Corrupt user profile

A client rang with an interesting tale of woe. When starting up his laptop after everything being completely normal in the previous session of use, it was coming up with a whole raft of disturbing symptoms, including missing icons off the desk top, all emails saved in all folders missing from Outlook Express 6, and all documents in My Documents missing, including many photographs.  Nothing had changed between one session and the next, other than the perceived faults. Previous issues with the computer included an annoying habit of freezing after 10 minutes of idle time, necessitating a hard reboot using the on/off switch.

Upon visiting and investigating, it soon became apparent that the documents etc were exactly where they should be, but the user was not looking at them. Despite logging on as the usual name, the system had decided to log the user on as a user of ‘Temp’ and create a whole new persona, with no history, saved documents or settings! So the actual problem was found, but not the reason, other than the original user profile was corrupt and unfixable! As the fix for this involved copying large amounts of data around, I felt that a system backup was required before proceeding!

When I tried to use the partition editor in Ubuntu to make a copy of the hard drive on to my external hard drive, the copy failed with I/O errors on the disk. For Ubuntu to fail there must be something really wrong with the disk. The first thought is that the hard drive is failing, and I started investigating in that area. Back into Windows XP, and I attempted a Check Disk, which also failed. So neither Ubuntu or Windows could access the disk directly. In desperation, I created an NTFS partition on my hard drive, and did a file copy from one disk to the other using Ubuntu. This threw up one file which could not be copied, I was expecting more than that.

After creating a new user, and copying the Documents and settings from the original to the other, and setting up the O.E.6 address book, I decided to remove everything from the startup, and reboot. I also had the Windows XP disk in the CD drive, intending to run FixMBR and FixBoot if required. Checkdisk now worked OK and found 3 corrupted files!

The freezing issue has many causes and fixes according to the interwebby thing, but the acceptable solution in this case was to disable the screensaver, which fixed the problem quite nicely.

After a bit more cleaning up it was back to the clients house to install. Two issues arose here. Firstly, O.E.6 had lost its IP settings, which had to be reset to the correct values. Secondly, Office 2003 needed the setup disks before the new user could install and use the full features of office 2003. I could not find any way of transferring these settings across, and the client does not have the Office 2003 disks, as it was installed by a dealer in Auckland!

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