Putting the wrong name on a Win 7 user profile

I have mentioned before that I and other members of our community Computer Club provide free computer help to the other members of our community. This help is usually limited to simple things; I'm not going to spend many hours eradicating viruses, for example and I'm definitely not going to tear down a laptop to replace an internal video cable. I'll refer those folks to a local computer repair shop.

Last week I had two people who had bought new computers and wanted help transferring data from their old systems. That's not something I'll usually do either - in that case, I tell them about Windows Easy Transfer and that's enough to get them going.

I'm a softie

However, both of these new computer owners panicked at my suggestion. I explained that they just needed to cable up their new system; they claimed complete inability to do even that.

Sigh. Yes, I know that this is mostly in their minds. It's a form of learned helplessness. If they would just make a small effort, they probably could do this themselves, but they just stop and refuse to even try. It's too complicated, they are afraid that they might damage something or feel foolish.

So, groaning silently to myself, I had made appointments for Wednesday and Thursday to help these two people.

Let's call these folks Jane and Mary. I don't know if they are divorced or widowed or never married, but they are both single, retired women who live in our over 55 community. The community is large enough that I didn't actually know either of them before they called for help, but I did know that one of them has been dating a man I play poker with now and then. He's fairly tech helpless too, and in fact he had called me to inform me that he had told Jane to call me.

Why am I telling you all this? You'll see..

Easy work if you can get it

On Wednesday, I threw my computer bag into my golf cart and drove to see Jane. I unpacked and set up her new computer, created a user account and started Easy Transfer running. Hardly difficult work, of course.

Except that I made a small mistake. I mentioned that I didn't know either of these women, and that caused me to set up the new machine using 'Mary" instead of "Jane". I realized my mistake after doing a 45 minute data transfer.

Well, that's not exactly a major problem, is it? I went into the Windows Control Panel to rename the machine to "Jane's PC" and the user account to "Jane". No damage done, right?

Yeah, that's what I thought. I finished up and left Jane happily using her new computer. The next day I went to Mary's and did the same thing, without screwing up the names this time.

I don't want THAT woman's name on my machine!

I had barely got back home when Jane called me. She sounded upset. "Why is Mary's name on my computer?".

Huh? I explained that I had accidentally used Mary's name, but that I had changed that. What was she talking about?

Well, apparently she had wanted to attach a file to email. When she did that, she noticed that the path to the file began with "/Users/Mary".

Well, so what? Nobody else will ever see that - it doesn't show up in the email when you attach a file. I explained that, but Jane became more upset.

"I don't want THAT woman's name on my machine!", she said, rather loudly. I decided I had better go do something about that. I headed to my golf cart.

The upset explained

After arriving back at her house, it didn't take long for her to explain why she was upset. It turns out that Mary had dated Jane's beau just before Jane had met him. Ahh.. I might think having "Mary" in a path name was meaningless and unimportant, but Jane had a slightly different view.

So what to do about it? My first thought was to just rename the directory. I felt it wouldn't be smart to try doing that while logged in as Jane, so I created another administrative user.

Somewhere around this time, Jane informed me that her son had informed her that fixing this was very easy. She then showed me a tech help article she had printed out (located by her son, apparently) that explained how to change a user's name.

I had already done that of course, and tried to tell her so, but as she hadn't actually READ what her son sent, I don't think she bought that.

It turns out that you can't just rename the user's profile directory. For one thing, there is a registry key (just as there is in Windows XP) that points the user to that directory, but that isn't the problem. The problem is that Windows 7 "locks" the directory against change by anyone else. You can remove that lock, but I was a bit fearful that might lead to more complications.

I instead decided to go with creating a new user for Jane and copying her existing files to that profile instead. That's basically the same idea as fixing a corrupted profile though with the advantage that I knew nothing actually was corrupt in any way.

So, that's what I did. There was a fair amount of stuff to copy, but soon enough I was able to show Jane that she could attach a file without seeing that other woman's name.

I suggested leaving the old directory in place for a week just in case I missed something. Jane told me again that her son said this was "very easy", so why should "that woman's name" have to stay, even it was just for a week?

Well, I finally did convince her to just leave it and promised to come back to finalize the removal. I don't think she liked the idea, but she finally did agree.

So, with luck, there will be no remaining traces of Mary on that machine after I do that! I sure hope that's true..



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© Anthony Lawrence







Fri Aug 19 18:52:56 2011: 9720   MAXIMUSIRILIOUS

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Too much frustration over a windows machine.





Thu Aug 25 08:26:46 2011: 9737   NickBarron

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The whole thing sounds rather annoying for someone you have just met!

Still patience is a virtue ...

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