Redefining Map Drives and Speeding up User Logins

Issue #965 of our weekly newsletter WServerNews included a tip by reader Joseph Moody and is aimed at IT admins that still have traditional file servers and how they can resolve some of the issues associated with using drive mappings. Here is what Joseph said:

My users love to complain about login times. I am sure that I am not alone in this. The faster their phones and tablets get, the more ancient our desktops seem to be. I tried explaining that desktops do more than a mobile device. At login, their settings are being customized, printers are being installed, and network drives are being mapped. To appease the masses, I started investigating some slower logons.

Most of the time, a logon takes just over a minute. By using the Group Policy Operational Event logs (available on Vista+ machines), I can see which Client Side Extension (CSE) is eating up the logon. For us, drive mappings were the culprit. The screenshot below shows one particularly bad logon where Drive Mappings took 42 seconds to finish!

By redefining how our users connect to these legacy shares and streamlining certain policies, I was able to significantly reduce logons. Here is what I did:

Trim the Fat First!

The ultimate way to speed up the Drive Mappings CSE is to stop using mapped drives. For the most part, my users won’t let me make such a radical shift so quickly. There are ways to speed up processing without major changes though.

First, I needed to get a list of all GPOs containing Group Policy Drive Maps. In the Group Policy Management Console, I can right click on my domain name (Test.local) and select search. From here, I can create a list of all GPOs containing a certain CSE.

I saw that many of my drive mappings were set to Replace instead of Create or Update. Changing these to Create can speed up login times.

I also noticed that many drive mappings pointed to specific sub-folders within a central folder. For example, we had a folder named HR Data but had separate drive mappings for the five sub-folders. By replacing those mappings with a single top level one, machines processed 4 fewer preferences! These changes took 15 seconds off the average initial logon!

Using Alternative Ways

Some of our departments are more tech savvy than others. We are testing alternative mappings for these users in an effort to further decrease logon times. One promising method is by using the Favorites location in Windows Explorer.

The items in this pane are stored within %UserProfile%\Links. I am redirecting this folder (with a .3 second logon impact) to a network share. By using PowerShell, I can prepopulate this folder with “mapped drives” based on security groups!

When using the Links folder this way, certain departments have zero mapped drives! This means faster logons and helps shift how our users use resources. Our ultimate goal is to convert all of our legacy drive mappings into background driven connections (like you see above)! Now I just need a way to make my printer connections faster.

The above tip was previously published in an issue of WServerNews, a weekly newsletter from TechGenix that focuses on the administration, management and security of the Windows Server platform in particular and cloud solutions in general. Subscribe to WServerNews today by going to http://www.wservernews.com/subscribe.htm and join almost 100,000 other IT professionals around the world who read our newsletter!

Mitch Tulloch is an eleven-time recipient of the Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP) award and a widely recognized expert on Windows Server and cloud computing technologies.  Mitch is also Senior Editor of WServerNews. For more information about him see http://www.mtit.com.

 

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