profile list in the registry

    HKLM\Software\Microsoft\Windows NT\Current Version\ProfileList\

    Expand the profilelist reg key, then click through the SID's to find the one for the user you wish to remove then delete the folder belonging to that user.

    That may just force the creation of a new profile though, I'm not sure.

    Bit more info here

    I think subhashchy's suggestions of using Windows Easy Transfer is also worth a try.

    Author Comment


    Martin81:  Thanks for your added comment here.
    That's what I might have to do.  It would appear that after some digging what I believe is going on is that when I do the copy, Windows is actually following the JUNCTIONS it comes across.  Ignoring junctions with something like robocopy is irrelevant because the stuff it does copy should be, as you say, enough to do it (recreate it).  I don't know if the group policy error I'm getting is related to the suggestion of the user profile service error.  I think that article you linked to is very interesting, especially, "The documented and supported approach is using the Advanced System Settings in the system properties, User Profiles settings"...

    I'll try deleting the SID but I'm sure that will just recreate a blank profile.  I'll take another look at Windows Easy Transfer, I just can't believe that's my solution here.  But if it is it is, and there's usually more than one way to solve these things...

    Thanks everyone.

    Author Comment

    (...still working on this one...)

    Author Closing Comment

    Still have to look through all the stuff I'd like to be able to do on this, but certainly appreciate all the comments.  It's been open a while, so I'm closing it now.  Always happy to hear updates on this.  Ideally, I'd be hoping for something that I could even run from the command line, but it's not necessary.  I can't believe they took out copy profile, that just floors me.

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