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This has happened twice on this laptop

Everything seems to be running normally, I shut it down, not doing anything unusual that I'm aware of, then when I start it up all user accounts are gone. The login screen appears normal, except there are no users listed, and I normally have it configured for 6 users. Even booting in safe mode, there is no Admin user. Both times I fixed the problem by reloading the OS, but I'd like to know what's causig it.

HP ze5575sr laptop w/ 512 meg memory, P4 2.3 Ghz processor, running Windows XP, SP2, Zonealarm firewall, AVG Free antivirus, Microsoft Antispyware, and all updates current, and I mean all!

I've had this laptop for over a year, and this is the second time it's happened, so I doubt it's a hardware issue, but it's never happened on any of my other hardware. Maybe a coincidence?

Any suggestions?

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No users !

In reply to: This has happened twice on this laptop

First things first. What have you got for firewall, worms, horses, and other things that feed on you ?

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No Users!

In reply to: No users !

ZoneAlarm is my firewall, which I believe I mentioned in my first post.

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Just a stab ... Bad HD or "Timing" issue.

In reply to: This has happened twice on this laptop

One time/random problems are the hardest to pin down, thus I have only guesses ...

1. Your hard drive may be going bad, have over-heated, or be full/super-fragmented, etc.

2. As part of system shut-down, XP (and all other operating systems) will post changes held in memory and temp files to its master files. These changes can include disk directory items, profile data (ie: location of new desktop icons), etc.

Possibly the system was in the middle of writing this type of data to disk when it crashed, lost power (battery/plug pulled), got an electrical spike, or ran out of room on the disk drive.

Best advice I have given your problem description is:

Backup your system, clean-up your HD, defrag, etc., and always let the PC complete shut-down if at all possible before cutting power (or doing a "hard boot" via the power switch) ... Oh, yeh,

And pray that should it happen again you can recover better.

GoodTime Charlie, VA

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Shutdown appeared normal

In reply to: Just a stab ... Bad HD or "Timing" issue.

The last time I used the computer before this happened the shutdown appeared to be normal. The next time I booted everything also appeared normal, no errors, just no users.

Where does the system get the list of users when you log on? The registry?

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my understanding ... reg & c drive files

In reply to: Shutdown appeared normal

First ... let me make this clear, I am not a security guru.

That given, my understanding is as follows:

When windows (Win-98, XP-Home/Pro, Win-2000) boots up it loads up the basic info on your hardware, audio/video, disk drive, etc. Much of this basic control info comes from the BIOS firmware ... no real security here/yet.

Once it can read your disk drive, etc., it finds & loads the OS (ie: the Windows-XP operating system itself) and then the OS loads its' registry, the device drivers, etc.

After the registry, etc., have been loaded, the OS will check some security settings in it. I do not know much about the details of registry entries involved in security so I won?t go there; but I do know that within the registry are a number of security settings including one which tells windows ''require login'' (verses just default everybody to ''administrator''), etc.

Anyway, if the registry indicates that logging in is required, it checks an (encrypted?) system maintained disk file containing user-ids and passwords to verify the user/password combo entered. If valid, it will then look in a directory (C:\Documents and Settings\<userid>...) for all the other user specific info (that user-ids ''profile'').

The C:\Documents and Settings\<userid>... directory holds the profile data and tracks things like what icons ''joe'' has on his desktop verses what icons ''fred'' has, etc. Most of the info in these files is system info (stuff you don't want to mess with); but there are also files that hold user specific start-up menu items and many other things which make the PC ''yours'' verses ''mine''. As you might expect some things like your IE favorites, history, cookies and cache files are also stored in this directory.

There are a couple of user-id profiles that are ''masters'' so to speak in that there is one which has the most power (''Administrator''), another that is the basic foundation common to all users (''All Users''), one that is used as a baseline when adding a user profile (''Default User'') and possibly others. Note: The user being logged in will have their profile effectively merged with the ''All Users'' profile.

I know, you can manually tweak the user ''profiles'' if you are careful (ie: add programs to ''send to'' or ''start menu''); but I would not mess with any but ''All Users'' and your own ... AND make sure you know the used-id and password for the administrator BEFORE you play here or you could end up being locked out and having to reformat/reload windows entirely! Never mess with the Admin profile!!!


Kinda dropping back to your question now ...

I would expect that it is a combination of the registry being set to tell Windows logging in is required followed by finding the users profile in C:\Documents and Settings\... to constitute/construct a ''USER'' ... no one place has it all, but the registry is the likely place for the login process control to begin (and I would suspect where your setting is getting lost/overlaid).

Additionally:
1. If the PC is configured as 'dual boot' (ie: you have both windows 98 and windows XP installed) there will be two registries (and I would guess two C:\Documents and Settings\... holding the profiles somehow).
2. You can logout of one profile and then logback in under another without rebooting.
3. Multiple users can be logged into one PC (running XP) at the sametime.
--- all of which could be enough to confuse anyone!

Long reply without solving your problem, but maybe educating anyway ... sorry so verbose.

GoodTime Charlie, VA

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Thanks for the info

In reply to: my understanding ... reg & c drive files

Thanks for the response, GoodTimeCharlie. I don't mind a long response, it was helpful information.

I reloaded the system again, but this time rather than using the OEM restore disks, I used a generic XP disk so I don't get all the extra 'features' from the restore disks. I guess only time will tell if it makes a difference.

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OEM -vs- Standard? Go Std

In reply to: Thanks for the info

I also had problems long time ago when I had a Packard-Bell PC ... their OEM version of the OS (Win-95?) was loaded with what (in the minds of the Packard-Bell folks) was lots of gotta have, really neat desktop ''tools'', etc.

The system was a dog and problem prone ... I got a standard version of Win-98, blew away the PB system and ended up with a usable PC. I did have some problems with getting drivers set-up, but PC's & OS'es back then were much more likely to have been tweaked by the vendor (without Microsoft having/knowing about the vendors unique drivers, etc). XP has a pretty good set of default drivers that will almost always 'get you live' so you can then find more recent drivers if need be.

Note: Packard-Bell doesn't make PCs anymore (and may not even exist) ... says something there I believe!

Anyway, good luck,

GoodTime Charlie, VA

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