Lost Profile after Windows Crash - profile directory and files still exist, but not found at start up and not shown in profile manager



16 years ago
3 years ago


(Reporter: ToddAndMargo, Unassigned)


(Blocks 2 bugs, {dataloss})

Dependency tree / graph

Firefox Tracking Flags

(Not tracked)


(Whiteboard: [notacrash] [not about lost directories or prefs.js])

User-Agent:       Mozilla/5.0 (Windows; U; Windows NT 5.0; en-US; rv:1.4b) Gecko/20030502
Build Identifier: Mozilla/5.0 (Windows; U; Windows NT 5.0; en-US; rv:1.4b) Gecko/20030502

Hi All,

    I am a on site consultant.  I have various revisions of Mozilla 
installed on various versions of Windows across two counties.  I have 
noticed one disturbing problem with Mozilla that I hope the developers 
can figure out a way to fix.  

   Here is the problem: Windows is not a reliable operating system.  When 
Windows crashes, occasionally it will do something to the Mozilla profile 
that will make it unrecognizable when Mozilla starts up.  This is especially 
prevalent when the profile name is not "Default User".  As I am not
at customer site when this happens, I can only speculate to the cause:
it has always been after a Windows and/or Mozilla crash.  At one time
or another, it has affected every one of my customers.

   The user will proceed to fill out a new profile, usually bugger it up,
and then call me in a panic.  Often, they are afraid they have lost critical
business mail.  Last Monday, I was asked by one of my customers, who
this has had this happened twice over the last month, to revert him back to
Outlook.   (He eventually went back to Mozilla, when he saw how
easily I, again,  recovered his profile and he got a good load of how 
Outlook likes to cram all his various accounts into the same inbox.)

   Humble suggestions: make a backup copy of "registry.dat" (I am 
presuming this is the file with the profiles in it).  Or, somehow
journal it ("registry.dat.jnl").   What I am looking for is some
mechanism that will compensate for Windows and recover the
user's profile after a crash.

   Having a customer crash, reboot his machine, start Mozilla,
and be prompted to create a new profile is really a frightening
thing to have happen to someone who relies on his eMail for
his livelihood.

   Oh, and one customer had a "stinking" piece of spyware move his
"c:\windows\Application Data" to "c:\windows\.java\Application Data",
which was easy to put back where is belonged, but it raises the
point that the backup profile or journal entry should probably be
in another location.

   And, since Windows has crashed, you get no Talk Back.  An idea, send a 
talk back after recovering a profile.  This way you could see what
caused the damage (maybe).

   Thank you in advance for your help.  

Reproducible: Always

Steps to Reproduce:
Do you lose your profile (with all the data) , the profile registry
(registry.dat or appreg.dat) or your prefs.js (Mailnews Account data, Passowrds
are gone but bookmarks are still there )

(prefs.js is a dupe of bug 132517 )

for the registry.dat : simple create the Account again with the same name and
the same location and Mozilla will use the old profile data.
Hi Matti,

   1)  I locate their profile, usually in "C:\Documents and
settings\username\Application Data\Mozilla\Profiles",
but not always.  (Sometimes they park their profile on 
a network drive, so it can be backed up  -- I am a big Samba
fan, so no reliability problems with a network drive.)

   2)  I recreate their profile with the name and location
from step one.

Then, everything comes back: bookmarks, address book,
user.js, eMail, etc..  All of it is recovered.  (I realize it
is a round about way to answer your question, but I 
believe it will give you the information you need.)

The main problem, other than the fright to the user and 
the embarrassment to those of us pushing Mozilla, is 
that the customer sometimes do not wait for me to show 
up and rescue them.  They get close to their profile 
somehow (I am not there to watch) and figure that 
they have to remove it, with their files, in order to 
recreate it, and really do wind up loosing everything.
A bone headed thing to do, but one has to understand
the panic that happens to a considerable number
of users when this happens.  Hence the "critical" 
(loss of data) on the bug report.

I have noticed that, typically, the less the customer pays for 
his machine, the more likely Windows is going to crash,
and the more likely this will happen to them.  (You got
to love W-ME!)

-> Profile Manager Backend

I don't saw many bugs about this, only about a prefs.js loss.
Why do you put this to mailnwes Account Manager ? 
Assignee: sspitzer → ccarlen
Component: Account Manager → Profile Manager BackEnd
Ever confirmed: true
Product: MailNews → Browser
QA Contact: nbaca → gbush

I believe this bug (and its many duplicates) is perceived differently by various
users.  Most notably people lose mail settings (in prefs.js) and see it as a
mail problem -as does this reporter.  

I am trying to get a list of these bugs as they show up under prefs as well as
profiles and get more traction on the problem- it is a big nuisance for
commercial users as well as mozilla folks.  I think something occurs to create a
default prefs.js file after a crash whether it be windows or the app.  users
relaunch and no mail.  

I am not sure  where the bug belong as my understanding is that Profile Manager
- keeps track of where the profile data is stored and creates a set of default
files - but then the app uses those files and other components come into play
(ie bookmarks, prefs, etc.
> my understanding is that Profile Manager...

The profile mgr does not make a default prefs.js. That file is created and
updated only by the prefs component. So, this bug is only prefs, not profile mgr.
Hi All,

    I am the reporter.  This is not a problem with loosing settings in prefs.js.
All of the user's data is still there, including prefs.js.  The data loss
is when the user, though ignorance, gets too close to his actual profile and
presses "delete files", thinking this will help get his old stuff back.

    The problem is whatever mechanism is used to point to the user's
profile.  It is the "pointer" that is getting lost.  (I do believe the 
pointer is stored in registry.dat, but I am only guessing.)

    To summarize, the profile is intact.  The pointer to the profile is
corrupted or missing.

     And, yes, I did put this in mail out of ignorance.

Many thanks,

Hi All,  
   Users are finding this bug and asking me how to recover
their profiles, so here goes:


Shawn Smith wrote:
> I've been using Mozilla as my preferred browser and email client for a 
> while, but until I started using it in Windows XP, I never experienced 
> the lost profile problem you describe here...
> Could you give me a simple step-by-step for retrieving my profile 
> information after Mozilla fails to find it?
> This information should be easily accessible on the Mozilla site until 
> they fix the problem.

Hi Shawn,

   The hardest part is finding your lost profile.
Under XP, it is typically in your user's application data 

  c:\Documents and Settings\YOUR_USERNAME\Application Data\

  If not, you will have to remember where you put it.  (Try
searching on your name or on "*.slt".)

If you have been creating a lot of profiles, use the one with 
the most mail in the inbox.  Other inboxes can be renamed and
copied into the folder with your desired inbox.

Start Mozilla's Profile Manager (Start, Programs, Mozilla, ...).
select "create new profile".  Give it the name of the profile
you want.  Give the path to the profile up to the PROFILE_NAMES.
Leave off the SOME_GARBLE.slt.  For example, if the profile name
you want is "shawn" and it is located in "c:\Documents and
Settings\shawn\Application Data\Mozilla\Profiles\shawn\bk39sakf.slt",
you would enter "shawn" and the new profile name and c:\Documents and
Settings\shawn\Application Data\Mozilla\Profiles\shawn" as the path.

This will recover you, providing you did not over write it trying
to recover it with a different profile.

*** Bug 216768 has been marked as a duplicate of this bug. ***
Help!! I have all of the above problems and worse. Here is what happened:
Windows 2000, SP3, was shutting down ("Please wait while Windows is shutting
down..."), but I was impatient and shut the PC off, i.e. toggled the power
supply (I was in a hurry since a sound card had wriggled loose and I wanted to
shut down fast before it moved and created a short).

After re-boot, Windows seemed to start fine, but Mozilla would not recognize my
profile anymore. 

- My old profile would *NOT* show up under "Available Profiles" in the manager
- Any newly created profiles would also disappear when closing & restarting Mozilla
- When I tried to create a profile with an identical name to the old one, it
would say "Profile already exists, please choose another name". Yet, still no
profiles would show up in the manager.

- I then deleted (renamed) the registry.dat and pluginreg.dat in the
C:\Documents and Settings\Administrator\Application Data\Mozilla directory. At
first, nothing seemed to change, but after another hour of trying various
things, I now have the following interesting status:

- The old Mozilla *.dat files duplicate the error - no profiles will show up,
even though they exist. No profile is applied (put into action) either.
- The new Mozilla *.dat files will allow profiles to be seen in the profile
manager, *BUT* they don't really seem to be put to use, even if selected.
Example: My links, homepage, and more important, my mail accounts, are still
absent as if I had selected no profile at all. 

So I think my *.dat files are somehow corrupted, and there seems to be no way to
have them repaired. I will try to re-install Mozilla new from scratch, maybe
that'll help... if someone is interested in my two versions of *.dat files,
please email me.

Anyway, all this is very annoying, especially that I can't access my mail
settings, filters, mailboxes, etc. This needs to get fixed soon. I see that lots
of other people seem to have problems with this, too...
*** Bug 218338 has been marked as a duplicate of this bug. ***
I have had this trouble off and on, I have solved it by running a program System
Security Suite 1.03.1. I had Mozilla refuse my identity, claiming if was already
in use by another person, when in fact it was my identity. This programs cleans
out everything that you check, and by checking everything but saved password, I
got my netscatpe and mozilla identity back, after machine rebooted per
instructions from Ssystem Security Suite.
Why this works for me, maybe it will work for others. I am not sure what happens
during these two episodes I had, but this returned access to my real ID.
Wilbur Huck
email, sbhuck@jtt.net
Hello All! I had some good new insights! Here it goes:

Update #1:

I had another (older) copy of my profile on a second drive, which worked! After 
a bit of research, I realized that my current profile trouble is 100% the fault 
of a corrupted prefs.js file. If I use the one I had after the crash, it gives 
me the said problems. If I use the one from the backup, all is well. The one 
retained from after the crash also looks much shorter and is missing a lot of 

What I don't understand is how I managed to corrupt both the prefs.js and 
prefs.bak, because I don't think I ever touched them. Could my computer have 
crashed in a way that corrupts them both?

Update #2:

I found my prefs.js content in a recovered file that checkdisk (scandisk?) had 
put in my C:\FOUND.000 directory. I copied it to my mozilla profile, and all is 
fine again.

The real question therefore is, how secure is the writing and recovering of 
prefs.js against random crashes? Could a random crash cause prefs.js to become 
a "lost chain" that checkdisk might recover and put somewhere else? This is 
what happened, and this is what caused all the problems.
An idea how to handle this problem:

1) include somewhere in the Mozilla registry a checksum
(use the technology from Linux's "cksum" command).

2) on initial creation and any modification of the registry, 
make a backup copy.  But, only after the modifications
have been make and the new registry passes its checksum.

3) whenever Mozilla is fired up or a modification is make
to the registry, check the registry's checksum.  If it 
    a) alert the operator of the problem, 
    b) change the name of the registry for debugging and archive purposes, AND
    c) replace the corrupted registry with the backup copy

I am sure there are other to accomplish the same thing.

Developers.  Please pay attention to this.  Fixing this bug is not glamorous,
or flashy and is probably no fun whatsoever.  My experience
with the general public is that they despise the lack of finishing 
touches on Mozilla and hate having to constantly call in consultants to 
fix these kind of things.  If you were a general user, would you like using 
a really, really slick, tricked out eMail client that you had to constantly 
pay out the nose to be repaired?  Or, would you opt for some reliable boiler plate?
Hi All,

   I had another one of these trouble calls.  This time I was able to piece
together what the user did to completely trash his Mozilla registry.
Simply put, the user was just flipping the power off to shut down.

   Now, aside from everyone's initial reaction of "the user should not
own a computer", this is a good equivalent to what happens to
Mozilla's registry when Windows crashes.  The user was running 
XP Home Edition with Service Pack 1a and Mozilla 1.4.

   The Mozilla registry must be designed to survive these kinds
of events.

I have lost my indentity once, but with some work, which was made easier because
I had not been with Mozilla very long, I was able to go back and foind the file
where my correct identity was and restore it.
Since that episode I have several near misses. Most of them have come whne I
closed out Mozilla by right clicking the file in, I believe the the quick launch
tool bar. If I do this, when I then try to open Mozilla again, it asked for my
identity, even though I have checked the box not to ask me.
When I saw this the first time, I freaked, but I decided to try something new. I
have a program on my computer to erase all information as to where I have been
on the internet. It is a free program called System Security Suite 3s. When ever
I get the request to identify myself to get on to Mozilla, I simply run this
program, which will require a restart, after it has performed the removal of all
the various things it can erase concerning where you have been on the web before
the problem with Mozilla and identity.
After I have run this program, I go back online and when I open Mozilla it no
longers asked me for my identity check, and it comes back just as it was before
with my identity intacked.
I do not know if this will help others who are loseing their identity, but it
seems to work well for me, and for one or two other people who have used the
same method I have been using.
If you try to continue, you will only get yourself in a bigger mess. So I say
give it a try the next time Mozilla suddenly ask you for an Identity check, when
you have unchecked the bottom to ask you this.
Let me know if this helps. Others who are better versed in computers than I will
be able to figure out why this works. All I know is that for me it does.
Wilbur Huck
Dear Mozilla developers:

    Duuuuuuuuuuuuudes!!!!  (You've just been officially "duded.")

    I am the reporter of bug of this bug.

    I have Mozilla spread out across two counties in
multiple business and home users computers.

    Last night a long term and dear customer of mine had
her daughter crash her business computer with Mozilla open.
I was already on another emergency when I got her call.
Needless to say, I did not drag myself home till after
10:30 at night.  And, it cost my customer $112.50 to
get her business critical eMail inbox and the rest of her
profile back.  (Hey, I was really, really tired!)

    Fixing this bug may not be glamorous, but it must be
done.  And it must be set at a very high priority.

    Please ask yourself: would you want to use a piece
of tricked out, fancy software that you had to constantly
pay out the nose to get your profiles recovered!

   Would one of you (developers) please take ownership
of this bug 205120 and fix the stupid thing!  Errors like 
this really, really hurt Mozilla's wider acceptance.  

   Please have a heart for those of us who are out in the 
field pushing your work!    

Many thanks,
I have registry.dat's in my possession from a problem machine.
If anyone wants to take ownership of this bug, I can eMail
them to you.  The corrupted registry is 1,156,578 bytes;  the
reconstructed registry is 2,013 bytes.  
a big registry.dat is from Netscape6.x or an older Mozilla build.
(and a new Mozilla will not compact it)
Matti has someting here.  After some thinking, every customer I can remember
with the problem, either had Mozilla <= 1.1 and/or Netscape installed.
Maybe the installer should wipe out the old reg and rebuild it correctly?
(Okay, maybe I an diagnosing a little.  I will restrain myself.)

The big size itself is no problem (but I saw a user with a 160MB registry.dat).
The easiest way to recreate this file :
delete this file while Mozilla is running (but that works only if you have only
one profile !). Mozilla will rewrite the file if you close it.
Hi All,

       Here is an interesting details that may or may not have
anything to do with anything:  The customer that I stayed out to
10:30 pm had to:

1) have a new profile created and her data salted into it.  Just
deleting the registry.dat did not work.  I had to create a
new profile and salt her old data into it.

2) The new profile refused to accept her old bookmarks file.
It kept creating a blank "-1" file in its place.  (We eventually
recovered her original bookmarks from tape and this time
Mozilla accepted it.)

3) Her inbox, sent, and trash files were huge (in
the order of 140 Meg), with maybe 20 messages showing
in Mozilla.  I created temporary folders and moved the
existing messages from the huge folders to them.  Then
existed Mozilla, erased the originals and renamed
the temporary folder to the original names.  The
largest (new) folder was her inbox at 8K.

Every bit of information helps.

point 2. : Your bookmark file were write-protected, point3: You must use
file/compact folders to remove deleted mails from the mail file. They remain in
the DB-Files until you do that

You can ask me via mail if you have additional questions but point 2+3 doesn't
belong into this bug
Blocks: 19454
*** Bug 224597 has been marked as a duplicate of this bug. ***
*** Bug 225011 has been marked as a duplicate of this bug. ***
No longer blocks: 19454
*** Bug 230450 has been marked as a duplicate of this bug. ***
*** Bug 231107 has been marked as a duplicate of this bug. ***
Blocks: 231606
Keywords: dataloss
Summary: Lost Profile after WIndow Crash → Lost Profile after WIndows Crash
No longer blocks: 231606
Blocks: 231606
*** Bug 232762 has been marked as a duplicate of this bug. ***
*** Bug 269651 has been marked as a duplicate of this bug. ***
Duuuuuudes!    This bug is "CRITICAL".  I realize that you are all volunteers
myself, who painstakingly documents these errors), but would someone please take up 
this bug and fix it!

Follow up information:  

1)  This is still happening on both Thunderbird 1.0 general release and Firefox 1.0 
general release.  (I have about 200 customers with it installed over two counties.)

2)  the problem is ALWAYS a corrupted prefs.js.  (I know this because I hand backup
up pref.js and all it takes to recover the customer's profile is to overwrite
his current
prefs.js with the backup copy.)

3)  the prefs.js corruption is typically (I am tempted to say "always") caused
by one 
of two problems":

         A)  Windows crashed when the user had Thunderbird and/or Firefox open

         B)   The user had too many programs running at one time and overwhelmed
his system

Developers.  Please consider the following to correct the problem:

When saving/altering the prefs.js file, please use the following sequence:

     1)  write two entirely new copies of prefs.js to the hard drive.  Call them 
          prefs.js.1 and prefs.js.2

     2)  After writing prefs.js.1 and prefs.js.2, to a check sum (in Linux a
           to make sure both files match.  If not, abort.

     3)  After checking prefs.js.1 and prefs.js.2 and having them match, change 
          the name of prefs.js to prefs.js.bak

     4)  change the name of prefs.js.1 to prefs.js; erase prefs.js.2

When starting Thunderbird and/or Firefox, do the following:

    1)  Check for the existence of prefs.js.1 and/or prefs.js.2.  If either exist, 
         consider prefs.js to be corrupted.  If so, use prefs.js.bak as prefs.js
         delete the corrupted copy of prefs.js.

Please let me know if I can assist in testing or gathering any data for you.

Many thanks,
AMEN!  The above sounds like a workable solution that should solve a LOT of the
prefs.js getting corrupted problems.
On comment 29:

    change "to a check sum" to "do a check sum."

    add to the start up sequence:

        2)  when starting Thunderbird and/or Firefox, if prefs.js is found to 
            unusable in any manner (wheather or not prefs.js.a or prefs.js.2 
            is found), revert to prefs.js.bak

More info:  one of my customers insists and running everything and the
kitchen sink on his laptop: notepad, real player playing an Internet music
channel, Word Perfect, Thunderbird, Firefox, Time Matters, and one or two
more I can not remember.    He corrupts his prefs.js about twice a month.
So I wrote him a script to overwrite his corrupted prefs.js with
a backup copy.  He runs the script by himself.  Works like a charm.  

Many thanks,

An enhancement bug exists on validating the contents of prefs.js, and was
reported back in 2002. Bug #123027
(In reply to comment #32)
> FYI,
> An enhancement bug exists on validating the contents of prefs.js, and was
> reported back in 2002. Bug #123027

Great!  All the way back in 2002!  Great to know it is on file.  It is 2005 now.
I've been having this happening for a while now--Windows crashes and my prefs.js gets killed.

However, last weekend it went nuclear. My hard drive's been acting up lately and crashing my machine, and it did this most recent time it took the entire contents of the profile folder with it. I now have over a gig in FOUND.000 of mainly email, but also some address books, as well. My prefs.js is somewhere in there, hopefully, but Windows Search can't find it.

If everyone else's testimony hasn't proven it, I'd like to think this cinches the fact that this bug needs to fixed before the next release. If a system crash has the capacity to destroy all of someone's email just because file handles are unnecessarily being left open, this needs to change. I'm starting to consider telling people not to use Mozilla or Thunderbird because of it.
related extension: http://www.pikey.me.uk/mozilla/?addon=bb  back up firefox profile files & settings

general purpose backup: http://mozbackup.jasnapaka.com/

modify summary to match comment 6
Summary: Lost Profile after WIndows Crash → Lost Profile after Windows Crash - profile directory and files still exist, but not found at start up and not shown in profile manager
Whiteboard: not about lost directories or prefs.js
probable dupe bug 430438
Assignee: ccarlen → nobody
QA Contact: agracebush → profile-manager-backend
Blocks: startup
No longer depends on: startup
Duplicate of this bug: 451683
Whiteboard: not about lost directories or prefs.js → [notacrash] [not about lost directories or prefs.js]
Blocks: failsafe
This bug is filed in a bugzilla component related to pre-Firefox code which no longer exists. I believe it is no longer relevant and I am therefore closing it INCOMPLETE.

If you believe that this bug is still valid and needs to be fixed, please reopen it and move it to the Toolkit:Startup and Profile System product/component.
No longer blocks: 1243899
Closed: 3 years ago
Resolution: --- → INCOMPLETE
Product: Core → Core Graveyard
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