How to: Rejoin a Domain Without Losing User Profiles

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Recently a clients’ server crashed. Unfortunately it needed to be rebuilt entirely, which meant rebuilding Active Directory by rejoining clients to the domain. When you remove a client from a domain, Windows removes the locally stored domain user profile. In order to rejoin the domain without losing user files and settings, you need to backup the profile before leaving the domain. The files can be copied back after rejoining the domain, but there may be lingering permissions issues. Here’s how to rejoin a domain while avoiding these issues.

  1. Create a local profile and copy the domain profile to the new profile. Make sure all hidden files are showing when you copy the files, otherwise you may miss certain settings. For added backup, you can rename the domain user profile folder – I like to append the current date to provide a history. For example, C:\documents and settings\user becomes C:\documents and settings\user.20100702. In Vista or Windows 7 this would be C:\users\user.20100702.
  2. Disjoin the domain and restart.
  3. Rejoin the domain, restart, and log in to the domain user profile. Using “run as” to create the profile doesn’t cut it, you’ll need to log in to fully initialize the profile.
  4. Log in as the local administrator. Right click on My Computer, open Properties, and go to the Advanced tab. Open Settings in the User Profile section.
  5. Select the local profile you copied the old domain profile into, and select “Copy To… .” Select the new domain profile folder to overwrite, and select Permission to Use. Set the domain profile or organizational unit the account should use.
  6. Copy and log into the new domain user profile to make sure the files and settings are intact.

2 responses to “How to: Rejoin a Domain Without Losing User Profiles

  1. Jeffery Smith

    If this works smoothly, you will be my heroine. I’ll be trying it tomorrow.



  2. Hello Sarah.. Thanks for this post . This save -me to handle with future complaints from all my 26 users ….Last monday , our server “gone in 60 seconds” after a disk crash… Backups was too old … Need to reinstall all .we, systems manager , are great to manage our clients´s infra estructure, but with ours ….. Oh gosh …..
    We resolve , to take some knowledge of this . So we separate domain primary server from the file server . So we took a new hardware, only a 32Gbytes ssd drive and a micro itx board, with a atom processor and 2gib of ram , to be the primary domain server, router, firewall , autentucate users, active directory handler and nothing more.
    All files from the office, is now sitting in a two freeNAS machines, in mirror mode.
    Thanks again for your post .

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