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A Perfect Storm - A Tale of Software Failure

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I recently got a new laptop, on which was Windows 7; I enjoyed several days of "no problem" computing. Yesterday, I attempted to login and met a "The User Profile Service failed the logon. User profile cannot be loaded." error.

What!?

I usually keep one profile on my computer. According to initial Microsoft responses to this "error", this is not the way "Windows was designed to be experienced", i.e. multiple users is their expectation. MS Support recommends a backup admin account to deal with this stuff.

Booting into safe mode and doing a small system restore fixed the issue. I promptly created a backup admin profile and enabled Guest login to ensure this never happens again. I was close to a complete brick (in so far as a Windows machine without significant investment in a license).

I'm still not entirely sure what triggered the profile to change from local/normal to backup. Based on subsequent research once I had full command of my machine back, it turns out this "issue" has been around since Vista (uh, what?) and Microsoft engineers have not been able to pinpoint the exact cause (at least publicly).

I'm trying to imagine how a "typical" user deals with such a problem. They don't boot into safe mode hunting for hints as to what caused the issue. They might know how to do a system restore, so on and so forth. Blows my mind...

If one has additional login profiles in place then this issue might not be such a major event, but the circumstances leading to it were "perfect". One of those items off (or additional ones) might have led to an easier night. To recap:

1. Single profile w/ admin access
2. No Guest/temporary login
3. Safe Mode does not allow UAC required actions

If I had restore points turned off, I might still be up a nasty smelling creek without a paddle.

Possible solutions, if you run into something similar, can be found here.

In the event of a recurrence, I'll be diving into the registry. Fun times.

3 Comments On This Entry

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Locke Icon

27 July 2010 - 05:09 PM
I've never heard of anything like this occurring, but that's because I haven't done any digging.

I believe now, I'm going to set up a secondary admin account.
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alias120 Icon

28 July 2010 - 06:54 PM
Does a system restore clear the System Log? I find that many OS related issues can be tracked down after spending a little in there. I had an issue similar to this on a Vista machine here at work, but due to time constraints was informed to just re-format/re-install. I believe I will also be setting up a secondary admin account.
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toshiro Icon

30 July 2010 - 09:08 AM
This has happened to me several times. I have only a single admin account, so the idea that it would arbitrarily get lost was quite perplexing. Anyways, I used the workaround of, from disc, creating a guest account, giving it admin rights as root, destroying the defunct admin account (The one whose profile was lost), and then creating a new admin account entirely. Quite a roundabout way of doing it but I haven;t had a problem since.

System

Windows 7 64-Bit
MacBook Pro 10.6.4 Bootcamp
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