Replacing the Default User Profile in Windows 7

by Chris Sanders [Published on 30 June 2010 / Last Updated on 30 June 2010]

Creating a customized user profile and replacing the default user profile with it is a common administrative task, but works a bit differently in Windows 7.

In some deployment scenarios one of the simplest and most effective ways to ensure users receive the desktop environment the network administrator chooses is to create a customized user profile and use it to replace the operating systems built in user profile. This has worked effectively for several versions of Windows Operating systems but works a bit different in Windows 7.

The process in Windows 2000, XP, and Vista involved first creating a user profile using a dummy account that contained all of the settings you desired for your users. After doing this, you could navigate to the System Properties control panel, click the Advanced tab, click the Settings button under the User Profiles heading, and use the Copy To button to copy your created profile over the default user profile. If you give this process a try in Windows 7, you will find that you can’t complete this process.

Microsoft intends for this to be worked around by using Sysprep, but the use of Sysprep may not always be beneficial in every deployment scenario. You can get around this and achieve the desired results by manually replacing the C:\Users\Default folder with the folder of the user you created. Make sure when you do this however, that you go into your “new” Default folder and assign the appropriate permissions to this folder so that it may be read and modified.

As always, its recommended to make a backup of the Default folder rather than simply deleting it in case you run into any issues.

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The Author — Chris Sanders

Chris Sanders is a network security analyst for EWA Government Systems Inc. Chris is the author of the book Practical Packet Analysis as well as several technical articles. His personal website at contains a great deal of information, articles, and guides related to network administration, network security, packet analysis, and general information technology.

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