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Windows 7: Users folder gone but all sub-folders now in Public folder

12 May 2017   #1
amethystina

Windows 7 Professional 64bit, Windows 7 Home Basic 64bit, Windows 8.1 Single Language
 
 
Users folder gone but all sub-folders now in Public folder

Something very strange has occurred on my PC. In the C: (root) directory, the Users folder has gone, but all sub-folders (All users, Default users, etc) now appear in the Pubic folder. Obviously this is not very secure!

I need advice on how safe it will be to create a new Users folder and move the sub-folders back to their "correct" location. Will the system still work? My obvious concern is that if it doesn't, it will be impossible to login, so I will have to start all over again by reformatting the disk and reloading Windows and all my programs and reconfigure them all - which will take me several days (all data is adequately backed up).

The strange thing is that the only visible aspect to this issue is that the first time I boot up each day, it fails to start after I have logged on and I have to power it down and then on restarting it works - just leaving an error in the event log of Volmgr error 41 (Crash dump initialization failed!) explaining the previous failure to start. Otherwise the PC runs OK, and will restart without problems so long as it is not shut down.

I have carried out many checks over the last 2 weeks and the key findings (so far) are:
(1) The system & environment variables look OK assuming that %USERPROFILE% was going to be "C:\Public\Users\myname" but in fact under HKCU\Volatile Environment %USERPROFILE% is "C:\users\myname" - which does not make sense - it should fail.
(2) When I right-click on the the "user" sub-folders in the Public folder and select "Properties", none has a location tab for me to reset them to default.
(3) my pagefile is highly erratic. Today I noted that it started off as 1800 (approx) MB, with the system was set for MS to customize it. At that stage there was still 17 GB free on my C: drive (a 2TB drive with 3 partitions of which 120 GB is for C drive. I rebooted it, and then had no pagefile at all and only 258 MB of free space - I checked the size of each folder, and they only came to approx 50 GB, so 70 GB was missing. So I rebooted again and this time there was a pagefile of 13 GB with 57 GB free. Each time I checked the pagefile settings, and they remained the same with MS configuring it.
(4) I checked my restore options, but it said there were no restore points - although I had in fact checked the previous week and I had 6 then (with the wonders of hindsight, I should have done a restore then, but I wanted to find out more about the problem - very stupid).
(5) I have run Seagate Seatools and the short generic test passed, and the SMART data is all OK on the 2 TB drive.

My system is an Asus H97M-Plus with Intel i7-4790, 32 GB RAM, 6 Seagate HDDs (three 2 TB, three 3 TB) but with no CD (it is networked to another which has a CD) running Win 7 Pro. I built and installed it in December 2015, and it has been running quite happily since then.

Does the above make any sense to anyone?

And crucially, can anyone "guarantee" a safe method to move my "users" back to their correct location?

As an alternative, can one restrict rights to the Public folder without risking issues with respect to the access rights needed by the user sub-folders?

Amethystina


My System SpecsSystem Spec
.
12 May 2017   #2
Megahertz07

Windows 7 HP 64
 
 

Users folder don't move by itself.
Fist of all - Backup your data on an external drive
Are you able to see in Explorer the system and hidden files and folders (Control Panel\All Control Panel Items\Folder options view tab)?
Did you scheduled a disk check? Run chkdsk c: /f

When things like that happens to me, I do a clean install, formatting the drive fist.
It's a hard task but to try to fix will take longer and most of the times it will end with a clean install.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
12 May 2017   #3
RolandJS

Windows 7 Professional 64-bit
 
 

If you'd like to try a DIY non-clean-install fix, first: usb or dvd boot Macrium Reflect, AOMEI Backupper, EaseUS ToDo, Image for Windows, or anything similar, and make one if not two full images of your current OS and Data partitions onto external media. Make sure those backups can be "read" by the software you choose.
I think your create X and copy (copy not move) to X just might, possibly, maybe, work -- one account at a time! First, ensure you can actually boot into Windows Safe Mode or Normal Mode before you actually create and copy (not move) anything. Reason for saying "copy (not move)" -- I think that experiment is safer to reverse than "move (not copy)" operations.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
.

14 May 2017   #4
amethystina

Windows 7 Professional 64bit, Windows 7 Home Basic 64bit, Windows 8.1 Single Language
 
 

Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by RolandJS View Post
If you'd like to try a DIY non-clean-install fix, first: usb or dvd boot Macrium Reflect, AOMEI Backupper, EaseUS ToDo, Image for Windows, or anything similar, and make one if not two full images of your current OS and Data partitions onto external media. Make sure those backups can be "read" by the software you choose.
I think your create X and copy (copy not move) to X just might, possibly, maybe, work -- one account at a time! First, ensure you can actually boot into Windows Safe Mode or Normal Mode before you actually create and copy (not move) anything. Reason for saying "copy (not move)" -- I think that experiment is safer to reverse than "move (not copy)" operations.
Megahertz07 - point noted about files not moving themselves - and that tracking down the problem may take longer than a rebuild. I was just hoping that this forum would offer me a shortcut to finding the root cause. (Yes, I have done all the obvious stuff, but cannot work out how the files moved - if it had been done "manually", the system would crash instantly and never reboot, so I assume it is a trivial (ha ha) change somewhere deep in the registry.)

Obviously I would like to know the cause in case it happens again. So will keep the disk for testing later.

RolandJS - I have Macrium, and I also have a one year old clone of the disk (which I checked booted up OK when I made it) so I will just swap the disk out AFTER using Belarc Advisor to list all software currently installed, as well as migrating my email pst files, etc. The annoying thing is that one loses all the minor configuration changes one has made to all the software in the interim, but there is no way I know of to record all of that. Obviously I will have to replace all the data on the other 2 partitions, but C drive should work OK, and that is the one that takes so long to rebuild.

So thanx for both of your replies (which were both relevant and appreciated), but I still don't know what happened or why - but have no choice but to just swap disks and hope the problem doesn't reoccur,

Amethystina
My System SpecsSystem Spec
14 May 2017   #5
RolandJS

Windows 7 Professional 64-bit
 
 

From experience, I often never learned the reason why things happened, I only learned how to fix them. Going forward, I maintain restorable full images of my OS and Data partitions on a regular basis, 'cause even if the reason why is never found out, a restore of my very recent OS partition put me back into business.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
14 May 2017   #6
amethystina

Windows 7 Professional 64bit, Windows 7 Home Basic 64bit, Windows 8.1 Single Language
 
 

Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by RolandJS View Post
From experience, I often never learned the reason why things happened, I only learned how to fix them. Going forward, I maintain restorable full images of my OS and Data partitions on a regular basis, 'cause even if the reason why is never found out, a restore of my very recent OS partition put me back into business.
Could not agree more. Have swapped out the old disk and replaced it with the clone. Started up first time without issues - I am using it now. Just can't understand why more people don't carry out this simple task - and avoid all the hassle of reinstalling a system.

My email is down simply because I am using another PC to check the old disk thoroughly for viruses, malware, etc that may have got past the scanner, but which will now be visible as it is no longer booting from the disk. Once that is done, I will be back where I was as soon as I have copied the contents of the other 2 partitions over - the data is obviously out of date on this "new" disk (I do have another backup of them, but as the old disk is still 100% readable, I may as well get back to where I was before without losing a single thing, rather than the last days worth of work since I did a backup.

BTW, do you know if one can read the registry from the old disk "offline" - I have never wanted to before, so not looked into the issue?

Amethystina
My System SpecsSystem Spec
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 Users folder gone but all sub-folders now in Public folder




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