How Windows User Profiles Work

When you login to a CSE Labs Windows computer for the first time, a user profile is created. This profile is linked to your account and your user environment remains consistent across log on sessions. For example, when you save a file to your desktop on Computer A, then log on to Computer B, you will see that desktop document that you saved on Computer A. Configuration settings that you set for many applications will also be saved to your profile and allow for a consistent experience.

The user profile consists of two parts. The “roaming profile and “redirected folders”.

Roaming Profile

The roaming profile contains user registry settings and applications configuration data. The server data is download on log on to c:\Users\<username> and during the session all modifications are made to the local copy. At log off the session changes are uploaded to the server. Because the server copy is only synched at log off network interruptions or race conditions caused by logging off multiple machines simultaneously can lead to unexpected results. If the server profile can’t load a log on a “Temp” profile is loaded and a warning pop up is displayed. Changes made to the “Temp” profile are not saved.

Redirected Folders

Folder Redirection is a client side technology that provides the ability to change the target location of predetermined folders (such as Desktop, Downloads, Documents) found within the user profile. This redirection is transparent and provides consistent way of saving data, regardless of storage location. Folder Redirection provides a way to remove data from the roaming profile. This division of data decreases user logon times, and the local client downloads less data. The redirected folders are stored at a central location, giving the user immediate access to their data when they save it, regardless of the computer they are using. This immediate access removes the need to update the user profile at logoff which makes the user profile less volatile making data loss due to profile issues less likely.

Location of roaming profile and redirected folders

The roaming profile data is stored in \\profiles.cselabs.umn.edu\profiles and the Redirected Folder data  is stored in \\files.umn.edu\cse\UmSavedocs.

What is redirected

  • Contacts

  • Desktop

  • Downloads

  • Favorites

  • Links

  • My Documents

  • My Music (follows My Documents)

  • My Pictures (follows My Documents)

  • My Videos (follows My Documents)

  • Saved Games

  • Searches

  • Start Menu

How the Profile is created

Because the user profile process is dependent on the application of policies that are read at log on it may take some time and possibly more than one session before the profile is fully functional. Changes made during this process will be saved and the modifications should be for the most part transparent to the user.

At first login:

  • The profile is created locally on the client.