What is a profile?

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  • A 'user profile' is a collection of files (and registry settings) which are applicable and specific to a user.
  • Any time a user logs on to a Windows NT/2K/XP PC (or server for that matter), that user WILL have a profile for that session, even if it is only a temporary one.

Exactly what is in a user profile?


This is the file where the HKEY_CURRENT_USER registry hive is stored. Lots of applications use this area to record configuration information which is specific to the user (rather than the machine).

My Documents

This is the default location for storage of user documents. This folder is often 'redirected' to a network location so that when the user of the profile saves their work, it is stored in a central location.

Application Data

Applications can store files here which are specific to the user. This folder is often 'redirected' to a network location.


Shortcuts (.lnk and .url files) that appear on the user's desktop. This folder is often 'redirected' to a network location.

Start Menu

Links which are displayed on the Start Menu


Internet Explorer cookies.


Links which appear in Internet Explorer's favorites list are stored here.

Local Settings

Applications can store data here which is never meant to roam from PC to PC. Temporary (including temporary Internet Explorer) files are stored here.


Links to commonly used network paths


Links to printers


Links to recently used documents


Target links for the 'send to' context menu option


User templates (for Office)

Other Items

There are many applications which add additional content to the above list in additional folders.