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I Ran Windows 7 Updates and My Desktop Went Completely Black! What Do I Do?!

So last night (11-12-14) or this morning you ran a package of `Important` Windows Cumulative Security Updates. Gee those do sound important! There were about 11 or so - specifically, the ones most likely to give you trouble are these:

Update for Windows 7 for x64-based Systems (KB3008627)
Security Update for Windows 7 for x64-based Systems (KB3003743)
Security Update for Windows 7 for x64-based Systems (KB2993958)
Security Update for Windows 7 for x64-based Systems (KB2991963)
Security Update for Windows 7 for x64-based Systems (KB3005607)
Security Update for Windows 7 for x64-based Systems (KB2992611)
Security Update for Windows 7 for x64-based Systems (KB3010788)
Security Update for Windows 7 for x64-based Systems (KB3002885)
Security Update for Windows 7 for x64-based Systems (KB3006226)

After diligently downloading and installing these updates, you allow your computer to reboot. The boot process goes smoothly, you log into your computer, only to find a stark black screen greeting you. Your entire intricately-designed array of desktop icons is gone. Your Desktop Image is replaced by an inky black nothing. Worse even than the blackness of space - even space has stars.

The frank obituary to your beautiful desktop's demise is the following: 

C:\windows\system32\config\systemprofile\Desktop refers to a location that is unavailable. It could be on a hard drive on this computer or on a network. Check to to make sure the disk is properly inserted.

And its' not just the icons or the desktop. Trying to search for an item from the Start menu will produce an error along these lines (where searchstring is whatever you typed in the taskbar): 

"Windows cannot find `search:query=searchstring` Make sure you typed the name correctly, and then try again." 

Microsoft's Mouse and Keyboard Center failed to load completely; despite this, my laptop's USB mouse and embedded touch pad functioned properly.

Even non-Windows related applications will have problems. When I encountered this error, I had to launch Google Chrome as an Administrator in order to get it to run. I also use an incredibly handy text editor in Windows called Notepad++. Notepad++ is an ingeniously formatted gem of a Windows text editor; it can open text files that are sized well into the tens of megabytes without crashing, it color encodes scripted text for programming; its awesome. Use it; its free. Anyway, launching Notepad++ also produced errors; the application was unable to find a variety of XML configuration files.

We've established that this problem sucks. So how do we fix it?

First, you may have problems opening a Command Prompt due to the `search:query` error mentioned above. If you have Powershell installed, use that - it will save time and headaches and can function exactly as a normal command prompt would. If installed you can typically find Powershell in the Start Menu by navigating to All Programs -> Accessories -> Windows Powershell

If you do not have Powershell installed you will have to suffer through by opening a window from `My Computer` by navigating through the Start Menu: click Start and then Computer. It is likely that each time you open a window in this manner a new error message will be produced telling you that your systemprofile\Desktop is missing. You can ignore the error, clicking OK to remove it and proceed.

From here on we will be using in example in which the username we are using is Josh. On your computer you will of course replace Josh with your own username.

Either way you use (powershell of window), navigate to the User directory, which for the purposes of this tutorial will be C:\Users\Josh

We are here to check first and foremost that your actual Desktop folder and files still exists. Click or `cd` to the Desktop folder and take a quick look to ensure that everything still exists. If it does, proceed with the tutorial. If your Desktop folder is missing, than stop here - the issue I am describing should not have caused the entire deletion of your Desktop. You will need to restore these files from backup before continuing to troubleshoot; I hope you kept a backup!

Anyway, for those of us who found that C:\Users\Josh\Desktop exists and is populated with files, we will then navigate to the root of the problem: C:\windows\system32\config\systemprofile\

In this directory you are likely to find three items: Two folders, one named "AppData" and the other named "Contacts". The third item will likely be ntuser.dat - although it may be missing if your Windows folder settings are configured to "hide protected operating system files".

FYI don't be a wimp - BE A POWER USER and go to Organize -> Folder and Search Options -> View tab. From there UNclick "Hide protected operating system files" and select the radio button next to "Show hidden files, folders, and drives". Once you have done this you will notice that a new universe of system files is now available for your perusal. I offer less experienced users this tidbit with the explicit promise that they will refrain from two things:

        1. DO NOT Delete Files Because You "Don't Know What They Do".
             Only Delete Files That You Fully Understand.
        2. When You Encounter an Esoteric File DO NOT Search the Name of That File in Google. 
             All of the Websites in Google Will Tell you it is a Virus and Compel You to Purchase Their
             Magical Program to Remove Said Virus. To Understand System Files, You Must RTFM and
             Other Actual Books. Like From a Library Books.

Anyway back to the fix. Within the directory C:\windows\system32\config\systemprofile\  you must create a new directory (by right-clicking and selecting New -> Folder or issuing the command mkdir in PowerShell) and name it "Desktop".

Immediately after creating this directory you may notice that some icons have appeared on the black-as-death desktop. However, these won't include your normal icons, and your desktop image as well as any items you have stuck to the taskbar will not have reappeared. Thats okay - right now you are relying on a broken copy of the "Public" Desktop, and the appearance of icons is a signal that the Public profile is getting better.

To finally get all of your profile settings back, along with the precious icons and desktop doo-dads, simply goto Start, hover your mouse over the arrow next to "shut down" (not shut down, just the arrow) and click "Log off" from the resulting contextual menu.

You will be prompted to Log back into your account. Do so, and you will find that everything in your desktop is back to normal. Enjoy!