My experience fixing Windows 7 files disappearing every reboot

We recently had a client with a queer issue on Windows 7. You get a Windows setup in progress message every reboot. This results in an almost empty desktop. Any application installed or file copied to the PC disappears on reboot due to setting up all over.

Three clues we had were two prompts that always appeared on bootup and some TEMP folders in C:\Users (e.g TEMP, TEMP.user-PC, TEMP.user-PC.000). The temp folders and the current user’s folder also had a padlock icon:

You have been logged on with a temporary profile

You cannot access your files and files created in this profile will be deleted when you log off. To fix this, log off and try logging on later. Please, see the event log for details or contact your system administrator.

Windows 7

Another was:

Windows created a temporary paging file on your computer because of a problem that occurred with your paging file configuration when you started your computer. The total paging file size for all disk drives may be somewhat larger than the size you specified.

Windows 7

This clearly pointed at the pagefile.sys, a system file responsible for RAM virtualization.

I noticed that the hard disk (C:) had just 16kb free. The first task was to free up space. This wasn’t going great in the current profile. I had to create a new profile of Administrator type. I logged off, logged into the new profile and freed up space. As for how much space, I did 2 x RAM size.

With space freed up, I proceeded to delete and regenerate the pagefile.sys . To do this:

  • Press Win + R
  • Search for systempropertiesadvanced
  • Click Settings under Performance
  • Click Advanced
  • Click Change
  • Untick Automatically manage paging file size for all drives
  • Tick No paging file
  • Click OK and reboot the PC
  • Log back into this profile
  • Head to the same settings. This time, tick Automatically manage paging file size for all drives
  • reboot the PC

This solved the issue. Pagefile.sys took up some of the free space but all good.