Related Technologies: Offline Files and Synchronization Manager

Applies To: Windows Server 2003, Windows Server 2003 R2, Windows Server 2003 with SP1, Windows Server 2003 with SP2

This section highlights technologies that complement the Folder Redirection feature.

Offline Files

Offline Files is a feature introduced in Windows 2000 that complements Folder Redirection. Offline Files let users disconnect from the network and work as if they were still connected. When the computer is offline, the files and folders appear in the same directory as they did online as if they still resided in the same location on the network. This allows the user to edit files when they are disconnected. The next time they connect to the network, the offline changes are synchronized with the network share.

By using Offline Files, users can continue to work with a copy of network files even when they are not connected to a network. If your organization has mobile users with portable computers, Offline Files gives them access to their files when they are not connected to the network, and ensures that they are always working with the current version of network files. By using a cached version of the files, users can open and update files even when they are not connected to the network. Offline Files stores the data in the computer's cache to make network files available offline. The cache is a portion of disk space that a computer accesses when it is not connected to the network. The view of shared network items that you have made available offline remains as it is when connected, even if users lose a connection to the network or they remove a portable computer from the docking station. Users can continue to work with the Offline Files as they normally do when online. Users have the same access permissions to those files and folders as when they are connected to the network. When users dock a portable computer and the network connection is restored, any changes they made while working offline are updated to the network.

If two users on the network make changes to the same file, they can save their version of the file to the network, or keep the other user's version, or save both.

Shared files or folders on a Windows Server 2003 or Windows XP-based network can be available offline. You can also make files available for offline use from any computer that is sharing files using server message blockbased file and printer sharing, including Windows 2000, Windows 95, Windows 98, and Windows NT 4.0.


The Offline Files feature is not available on Novell NetWare networks.

When configuring a shared folder, you have the option of choosing whether all the files in the folder are automatically available offline, or whether a user must explicitly mark a file to be available offline.

Offline Files is a completely stand-alone technology, which means that you don't need to pair it with Folder Redirection and set up and configure network shares, but it works well if you do pair the two technologies. For example, if a shortcut to a file is available offline, that file is made available offline, but if a shortcut to a folder is available offline, the contents of that folder are not available offline. If you pair the two technologies, Offline Files and Folder Redirection, both the shortcut and the folder are available offline.

By using the manual caching for documents, users manually specify any files that they want available when they are working offline. Automatic caching for documents is recommended for folders that contain user documents. Opened files are automatically downloaded and made available when users work offline. Older copies of the files are automatically deleted to make room for newer and more recently accessed files. The automatic caching of programs is used for folders with read-only data or run-from-the-network applications. To ensure proper file sharing, the server version of the file is always opened.

Synchronization Manager

When using Offline Files and folders, users can synchronize all network resources by using the Synchronization Manager. The Synchronization Manager can be set to automatically synchronize some or all resources. For example, users can set certain files and folders to be synchronized every time they log on or off the network. The Synchronization Manager quickly scans the system for any changes, and if it detects changes, the resources are automatically updated. Only resources that have changed are updated vastly speeding up the synchronization process.