Profile Reset : Double Edged Sword

A "Profile" consists of customised settings for any one particular user these settings include:
1. Background Colors

2. Screen Saver

3. Desktop Shortcuts

4. Recently used document links

5. Software settings (Internet Explorer, MS Office, etc.)

6. Start menu locations

7. System Certificates

8. Temporary Recovery Documents

9. EFS Certifcates for use with EFS

10. NTUSER.DAT File(s)

11. Temporary Session Cache

12. Temporary Internet Cache

13. .Net Manifests

14. Send to Items

15. Credentials Manager

16. Custom Dictionarys

17. Crypto Security

So the last thing I want to do is blow all of this away with a un-required profiles reset....I have worked at many companys and have noticed that a "profile reset" is said to solve the issue....yes but for how long is the question...
So, why does the profile mess up start with?
Well, this is mainly linked to the registry as when you logoff your Windows session all your registry based entrys are suppose to be removed by the system so they can be recreated upon login again...this is called a Hive...so in this instance you have a "User Hive" that is started and removed with a login and logoff event....but if your User Hive does not end correctly you can get varying problems when you try to login again...
So, how can this be stopped?
A profile reset will not fix this long term...and I would also like to mention the "Restart your computer" partner in crime will not resolve anything except the users lack of faith in you!!!!
Well Microsoft released a Utility to ensure that your User Registry Hive is correcly unloaded on logoff, this is called the User Hive Cleanup Tool and you can get this from the site here
The reason behind this tool as from the Microsoft Download site is....
The User Profile Hive Cleanup service helps to ensure user sessions are completely terminated when a user logs off. System processes and applications occasionally maintain connections to registry keys in the user profile after a user logs off. In those cases the user session is prevented from completely ending. This can result in problems when using Roaming User Profiles in a server environment or when using locked profiles as implemented through the Shared Computer Toolkit for Windows XP.
On Windows 2000 you can benefit from this service if the application event log shows event id 1000 where the message text indicates that the profile is not unloading and that the error is "Access is denied". On Windows XP and Windows Server 2003 either event ids 1517 and 1524 indicate the same profile unload problem.
To accomplish this the service monitors for logged off users that still have registry hives loaded. When that happens the service determines which application have handles opened to the hives and releases them. It logs the application name and what registry keys were left open. After this the system finishes unloading the profile.

If this was not a problem then User Hive Cleanup Tool would not be included in Vista by default!
My Profile is Locked....help?
If you get this error then you will need to use some technical software that will asses the last login and see if you computer is not using the network but a local copy due to connectivity issues...an example of such software is "True Last Login" which will give you the last "actual" login time....you get more information here
Profile Reset Warnings
Well apart from pissing off the user as profile resets do not resolve root cause you will find your users will come to hate profiles resets....the solution is to ensure that you have the "User Hive Cleanup Tool" installed on all new computer builds to prevent the problems in the first place
Also, ensure if you are going to have a service run as Network Service then you will totally require the User Hive Cleanup Tool as this account run against a service causes various issues with profiles.
Clever Advice
Stop, Think, Do not be a fool, find the root cause of the issue and stop it re-occuring.....unless you work for an organisation that is driven by "How many calls have we closed this week?" or "How many quick wins can we get this week" in which case I feel sorry for you!
So is it a double edged sword?
Well if you want to kill a fly with a bazooka then "No" it is a fix that works for a short while then fails again.....however on the flipside investigation will take time...and time is an indulgent that not all IT departments have on their side.....so "Yes" this is a doubled edged sword....you need to keep the user happy and get the resolution more long term........
Visual Aid : Executive Summary
Just a reminder that your users are similar to the images below.....

Now you need to see how your users see the IT service that you provide them....

You do not want to be seen as "The Unfixables...."
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