Windows XP User Profiles

In simple terms, user profiles contain the unique settings and documents associated with a user account, allowing different users to maintain distinct desktop environments and locations for the storage of their personal files. For example, an XP user’s profile contains settings like their Internet Explorer Favorites, their My Documents folder, messages stored by Outlook Express, and so on. Because of the wealth of data stored in a profile, they can quickly become very large, especially on a multi-user system.

The User profiles section of the System applet Advanced tab allows you to access user profile settings when you click the Settings button. While this will allow you to create roaming profiles in domain environments (where a user’s setting follows them to different XP systems), it is less useful for non-domain users. However, this window will display important information such as the current size of stored user profiles, and gives you the ability to also delete unused profiles if necessary. If you do choose to delete a profile, be sure to first empty the profile of all files that you want to keep – forgetting to do so may result in you losing critical data you meant to hang on to.

Author: Dan DiNicolo

Dan DiNicolo is a freelance author, consultant, trainer, and the managing editor of He is the author of the CCNA Study Guide found on this site, as well as many books including the PC Magazine titles Windows XP Security Solutions and Windows Vista Security Solutions. Click here to contact Dan.