Vista logged on with a temporary profile

Over the past few months we’ve had a few instances of users logging into their Vista machines and receiving a temporary user profile. We have a fleet of 55 Vista notebooks that we’ve been running since Jan 2008 and had this error 3 or 4 times on different machines and twice on one machine! We haven’t been able to work out what’s causing the profile corruption, its not clear if the users have had trouble shutting down their machines, BSOD, or something else. We imaged these machines pre-SP1, and this problem could be something to do with the pre-SP1 Vista issues. None of our Vista SP1 machines have had this error so far, touch wood…

The error logged in Event Viewer is EventID 1511:
Event ID: 1511 – Windows cannot find the local profile and is logging you on with a temporary profile. Changes you make to this profile will be lost when you log off.

The users are logged on with a temporary profile and receive a warning in the system tray to tell them that their changes to the temp profile wont be saved. With the machines that we’ve come across so far the original profile has been in tact and there as been no data loss, just the inconvenience for the user while they loose their machine for an hour while we sort it out.

By looking in the registry under HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\ProfileList you can see that the corrupt profile has been renamed and has a .bak appended to the SID.

Looking the error up in Google took me straight to the Microsoft KB947242 where they say the cause is:

“This problem occurs if the current user’s profile was accidentally deleted from the system.”

WTF?! That doesn’t exactly instil confidence in Vista and user profiles, fortunately we haven’t lost any data yet but it would be interesting to know what’s been causing this error for us and if their are many people out there that have had similar experiences.

This is a copy of the instructions from the Microsoft Knowledge Base Article 947242 to fix the problem. We followed these instructions, pretty easy, just a hassle, and haven’t had any issues with data loss from the original profile.
To resolve this problem, follow these steps:

1. Log on to the system by using an administrative user account other than the user account that is experiencing the problem.

2. Back up all data in the current user’s profile folder if the profile folder still exists, and then delete the profile folder. By default, the profile resides in the following location:

%SystemDrive%\Users\UserName

3. Click Start, type regedit in the Start Search box, and then press ENTER.
If you are prompted for an administrator password or for confirmation, type your password, or click Continue.

4. Locate the following registry subkey:

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\ProfileList

5. Under the ProfileList subkey, delete the subkey that is named SID.bak.
Note SID is a placeholder for the security identifier (SID) of the user account that is experiencing the problem. The SID.bak subkey should contain a ProfileImagePath registry entry that points to the original profile folder of the user account that is experiencing the problem.

6. Exit Registry Editor.

7. Log off the system.

8. Log on to the system again.

Full details here on Microsoft Knowledge Base Article 947242

The temporary profile issue is one of two major profile issues we’ve had since migrating to Vista, will blog the other issue soon, and we are starting to look seriously at client backup and recovery options. The Altiris Client Management Suite and Backup Exec Desktop Edition has been recommended to us but would like to hear from anyone that can recommend this package, or something else, for a corporate environment.