Windows User State Virtualization – Part 6: USV Frequently Asked Questions

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The following are some frequently asked questions concerning Windows USV technologies such as Folder Redirection (FR), Roaming User Profiles (RUP) and Offline Files. Also included are general questions concerning user profiles.

Questions concerning User Profiles

Q. Since Windows XP user profiles are incompatible with Windows Vista and later profiles, how can you enable users of Windows XP computers to access their data from computers running Windows Vista or later?

A. There are two supported ways you can do this:

  • You can use User State Migration Tool (USMT) to migrate profile data to the new format.
  • You can use FR to share data between v1 and v2 profiles.

For more info see Support guidelines for migrating roaming user profiles data to Windows Vista or to Windows Server 2008.

Questions concerning Folder Redirection

Q. How does the Recycle Bin work when a folder such as My Documents is redirected to a network share using FR?

A. Windows Vista and higher implement a Recycle Bin for all redirected folders. When My Documents or some other known folder is redirected, the size of the Recycle Bin for this folder defaults to a percentage of the disk volume on the redirection server. This size can be manually adjusted in 1 percent increments.

Q. How can you recover a corrupted user profile?

A. Recreate the profile. Windows user profiles do not support rollback, backup or diagnostics to prevent, manage or notify concerning profile corruption.

Q. Can redirected user data be stored on the same server where you store roaming profiles?

A. This is not a good idea because FR and RUP employ different mechanisms for determining whether the server where the redirected user data or roaming profiles are available or not. You should therefore use different servers for storing redirected user data and roaming profiles.

Q. Can I pre-create redirected folders on a server before implementing FR?

A. This is not a good idea as it can lead to duplicate redirected folders.

Questions concerning Roaming User Profiles

Q. What are some examples of third-party applications that store large amounts of data in the user’s profile but not in the AppData\Roaming folder?

A. I’ve been told (but haven’t verified) that two examples of such applications are Google Earth and Google Picassa. If such applications are used in a RUP environment, slow logon/logoff times may result for users.

Q. Can you access a roaming user profile concurrently from two client machines?

A. There is nothing in Windows that prevents you from doing this, however doing so may lead to unexpected results. That’s because RUP uses “last writer wins” so whichever machine you log off from last will determine the user settings you see when you next log on to a machine.

Q. I’ve tried implementing RUP/FR with the AppData\Roaming folder redirected, and tried implementing RUP/FR without redirecting the AppData\Roaming folder, but I still get unpredictable results with certain applications when users roam and access these applications from different machines. What should I do?

A. Consider using some other technology for delivering applications to users, such as:

Q. I don’t like the fact that Windows Vista and later allow a user to access the root of their user profile from the Start menu. How can I prevent users from storing files in the root of their profile folder?

A. You can’t. In particular, don’t try modifying NTFS permissions on the user’s root profile folder as this can cause unpredictable results. Educate users instead and tell them that any files they store in their root profile folder won’t be redirected to the network file server and therefore won’t be backed up.

Q. Can I encrypt roaming profile folders using EFS?

A. No, EFS isn’t compatible with RUP.

Questions concerning Offline Files

Q. What is the default threshold for determining whether the network is slow as regards to Offline Files?

A. The default threshold for network latency is 80ms. This can be configured using the Computer Configuration\Administrative Templates\Network\ Offline Files\Configure Slow-Link Mode policy setting.

Q. When might you consider disabling Offline Files in a Folder Redirection environment?

A. There are at least three scenarios where you might consider doing this:

  • In hot-desking environments where users share a pool of computers.
  • In a virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) environments when redirected data is stored on a remote file server that is accessed over a slow WAN link.
  • When your security policy requires that user data must not leave the datacenter.

Q. What are the possible impacts of disabling Offline Files in a Folder Redirection environment?

A. Users won’t be able to search for content in their data folders unless indexing is enabled on the server (when using Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008).

Q. Can we use Offline Files as a backup solution for safeguarding user data.

A. This is not a good idea because if a user accidentally deletes a file from a redirection server, the Offline Files synchronization mechanism will also delete the locally cached copy of the file from the user’s computer. So be sure to centrally back up user data stored on redirection servers.

Additional Resources on Windows USV Technologies and Solutions

A good place to start when planning a Windows USV solution for your organization is the recently released Infrastructure Planning and Design (IPD) guide for Windows USV which can be downloaded from here.

The best guide for implementing USV is the Managing Roaming User Data Deployment Guide. Unfortunately this guide was written during the Windows Vista timeframe and has not yet been updated for Windows 7, but it’s still full of lots of useful information.

Mid- to large-sized organizations looking to implement Folder Redirection with Offline Files can benefit from the following whitepaper: Implementing an End-User Data Centralization Solution – Folder Redirection and Offline Files Technology Validation and Deployment. This whitepaper is basically a case study that walks you through the details of building a robust and reliable FR/OF infrastructure. You can download it from here.

Finally, be sure to check out my new Facebook page where I post updates to books and articles I’ve written plus links to other useful information for IT pros.

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