What is an NTUSER.DAT file and should you remove it?

What is an NTUSER.DAT file and should you remove it?

Have you ever encountered a strange file with an NTUSER.DAT name on your Windows PC? Don't worry, it's not a virus, but quite an important file. In this article, we'll explain what it is and why you shouldn't delete it.

What is an NTUSER.DAT file in Windows?

An NTUSER.DAT file exists on every Windows PC. It's a file that Windows loads and manages automatically: it contains the settings for each user of one PC. So, every time you change something in Windows look, like the desktop background, for example, Windows saves your preferences in the Registry in the HKEY_CURRENT_USER hive. Afterwards, when you sign out and shut down your computer, Windows saves this info to an NTUSER.DAT file. When you'll be signing in the next time, Windows will load an NTUSER.DAT file to memory, and all your settings will be loaded to the Registry. Via this procedure, Windows saves your latest preferences each time you make a change and lets multiple users use the same computer with their own preferences.

The name NTUSER.DAT comes from Windows NT, introduced with Windows 3.1, and the DAT extension is used by Microsoft for files that contain data.

Where to find an NTUSER.DAT file?

First of all, you don't need to locate the NTUSER.DAT file, because you should neither delete nor change it. However, if you'd like to see it out of curiosity, here's how to find it:

  • Go to File Explorer and browse to C:\Users\*YourUserName*
  • If you don't see NTUSER.DAT yet, it's okay. Microsoft has hidden it so users don't edit or delete it. You can turn on the Show Hidden Files option by going to File Explorer > View > Hidden Items.

You'll see that there is not only an NTUSER.DAT file, but also one or several more with a LOG extension. It's a copy of a previous NTUSER.DAT file that Windows creates to make sure to save your preferences backup.

Why shouldn't you delete your NTUSER.DAT file?

You should never delete your NTUSER.DAT file because it holds all your settings, and if you remove it, your user profile will be corrupted. It is not a large file, only about 3 to 15 megabytes, so deleting it won't retrieve much space on your PC anyway. It's best not to change it as well since it can also cause problems that are hard to fix if you are not a system administrator.

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