Fix “We can’t sign into your account” error in Windows 10 AU



Sometimes Windows 10 locks you out of your PC without any reason. You won’t be able to login to your Desktop and using anything on your PC will become impossible. The error shows up during the login in when you try to open your account. It will say show a dialogue box saying “We can’t sign into your account.”

Some people have also said that they were able to fix the sign in error just by restarting their PCs a few times in a row. That is, of course, a hit and miss method. You can’t really rely on something like that when you need your PC urgently. Editing the registry and making that small change in the key values will fix this problem.

can't sign in windows 10

This happens when some parts of your user profile saved in Windows get messed up. You can fix this up by rebuilding your profile. There are two steps for fixing this. First, use the safe mode to enter the normal desktop and then edit the registry to set the RefCount value to 0. Continue reading below for the steps.

Make a Temporary Profile

Restart your PC once and see if it works normally. If it does, then you won’t need to go through all this hassle. However, if the sign in error still shows up, you will need to make a temporary account on your PC to ‘restore’ your old account.

  • Follow the steps that I have mentioned in a post written previously up until the Advanced options.windows 10 startup settings
  • When you reach the advanced options, select Startup Settings which will look like the image above.
  • Press F4 to open the Safe Mode. The safe mode will allow you to login to your PC without the hassle of user accounts. You can use this mode to reverse the problems that happen to your PC while using it normally.
  • Once Windows 10 has booted into the safe mode, tap the Windows + r and type “regedit“. Press Enter to open the Registry editor.
  • Navigate to the following key.
HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\ProfileList

win 10 profilelist

  • Here, you will see a few keys starting with the name S-1-5-XX (XX could be any number). Depending on your PC, there can be quite a few of them. Go through each of them, one by one and select the one which has the ProfileImagePath key set to the systemprofile path. You can see how this looks in the image above.
  • Once selected, double click on the RefCount key and change its value to 0 from 1 and click OK.
  • After that is done, make sure that the State key is set to 0. It may or may not have that value.
  • Close everything and restart your PC.

Install Windows updates

On restarting, your PC will not boot to normal mode as opposed to the safe mode which we previously used. Once on the Desktop, go to the Settings app > Updates & Security > Windows updates and click on Check for updates. Install all the available updates and restart your PC.

That is all you have to do. Following these steps will get rid of the sign in error in your PC.

 

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68 Comments

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  1. Didnt work, those values were already there. Whatever, my stuff is gone, just had 4 ms techs remotely fail. I hate windows, im done with their garbage.

    1. Windows 10 is the modern day torture device. I too have had these kinds of anomalies happen to my PC, though not as severe. I’m sorry that this didn’t help. I don’t know any other way for fixing this error.

  2. Thanks, that worked almost perfectly. I got back my desktop files, but lost somehow my desktop background and for some reasons all my PDF’s want to open in MS Edge now. Easy to change back… so, not a big deal.

    I followed your description. However, the integers at “refcount key” and “state key” were already preset to 1 and 0, respectively. So I basically had not to change them. I still typed them in again, anyway. I updated the system afterwards and restarted it. Everything is now back to normal… I hope it will last a while.

    Story to learn: always do backups and don’t trust the new fancy Windows10…

    Thanks again!

    1. Always use the backup thing, man. Saves you a lot of hours.

  3. For what it is worth, this approach didn’t work for me. I had to copy the files from that user account to another (public) location, then delete the account and add back. Some people might be irritated to lose some settings, but that was a tolerable cost for me.

    1. may I ask Joshua how you did this? nothing has worked for me, nor can I access any of my files, I have tons of info that cant loose.

      1. What problem are you getting while accessing your files?

        I think that Joshua copied his entire %USERPROFILE% directory to a temporary location. He then made a new account in Windows by a different name. Once that was done, he copied all the files to the new user’s %USERPROFILE% location.

        You can try this method too. It’s a bit cumbersome, though. You can find all your files in the User profile folder. Press Windows + r to open Run and then type %USERPROFILE%.

        1. I am contemplating going this route as well, because the suggested fix in the original post didn’t work for me. 🙁

          Before I proceed, I’m wondering what the implications are if this is my Microsoft account?

          As you can see, I’m not the most tech literate, but I am pretty good at following step-by-step instructions if I can find help online!

          (one thing I noticed, for example, was that booting in safe mode still asked me to log into my account… so I did, and it gave me the same “we can’t sign into your account issue,” but I still proceeded with the regedit and update steps, etc.)

          1. Since the steps are not working for you, go ahead with the steps that I have mentioned. I can write a step by step guide for you if you are having trouble with understanding the content of the comment.

        2. Hi
          I followed all directions in the original post. No longer get the message can’t sign in but everything is gone. I can’t find my company file on quickbooks. So I would like to give this userprofile thing a try. Could you dumb it down for me step by step please? Having a hard time following this. Or if u have any other ideas? Thank you!

          1. I’m sorry that you didn’t find the post as useful. Thanks for your feedback.

            The %userprofile% is a environment variable in Windows. What that means is that it is a peice of text that Windows recogonizes as the location of your profile folder. Press Windows and R to open the Run box. Type %userprofile% in there and press Enter. It will take you to the C:\Users\XYZ (where XYZ is your username in Windows).

            Most of the programs that you install on your PC save some of their files like settings and other data to this folder. Your Desktop, My Documents, and Downloads are also in this directory.

            To find all your files, open My PC and go to C:\Users folder. Now double-click on the folder with your username. You will find all your files there. If you have any more questions, feel free to reply to this comment.

          2. Thank you! Very helpful!!
            When I pull up the userprofile window all those files when I click on them are empty. But when i click on network, then my computer name, then users i can find my name with all my files. How can I get all these files back where they should be?

            1. Righ-click on any of the file and select Properties. You can check the file location from there.

  4. Thanks for the reply! Ive been so caught up with the “We can’t sign into your account.” error (which, btw, i gave up trying to fix) that i didn’t even try opening the C drive and looking for the files there.
    Oddly enough the %userprofile% didn’t work, it takes me to a location where there no files, weird.
    Im just gonna copy all my files into my external HD and reinstall windows, since I it wont let me create a new account either.

    1. %userprofile% is the location of your files belonging to your current user account. There are always some files and folders there. It seems weird. It looks like something is wrong on your PC. Nevertheless, I’m glad that you have got it sorted out. Cheers. 🙂

  5. **UPDATE** my PC doesn’t even show the SHIFT+Restart boot options anymore! it only lets me turn the PC off!!! these pretzels are making me thirsty!!! This is the very first time Im really hating Windows!

    1. Try the method that I have written in this post. Follow the steps up until where you arrive at the Startup settings.

      1. Hi utkarsh, many thanks for all the help! Unfortunately there’s something really crazy/wrong going on with my computer, it just won’t show the advance boot options anymore (it used to, when the “we can’t sign into your account” problem first appeared). As I said before, If I try the shift+restart it only shows the “turn the PC off” option. When I try your method, and press the restart button as soon as the windows logo shows up, it turns the pc off, every time. I really don’t know what to do? Any other ideas?

        1. What PC do you have? Can you give me the model number and manufacturer name?

          Edit: If you have a supplementary PC, then you can try repairing your computer via the official ISO files from Microsoft. You will need to download the latest Windows 10 ISO. Make it a bootable USB drive from it. That will surely fix this problem.

          Use the links that I have provided in this comment and follow the procedure. Let me know how that goes.

          1. Hello again, unfortunately i only have bad news, it didn’t work. when I run the ISO image from the USB it tells me that the “setup couldn’t start properly. Please reboot your PC and try running windows 10 Setup again”, which Ive done about ten times already, no luck. Is there an other way to re install windows? thanks once more for all your help.

            1. I think that this can be fixed by deleting the Windows.old, $Windows.~BT and $Windows.~WS folders from the C:\ drive on your computer. They are hidden folders. You can either delete them manually or use the Disk cleanup utility to get rid of them. Enable viewing of hidden folders and then delete these three.

              Alternatively, you can go to ‘My PC’ and right-click on C:\ drive and open its Properties. Click on Disk Cleanup. This will list the files which can be safely deleted from the C:\ drive. Click on Clean up system files to show the system files which are safe to delete. Here you will see some data that can be cleared off.

              Check all of the options listed here and then click OK. This will delete the Windows.old folder and other useless stuff. Re-run the Windows setup now. You won’t see the error this time.

  6. Hi utkarsh! I will try this out and let you know as soon as I do it, thanks a bunch once more.

  7. This worked for me like a charm. However I did this from an account with an Admin rights and didn’t go to the ‘Safe Mode’. Thanks a Lot.

    1. I’m happy to help.

  8. Hey utkarsh, no luck…since i cant log in i dont have administrator permission to delete certain folders like $Windows.~BT….Also, i dont fully understand the bootable USB drive link you posted, dont really know which linux distribution to choose. I only tried the windows tool but it keeps saying that the “setup couldn’t start properly. Please reboot your PC and try running windows 10 Setup again”. 🙁

    1. The only solution to this would be to reinstall Windows 10 on your PC. If you don’t want to lose your files use a Linux distro like Ubuntu and boot into it. You can then copy all your files to a thumb drive for backup.

      Download Ubuntu then make a bootable USB drive.

      You can use that USB drive to browse files on your PC. Howtogeek has this nice article for this purpose. Check it out.

      Let me know how this goes.

      1. I already saved all my files on an EHD, is there a different solution that he one above or should just try that one?

        1. Since your files are saved, just reinstall Windows on your PC.

          1. That´s exactly what I´ve been trying to do with all your help…However, the advance setting option is still gone, if i try to install it from the microsoft web page i get the “setup couldn’t start properly. Please reboot your PC and try running windows 10 Setup again” error, and when trying to use the bootable usb fix mention above, it doesn’t recognize the ISO file downloaded from the microsoft page. This has been a very painful process, i have no normal access to my PC, i keep bothering you (im very thankful for all your help btw), and there´s still no solution in sight, i keep bumping into a different error every time i try something new.
            Any way to just kill the PC and re install windows? i dont care about files or programs, i just want to regain control over my laptop once more.

            1. To reinstall Windows, you will need to download the ISO for the OS.

              Use it to create a bootable USB drive. Once the bootable USB is made, insert it into your PC and restart it. Windows setup will start automatically. From there, you can install the fresh version. Use this video to get guidance for the setup.

              Try this and let me know how that goes.

  9. original solution for repairing cant sign in did not work for me either.

  10. how can I install windows update, if I can’t even open the settings?
    I can’t do anything to my pc, pls help if anyone can

    1. What problem are you having in opening the Settings app? Please tell me more.

  11. I get to the start up settings menu but there isn’t a way to choose enable safe mode? The options aren’t numbered just bulletpointed.. Pressing f4 does nothing for me.

    1. If they show as bullet points, then just click on the Restart button on the lower-right of the screen. Windows 10 will start in the safe boot mode.

      1. OK thankyou, I will try this

        1. Let me know how that goes. Good luck.

  12. Ok, so I’ve been reading and following step by step instructions on finding your files and the whole cannot log into account. So now I have found my files under my profile. Do I delete the temp one or just leave it?

    1. Leave it. Windows will clear all the unnecessary files automatically.

      1. I think I messed up again because it keeps telling me I cant sign into account and now I get a pop up for onedrive so Im not sure what I have done wrong. Can you help please?

        1. Can you show me what the popup for OneDrive says?

  13. Hi utkarsh. I followed your instructions (twice, just in case I missed a step) but still get the “We can’t sign in to your account” popup. Have you found another fix? I see I am not alone with the current fix failing. I will continue to search online for a fix which doesn’t require a windows re-install – I would rather not loose my settings etc. I do appreciate your posting help, even though it didn’t fix my problem.

    1. I apologize, but I’m not aware of anything else that is a fix for Windows 10’s restarting problem. I have looked around a lot. The ‘fix’ in this article works for some people, while does not for others. If you find anything yourself, please let me know. I’d be grateful.

      One thing, though. It might be useful for you to use the Windows 10’s ISO to repair your OS.

  14. How do I fix some problems with my new PC?

    I have a relatively recent PC with Windows ten built in. I activated it with a digital license using the key provided. The first issue I encountered was about a day after I got it. I typed in my password, which I know is correct, (I typed in one I knew was incorrect and it did not let me progress further.) and after it said “preparing windows” popped up and said, “we can’t log into your account” . So following their advice, I logged out and back in numerous times. None worked. I then went into safe mode and tried to install updates. It got to 100%, then at the last moment, said it couldn’t install them and had to undo everything. I tried it twice and had the same result. So, defeated, I tried logging in again and it didnt work. I want to, if I can, find a solution to these problems. Keep in mind I cannot use an application to aid me because all I have is a temporary account. Thank you for your time.

    1. You should boot in Safe mode and then try the steps in the post. Are you having any problems going through them?

      Check if you can log into your PC using the safe mode. Most probably, you should. Make a list of all the updates that are failing on your PC. Do that by going to Settings > Update & Security > Windows Update > Update History.

      Once you know which updates are failing to install, go to Windows Update Catalog and manually download them. Install the updates and then restart your PC. After all, this is done, check if you can log into your PC.

      1. It always runs into the same problem. The update simply will not install, so it has to undo everything, leaving me back at square one.

        1. I think that something is messed up in your PC. Try resetting Windows.

          Edit: Clean your SoftwareDistribution and Downloaded Installations Folders. After doing that, download the update from the Update catalog that I linked in the previous comment and install it. Everything should then install normally.

  15. I’ve gotten as far as finding the profile with the %systemprofile% under Data but I can’t see where to access anything further. Help!

    1. Found it! And like one of the earlier posters, they were already set but once I pressed ok and restarted, it works.. Thank you for putting the time into helping! Makes a huge difference to semi techie folk like me!

  16. Hey, I have a problem with the Safe Mode. Even if I enable the Safe mode my pc requires user and password. Any suggestions?

    1. Oh man, without the password, you can’t do anything. If you can, try resetting your PC. If you want to backup your files, read this comment.

      1. I think I need a password for an administrator. eventhough I set value of variable State (or whatever it is) to 0 using non-admin profile in safe mode, after restarting pc the value of State was set to 8000 again (default value).

      2. Thanks anyway.

  17. This worked for me for the first time. But then I again tried to install the updates, the installation failed,and I’m back to where I started. Now the values are those that I changed them to. Typing them again didn’t help.

    Would it cause some undesired effects if I got the RefBack to 1, restarted in Safe Mode, and changed it to 0 again?

    I don’t know what to do…

    1. There won’t be any undesired effects. Try it out.

      1. Utkarsh, thank you for all the help. It worked, but it seems that this is just a temporary solution, since it all happens all over again after a few restarts. And then you have to do all this all over again. Has Microsoft given any official information about this?

        Would it be possible to, and this is something I’m seeing on a few Web sites, to create a new profile and just copy this profile’s files into the new one *without losing anything*? How can it be done?

        1. Yeah, unfortunately, this is just a temporary ‘fix,’ or should I say a ‘workaround’ to the sign in problem. We all can only wish that Microsoft can acknowledge this problem and push a fix for it.

          And, yeah, you can make a new profile on your PC and copy the old one’s data to the new one. You won’t lose your data if you don’t delete your stuff. I have explained this to someone else previously..

          But, you if you can’t sign into Windows, then that won’t be of any help. If your data is important enough, then you’ll need to use Linux to access your files.

          You’ll need a USB drive, and Linux Mint (or whatever Linux flavour you want). Make the USB bootable using the Universal USB Installer and boot with it.

          Here’s a video that might help you.

          Feel free to ask any questions.

  18. I tried this as well, didn’t work, still get logged into a guest-account when trying to login. The weird part is that if I go to my desktop using This PC and Local Disk H I find everything that I used to have on my account, everything I had on my desktop, nothing is lost. I just can’t sign into my Microsoft Account. Have tried practically everything suggested on the web, and I am at a loss here.

    1. Try repairing your PC. After it is repaired, don’t sign-in with your Windows account. Use a local account. That way, you won’t ever require entering your password again. Although Windows does allow you to set a password for your local account, it won’t be linked online.
      I guess, repairing your PC oughta’ be enough.

  19. I also have the can’t sign-in to your account error. Does running a chkdsk /f/r help? I’m curre tly doing it and hope it works. If not, I’ll try the steps mentioned above.

    1. The chkdsk utility is for checking hard drive errors on your PC. Won’t do any good in this case.

  20. Hi Utkarsh, so it might just be a coincidence, since after utilizing chkdsk /f/r, i was able to login to my account. But to be safe, I went ahead and run CMD as administrator and run REGEDIT, there, i changed the value of RefCount from 1 to 0 (as when I checked, the default value was 1). So far, no issues yet. I kept on monitoring the value of the RefCount whenever I use my laptop though.

    Anyways, thanks for the very details steps.

    1. You got lucky, I guess. Good luck with your PC. :p

  21. This worked. Thank you Utkarsh. I wish I had any semblance of an idea as to why this happened, or why Windows 10 keeps failing us in so many ways. Gonna have to learn how to dual boot to Linux soon because I can’t deal with this shit anymore. It sucks because my university requires that we use Microsoft applications (such as Visual Studio).

    1. I’ glad that this article helped you. And, yeah, you can try dual booting Windows and Linux. It takes a little work. But things generally go smooth these days. If you get any problems in dual booting, feel free to contact me.

  22. THANK YOU. The original info worked after I set value to 0 from 1 as an Administrator and RESTARTED (not shut down) the PC. Much appreciated!

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