Tip 49: How Do You Set Default User Profile Registry Settings

This tip is for Windows 2000 and up. Instructions for Windows NT 4.0 can be found at; http://support.microsoft.com/kb/146050. The following instructions are based on Windows 7. The steps may be different in other versions of Windows.

Since the instructions in this post will show how to edit the Windows registry I will post the standard Microsoft Support disclaimer.

Important: This section, method, or task contains steps that tell you how to modify the registry. However, serious problems might occur if you modify the registry incorrectly. Therefore, make sure that you follow these steps carefully. For added protection, back up the registry before you modify it. Then, you can restore the registry if a problem occurs. For more information about how to back up and restore the registry, click the following article number to view the article in the Microsoft Knowledge Base: 322756 How to back up and restore the registry in Windows. * For Windows 7, follow the following instructions; http://windows.microsoft.com/en-US/windows7/Back-up-the-registry.

Okay, now with that out of the way we can get to editing the registry to make Windows do what we want. To make sure every new profile created on a machine gets specific user settings we will need to change the registry settings that are used to build all new profiles. The trick is first to understand where these default settings come from. Then when we know where they come from we need to be able to edit them and save them. Once that is done all new profiles will be created with whatever settings we want.

The location of where new profiles copy their user registry settings is located on the file system at %SystemDrive%\Users\Default\NTUSER.DAT in Windows 7 and Windows Vista, in Windows XP it is located at %SystemDrive%\Documents and Settings\Default User\NTUSER.DAT. Now that we know what file is copied to create all new profile user registry settings we just need a way to edit the settings. Well there’s a tool for that, it’s called Regedit.exe.

The trick with editing the default user profile registry settings is to first know that it is not available in Regedit.exe by default. We will need to load the NTUSER.DAT file into Regedit.exe to be able to edit the settings. Open Regedit.exe by going to Start and typing Regedit, then right-click the search result and select Run as administrator. If you are currently logged on with a non-administrator the User Account Control box will allow you to provide administrative credentials, otherwise click Yes in the UAC box.

When Regedit starts, navigate to HKEY_USERS and left click it.

Go to the menu and select File->Load Hive.
For more information on loading Windows Registry hives; http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/cc732157.aspx.

Browse to the NTUSER.DAT file based on which Windows version you are using and Open it. You will have to have, ‘show hidden and system files’ enabled in the folder options control panel. For more information; http://windows.microsoft.com/en-US/windows7/Show-hidden-files.

Give the hive a name, it does not matter what name you give it. Here I used Default Profile, but it could have been anything.

In Regedit, browse to HKEY_USERS->whatever hive name you gave. You now be able to edit the default user profile registry
settings. Remember to back them up first before editing!

When finished, go to the menu File->Unload Hive.

That’s it! Any settings you change in the loaded hive will be copied to ever new user profile that is created on that machine.

Comments (32)

  1. Actually if you are doing new OS deployments you would want to use and unattend.xml file and the Microsoft-Windows-Shell-Setup|CopyProfile component. You would logon with the built-in Administrator account and make your changes. Create the unattend.xml file
    with Windows System Image Manager. Run Sysprep. Then when the CopyProfile is set to True the profile information will be copied to new profiles.

    More information on CopyProfile is available here.


    More information on OSD is available here.


    1. Dan Padgett says:

      Chad , Copy Profile is not supported on Windows 10

    2. smayer97 says:

      Only good for NON-Home versions of Windows.

    3. Rob Laib says:

      @Chad Schultz –

      The CopyProfile Unattend flag is broken / depreciated within Windows 10 1703/1709. If you utilize this flag in your unattend file, all new profiles created on the machine will be corrupted, and things like indexing, start menu searching, provisioned apps, and more will be broken.

      CopyProfile *does* work in 1607, but Microsoft has taken it upon themselves to make it a PITA to prevent computers from automatically updating off of their so-called “Current Branch for Business”. If a 1607 machine updates to 1703 or 1709, new profile creation will be broken as well.

    4. Diego says:

      Chad, CopyProfile has been deprecated from 1709. if you try to do this, your start menu will be broken.

    5. Anonymous says:

      Chad, CopyProfile does not completely work with Windows 10 since 1607. This method guarantees the settings will be applied. Use Powershells Import-StartLayout command to apply custom start menu and taskbar layouts.

  2. Anonymous says:

    this is the great idea to set default user profile settings in outlook. I love the way you describe here with all of us.

  3. Sean says:

    Thank you SOOO much!  You have solved a problem that has been a thorn in my side for quite a while.

  4. Steve says:

    Thank you for the tutorial. Nice job.  Can I copy a HKCU setting into temporary loaded hive, and if yes how do I copy the hkcu key to the loaded hive? Thank you

  5. Xtina says:

    You are the magic man! This fixed a problem that has been niggling me for ages. Thank you!

  6. james says:

    This is the answer that defies all of those "expert" opinions that "You can't do that".

    Thank you!

  7. Tom H says:

    I would also like to know how to configure HKLM keys for the loaded Default User hive. Please give instructions!

  8. Tom F says:

    HKLM is HKLM no matter what user.  It's not tied to any specific profile.

  9. Harry Hopley says:

    Could not do it, got message after giving key name, cannot load: Error while loading hive.

  10. Harry says:

    My Registry will not load hive, I noticed my NTUSER file is type Textfile, I think this is the problem. Previously I tried to restore and import a saved registry.dat file and it would only load .reg files.

    I am thinking I could convert this saved reg file from dat to reg, but i would need  a converting program.

    Any other ideas.

    This started when I mistakenly deleted my Admin  user profile, and am now on a temp user. I noticed on my Regedit User Profile I have a .bak file, it does not have the original file shown in it, but has a RunLogonScript entry. I tried to rename it without the .bak  and also deleted the temp file, but on start up it just started with another temp file but also returned he original,bak file.

  11. msteright says:

    so let me get this straight> sometimes i can't figure out if the blog is showing me what i want to do.

    i want to load windows 8 onto a machine, then customize the hell out of it. creating color themes, enlarging the font dpi etc.

    then i want to save all of that information extraneous to the 'default profile' of the machine. i believe in profiles, it showed 32mb of data?? can i load that 32mb onto a new windows 8 installation, and not have to go through my process of setting up every new re-image the long way? It takes me about 30 minutes to get everything right, and i can create a beautiful desktop, but i know there is a faster way. i can translate instructions from any os, if someone would tell me im on the right track. thanks.

  12. pateljy says:

    My registry only loads 'Software' key for certain users within ntuser.dat file. It will not load the full registry hive. Any specific reason for that?

  13. Ken C says:

    You mention at the top this is for Win 2000 and up, but how do I do this for Win 2000?  I have no File option in the Registry Editor, the first option in the Menu bar is Registry, with only Import, Export and Connect options.

  14. Shanon C says:

    @Ken C – For win2000, use REGEDT32 which has more functionality than Regedit, although it lacks searching. In later versions of windows they combined REGEDT32 and Regedit into one.

  15. Miriam-mily says:

    Can someone help me. I had a problem with my pc an it can open a profile its a laptop windows 8

  16. shane says:

    Can I ask for some help on this matter please???

  17. Kevin says:

    Worked like a charm. Thanks.

  18. S R Tamilarasan says:

    Hi friend, I have changed some of the setting in regedit few days back. Now all my files stopped working (jpg,mp4,rar doc..etc) but avi file is working. please suggest me how to set default setting in regdit and make mp4,rar files to open.

  19. ralph says:

    Hi. Just wanna know if I will be making the steps above, will the data and files on my PC be removed? That's the reason why I amscared of trying it. Hopeyou can help me guys. Thanks a lot.

  20. Abhishrk says:

    Wow its best

  21. this was useless says:

    Doesn't tell you how to actually do the set up of the profile, just how to access the registry editor and make a key.

  22. Fraçois says:

    I load the default user hive and made my change and unload. I check to see if my changes were made. Then I logon to a new profile, one not already existing. And the registry key are not there.
    Reboot… change not appearing.
    logoff and logon and nothing.
    Load the hive again and the change are there but not appearing in the .default user.

    Windows 8.1

    Any idea?

  23. Yani Salanio says:

    Thanks for the tutorial and it works great for me. It happens this when the machine is updating when suddenly power interrupted. Found out this way and luckily i do have a copy of my default registry. Followed the steps and works fine. Thanks a lot. Cheers!

  24. Robert says:

    Have to say “Thank you” after having problems all day, this is the solution I was looking for.

  25. Goood post. I definitely lofe tthis site. Stick with it!

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