What's New in Folder Redirection and User Profiles

Applies To: Windows 7

The Windows® operating system provides two technologies to provide users with a consistent user experience, regardless of where the user is logged on. These technologies are Folder Redirection and user profiles. This document discusses the improvements to these technologies and how to customize default user profiles.

Folder Redirection   Windows 7 improves first-time Folder Redirection performance by optimizing the behavior between Folder Redirection and Offline Files. This reduces logon time over slow network connections, because the operating system synchronizes redirected folder data in the background.

User profiles   Windows 7 enables administrators to configure background uploading of roaming user profile registry data to a server while the user remains logged on to the computer. Windows 7 also changes the how administrators customize default user profiles.

For a downloadable version of this document, see What’s New in Folder Redirection and User Profiles in the Microsoft Download Center (https://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkId=184846).

Folder Redirection improvements in Windows 7

The Folder Redirection feature in the Windows operating system allows administrators to redirect user folders such as Documents, Pictures, or Music to shared folders that are hosted on servers. Folder Redirection is used in conjunction with the Offline Files technology to ensure that the user’s data is available when the network connection to the server that is hosting a redirected folder becomes latent or unavailable.

When the network connection is slow or unavailable, Offline Files routes requests for the user folders that are stored on the server to the local computer cache. Users read and write from their local cache. Offline Files synchronizes new and changed files and folders from the local computer cache to the server when the network becomes available or in the background when the connection is slow.

The first time a user logs on, Offline Files moves all files and folders from their current location to the local cache. Then, Offline Files synchronizes the data from the local cache with the redirected user folder on the server. The user is blocked from logging on to the computer during this task.

In earlier versions of the Windows operating system, redirected user folders that contained large amounts of data or a large number of files and folders could cause delays with the user logon process, increasing the time before the user could reach the desktop. This delay could become significant when the network connection between the user’s computer and the server was slow, because the Windows operating system did not present the user’s desktop until the file synchronization between the client and server completed.

Windows 7 optimizes the first-time logon process with Folder Redirection. Windows 7 presents the user’s desktop as soon as the files are moved to the Offline Files cache. The user is allowed to log on, and Offline Files in Windows 7 synchronizes the data between the local computer and the server in the background. Background synchronization decreases the time that the user waits for the desktop and reduces the amount of network utilization.

For more information about Offline Files, see What's New in Offline Files in the Windows Server® TechCenter (https://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkId=184746).

User profile improvements in Windows 7

Windows 7 changes the way roaming user profile registry data is uploaded and how default user profiles are customized.

Uploading roaming user profile registry data

Earlier versions of Windows uploaded roaming user profile registry data only when the user was logged off the computer. Therefore, changes that were stored in the user’s registry were not visible from concurrent domain logons from other computers or remote servers.

By default, Windows 7 uploads roaming user profile data the same as earlier versions of Windows—during user logoff, Windows uploads the roaming user profile data to the server. However, Windows 7 uses the computer-based Group Policy setting, Background upload of roaming user profile’s registry file while user is logged on, to configure the User Profile service to upload roaming user profile registry data in the background while the user remains logged on to the computer.

Administrators can configure background uploads in two ways—at a specific time during the day or at a specific time interval. With either setting, there is a possible one-hour delay to load balance when the actual upload occurs. For example, an upload that is scheduled to occur at 3:00 P.M. actually occurs between 3:00 P.M. and 4:00 P.M. An upload schedule to occur every six hours actually occurs between six and seven hours.

Customizing default user profiles

Windows creates a new user profile when a user logs on to the computer for the first time. Each new user profile originates from one of the following default user profiles:

  • Default Local User Profile. Workgroup computers (that is, computers that are not joined to the domain) always use their Default Local User Profile. Windows stores the Default Local User Profile in the hidden folder named %SYSTEMDRIVE%\Users\Default.

  • Default Network User Profile. Computers that are joined to the domain base new user profiles on the Default Network User Profile (when the administrator has configured one for the domain). The Default Network User Profile is stored in the NETLOGON shared folder, which is hosted by all domain controllers in the domain.


Creating a Default Network User Profile involves copying large amounts of data to the NETLOGON shared folder of a domain controller. This increases file replication traffic among domain controllers. Reserve default network profile creation for off-peak hours.


  • A Default Network User Profile is optional. Windows 7 uses the Local Default User Profile when it cannot locate a Default Network User Profile.

  • User profiles that are created with Windows Server 2003 or Windows XP are not compatible with Windows 7.

  • Earlier versions of the Windows operating system allowed administrators to customize default user profiles. Windows 7 continues to provide this functionality. However, accomplishing this requires following a different process.

    Previously, an administrator logged on to a reference computer as a newly created reference user, customized the default user profile, and then logged off as the user. The administrator then logged back on as a local administrator to overwrite the default user profile with the customized profile.

    There are some issues with this process. Many times a live user account is used to customize a default user profile, not a reference user account. A user’s profile stores information that is private to the user, and copying this information to a customized default user profile essentially distributes this information to all users whose user profile originates from this profile.

    Windows 7 removes personal information from the user profile. Administrators can customize the default user profile; however, the generalization process and copying the user profile is completed by using sysprep.exe.


    The generalization process includes preparing the profile to run Active Setup during the first logon session. The generalization process or Active Setup can remove some customizations. Consider using scripts or Group Policy to continue the customization process.

    The sysprep.xml file contains a number of settings that administrators can use to deploy Windows 7. The generalization and copy processes occur when the CopyProfile element is set to True.

    For more information, see the Windows Automated Installation Kit (https://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkID=153774) on Microsoft® TechNet.


    Customizing the Default Local User Profile must take place on a clean installation of Windows 7. Do not use an upgraded installation to customize the Default Local User Profile.

    Preparing the default user profiles

    The following procedures explain how to prepare a Default Local User Profile and a Default Network User Profile. Administrators and users with computers running Windows 7 can use these default profiles to create new user profiles.

    To customize a Default Local User Profile

    1. Log on to a computer running the Windows 7 operating system by using a local administrator account.

    2. Customize the user experience as needed. For example, customizations might include the Desktop settings, Start menu options, or Favorites.

    3. Copy and paste the sample .xml file from Appendix A into a text editor. Save the file with the name copyprofile.xml.

    4. Open an elevated command prompt, and type the following:


      Press ENTER, and then type the following:

      Sysprep.exe /oobe /reboot /generalize /unattend:<file path>\copyprofile.xml

      Press ENTER.

    5. Sysprep shuts down the computer when the process completes.


    The /generalize argument is required when using the CopyProfile element. The /unattend argument points to the desired .xml file.

    To turn the Default Local User Profile into a Default Network User Profile

    1. Log on to the computer that contains the customized Local Default User Profile by using administrative credentials.

    2. Click Start. In Search programs and files, type the name of the shared NETLOGON folder for a domain controller (for example, \\DomainControllerName\NETLOGON), and then press ENTER.

    3. Create a new folder, and name the folder Default User.v.2.

    4. Click Start, right-click Computer, and then click Properties.

    5. Click Advanced System Settings, and under User Profiles, click Settings.

      Figure 1    User profile list in Windows 7

    6. The User Profiles dialog box shows a list of profiles that are stored on the computer. Click Default Profile, and then click Copy To.

    7. In the Copy profile to text box, type the network path and folder name that you created in step 3. For example, the network path in the contoso.com domain is \\HQ-CON-DC-01\NETLOGON\Default User.v.2.

    8. Click Change. Type Everyone, and then click OK.

    9. Click OK to copy the Default Local User Profile to the specified path.

    10. Close all remaining windows and log off the computer when the copying process completes.

    Appendix A

    Sample sysprep.xml file for a 32-bit version of Windows 7:

    <settings pass="specialize">
    <component name="Microsoft-Windows-Shell-Setup" processorArchitecture="x86" publicKeyToken="31bf3856ad364e35" language="neutral" versionScope="nonSxS">
     <cpi:offlineImage cpi:source="catalog:c:\flat\install_windows 7 enterprise.clg"/>

    Sample sysprep.xml file for 64-bit version of Windows 7:

    <settings pass="specialize">
    <component name="Microsoft-Windows-Shell-Setup" processorArchitecture="amd64" publicKeyToken="31bf3856ad364e35" language="neutral" versionScope="nonSxS">
     <cpi:offlineImage cpi:source="catalog:c:\flat\install_windows 7 enterprise.clg"/>