April 25, 2012

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%UsersDefaultNTUSER.DAT in Windows 7 and Windows Vista, in Windows XP it is located at %SystemDrive%Documents and SettingsDefault UserNTUSER.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.

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