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Windows 7: Here's how to create a Default Profile without using SysPrep

02 Jul 2012   #1

Windows 7 32-bit
Here's how to create a Default Profile without using SysPrep

OS: Windows 7

I have been looking at how to create a default profile without using SysPrep. There is a lot of information on the web on how it could be done in XP by just using a "copy to" command, and how it is not possible under Windows 7. The officially supported method from Microsoft involves using SysPrep. Official method despite being too complex for most also has the added disadvantage that it is meant to be used when setting up an image for deploy. I needed a method that I could use on a PC during any stage of its life cycle (i.e. both pre-deploy and post-deploy times) without going through SysPrep.

There are several ways listed on the web on how to "fool" Windows into accepting any profile as Default. A sampling of those methods is: creating a user and then copying its c:\users folder and renaming it to Default, OR updating DefaultProfile registry key to point to the desired profile's folder, OR using a hack to enable 'Copy To' button in Windows Profiles dialog box, etc. All of those methods work to an extent BUT also result in side-effects to solve which MS brought up the SysPrep method. I have also come across methods which attempt to resolve these issues by running a bat file to update certain registry keys upon every logon. That wasn’t acceptable to me either due to extra overhead of maintaining a bat file/login script, etc.

After much trial and error, I have been able to combine information from various sources (with some of my own tries sprinkled in :)), and have come up with the following method of editing and updating Default profile WITHOUT having to use SysPrep AND avoiding much (if not all) drawbacks of using a non-SysPrep method. Please try it and post your success rate here so I can validate its usefulness. I have been satisfied with my testing but need to see how others find it.


Please note that you can do it at any time: during image prep, on a deployed PC, audit mode, non-audit mode, you name it...

1. Login as Administrator
2. Create a user (at this time, the Default profile is the original Windows one). Let's call it to_be_default
3. Login as that user and do whatever customizations you need to make (desktop, power options, IE settings, etc)
4. Log off and login as Administrator
5. Do a copy and then paste of the new user folder in C:\users. You will end up with a folder named "to_be_default - Copy" in C:\Users folder.
6. Rename C:\Users\Default to something like c:\users\Default_original. This will be the backup copy you can fall back to if things go wrong.
7. Rename "c:\users\to_be_default - copy" to c:\users\Default.
8. Verify that 'Everyone' and 'Users' have "Read & execute", "list folder contents", and "read" permissions on this newly renamed c:\users\Default folder.
9. Run this in cmd window with c:\users as current directory: "attrib +H +S Default"
10. Run regedit as Administrator (required even if you are logged in as Administrator or Load Hive command will not be active in File menu)
11. Click on HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE and then on Load Hive in File menu (note: load hive may not be active until you click on HKLM).
12. Select c:\users\Default\ntuser.dat
13. regEdit will ask for a name for this hive's node. Give it any name (let's call it Default Profile)
14. Click on the new Default Profile node which just created in regedit under HKLM, and then select Export from File menu. It will export out entire key structure present under new "Default Profile".
15. Open the newly created .reg file in notepad. It is important to open in Notepad because you need the end file to have ANSI coding.
16. Search for the following and change Username from to_be_default to Default.
[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Default Profile\Software\Microsoft\Active Setup\Installed Components\{44BBA840-CC51-11CF-AAFA-00AA00B6015C}]
"Username"="to_be_default" <-- Change to "Default"
17. Do a bulk copy and replace as following:
Search for: c:\\users\\to_be_default
Replace with: %USERPROFILE%
18. Save your edits and close Notepad.
19. Back in Regedit, select Import from the File menu and select the .reg file you just edited and saved.
20. Accept any warnings, and continue. If import fails with an error message that .reg file is not a registry file, make sure you used Notepad for above steps. To fix this error, just reopen the .reg file in Notepad and hit save.

You are now done. From this point on, if you create a user, it will inherit Default settings as you configured in step #3 above, and the new user’s registry settings will all be pointing to right locations (i.e. no cross talk, and pointing back to wrong user folders, etc).

PLEASE DO LET ME KNOW WHAT YOU THINK OF THE ABOVE AND WHAT YOUR TESTING REVEALS. We intend to use it in production environment where we manage hundreds of PC's. This message of editing Default profile will save us a lot of time and effort. Please do let me know what you think about this approach.

Thanks and I am glad if it works for you..... :)

My System SpecsSystem Spec
02 Jul 2012   #2

Microsoft Community Contributor Award Recipient

Vista x64 / 7 X64

That looks like it should work.

Similar to what I do when building pe (except when building pe I use the default hive itself - not ntuser, because I point the profileimagepath at x:\users\default )
My System SpecsSystem Spec
13 Aug 2012   #3

Windows 7 64-bit Professional

I am very interested in a "Default Profile" setup for Windows 7 (64-bit, Pro) as described in this thread but I haven't been able to follow these steps successfully. Specifically, in steps 9-12 I cannot see a NTUSER.DAT file or any NTUSER.* file(s). If I change C:\User\Default to attrib -H -S, then I can then see a single NTUSER.DAT.LOG file in C:\User\Default. Any ideas what I may have done/didn't do or just something else to try? Thanks.
My System SpecsSystem Spec

13 Aug 2012   #4

Microsoft Community Contributor Award Recipient

Vista x64 / 7 X64

go to folder options. Untick "hide protected operating system files", ok the pop up.

Now paste this into command prompt:

%windir%\explorer.exe "%systemdrive%\Users\Default"
My System SpecsSystem Spec
13 Aug 2012   #5

Windows 7 Professional 64 bit

You don't specifically say whether you used Windows Enabler or not. I have, but only once so far. I haven't seen any issues yet, but the jury is still out.

It sounds like your method would work though. Good luck with it.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
15 Feb 2013   #6

Windows 7 Ultimate x64

You left a step out at the end to unload the hive from the registry which if left loaded in the registry editor will cause the default profile to fail to load for a new user.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
17 Feb 2013   #7
A Guy

Microsoft Community Contributor Award Recipient

Windows 10 Home x64

Welcome to Seven Forums PoppaJoe. Nice addition. A Guy
My System SpecsSystem Spec
01 May 2013   #8

Windows 7 Ultimate x64


Great work, helped me out considerably so thanks for your efforts.

In Steps 16 & 17, I think that you also need to add doing a Search and Find Next for "to_be_default" by itself as there are a few other references in the reg file that are not found with the "c\\users\\to_be_default" search and replace. And you can't do a mass search and replace either because there are a few additional "Username=to_be_default" keys as well. I did a Find Next search and went one by one.

Feel free to correct me if I'm wrong and these are unnecessary steps.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
01 Dec 2013   #9

Windows 7 Enterprise x64

I know that it's a bit late for your purposes, but I have found your method quite trustworthy.

I have also tested the use of it on a computer with a slightly different image applied to it using a copy of the newly created "Default" profile and the "Default-Profile.reg" update. It worked without a problem.

Thanks for posting your findings!
My System SpecsSystem Spec
05 Mar 2014   #10

Windows 7 Ultimate x64
Great Guide

The best guide I have found so far. Please add the "unload hive to your list, because people may not read (or print) the comments.
Thank you very much
My System SpecsSystem Spec

 Here's how to create a Default Profile without using SysPrep

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