In my company, we have several ex-employees. On my Windows Server 2003 machine, there is a "profile" folder which contains the following folders for different employees: "Application Data", "Contacts", "UserData", "WINDOWS" and so on (e.g. profile\employee_A\UserData). If I copy the folders to a local machine and back them up, do I need leave the data in the "Profile" folder? Or to put it differently, will removing the files and folders from a previous employee's "profile" folder cause any problems with Active Directory or some other software? Thanks, in advance, for your help!

2 Answers 2


AD won't have a problem with this in the slightest. It stores all its information on users in a database on the domain controllers, along with its information on everything else.

As for the "some other software", that rather depends on the "some other software" and whether or not you're likely to use these accounts again (I'm assuming that if you were 100% positive that these were dead accounts that would never be touched again you'd just be deleting them...).

You're unlikely to break other "server level" software by doing this but clearly if someone's desktop software (for example, office) is storing a lot of custom settings in their profile and you delete the profile then the desktop software clearly won't be able to find its settings if anyone logs into that account again. Only you can say for sure if that's a problem or not... it shouldn't be a problem for most things but none of us here know if you're running "Crazy Joe's accountancy software" under the ex employee's ID (crazy joe is known for being the home of both crazy things like storing important data in profiles and for being the patsy whenever i need a company name for my contrived examples).

  • What is the name of the database on the domain controller where the users information is stored? The 'profile' folder to which I refer is on the domain controller. You're right about their return - we've had some employees return over the years. If I delete the files in the 'profile' folder of the domain controller, will they be created from scratch when the employee logs in again (my preference) as opposed to the employee having login issues? The two software whose performance I'm concerned about is Windows and MS Office. Thanks for your help!
    – Charles
    Apr 12, 2011 at 21:45
  • One additional consideration is the local computer. In Windows XP or Server 2003 you can 'reset' a user profile by deleting the folder for that user under C:\Documents and Settings. The next time that user logs in a new folder will be created. In Windows Vista/7/2008/R2, simply deleting the folder is not enough. You also need to clear out an entries for that user in the system registry at HKLM\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\ProfileList. Apr 12, 2011 at 23:56
  • @Michael Steele: The correct way to delete a user profile is from the Advanced System properties, which will clean up the file system and the registry as part of the removal.
    – joeqwerty
    Apr 13, 2011 at 2:46
  • @Charles - AD information is stored in a JET database. The file it uses is called NTDS.DIT. As for Windows account settings and MS Office, they're both fine in this kind of scenario, I was only suggesting you need to worry if you were using some weird obscure software, mainstream stuff from mainstream companies will understand how to behave perfectly ok in the scenario you describe. You can delete the profile (and the AD account if you like) and re-create them from scratch if you need the account again, without any worries.
    – Rob Moir
    Apr 13, 2011 at 7:24

You can safely delete the profile. It contains only user private data. No AD will be affected.

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