English isn't my first language, and I'm very into website programming and this has been bugging me for a pretty long time: what's the difference between "account" and "profile"?

1 Answer 1


The simplest way to think about these two terms is perhaps,

  • to think of a user account as the user himself or herself, and
  • to think of his or her profile as information about that user.

Sometimes the two terms are somewhat overlapped.

From Wikipedia,

A user is a person who uses a computer or network service. A user often has a user account and is identified by a username (also user name). Other terms for username include login name, screen name (also screenname), nickname (also nick), or handle, ...

A user profile is a visual display of personal data associated with a specific user, or a customized desktop environment. A profile refers therefore to the explicit digital representation of a person's identity. A user profile can also be considered as the computer representation of a user model. A profile can be used to store the description of the characteristics of person. This information can be exploited by systems taking into account the persons' characteristics and preferences.

From Microsoft,
(this is specific to Windows operating system, but the concept is similar to user account and user profile in web programming)

A user account is a collection of information that tells Windows which files and folders you can access, what changes you can make to the computer, and your personal preferences, such as your desktop background or screen saver. User accounts let you share a computer with several people, while having your own files and settings. Each person accesses his or her user account with a user name and password.

Your user profile is a collection of settings that make the computer look and work the way you want it to. It contains your settings for desktop backgrounds, screen savers, pointer preferences, sound settings, and other features. User profiles ensure that your personal preferences are used whenever you log on to Windows.

A user profile is different from a user account, which you use to log on to Windows. Each user account has at least one user profile associated with it.

(emphasis added)

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