Best Practices for Folder Redirection in User Data and Settings Management

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

To get the best results from using Folder Redirection, it is important that you read the Group Policy documentation and plan your implementation thoroughly, particularly with respect to Group Policy.

To learn more about how Group Policy and Folder Redirection were developed in Windows 2000, see the Windows 2000 Management Services page at

Do not use redirect to home directory option unless you have already deployed home directories in your organization.

Windows Server 2003 allows you to redirect a users My Documents folder to the users home directory. This option is intended only for organizations that have a legacy deployment of home directories and wish to transition users to the My Documents metaphor while maintaining compatibility with their existing home directory environment. You should only select this option if you have already deployed home directories in your organization.

Let the system create folders for each user.

To ensure that Folder Redirection works optimally, create only the root share on the server, and let the system create the folders for each user. If you must create folders for the users, ensure that you have the correct permissions set. See Security Considerations when Configuring Folder Redirection for the permissions required.

Considerations for Group Policy Removal

It is important to consider the behavior of your Folder Redirection policy settings when Group Policy is removed.

You specify policy removal options in the selected folders Properties page, shown in Figure 2 below. This is accessed under the User Configuration\Windows Settings\Folder Redirection node of the Group Policy snap-in by right-clicking a folder, and clicking Properties. See Configuring Folder Redirection.


Table 10 below summarizes what happens to Redirected Folders and their contents when the Group Policy object no longer applies.

Table 10 Summary of Redirected Folders

Folder Properties page settings When policy is removed:  

State of the Move the contents of special folder to the new location option

Setting selected for the Policy Removal option



Redirect the folder back to the user profile location when policy is removed

The special folder returns to its user profile location.

The folder contents are copied back to the user profile location.

The contents are not deleted from the redirected location.

The user can continue to access the contents, but only on the local computer.


Redirect the folder back to the user profile location when policy is removed

The special folder returns to its user profile location.

In this case, the folder contents are not copied or moved to the user profile location. As a result, the user can no longer see the contents.

Either Enabled or Disabled

Leave the folder in the new location when policy is removed

The special folder remains at its redirected location.

The contents remain at the redirected location.

The user continues to have access to the contents at the redirected folder.


Changing the redirection option to Not Configured does not redirect the folder to the local profile, this option means that Folder Redirection is not configured if a folder was previously redirected it will continue to be redirected to the previous location. If an administrator wished to return the folder to the local user profile they should use the Redirect to the local user profile setting.

Use Offline Folder settings on a server share where the users data is stored.

This is especially useful for users with laptops. In particular, redirected folders of any type should be coupled with Offline Files.

Table 11 below details the recommended configuration to use for Offline Files.

Table 11 Recommended Configuration for Offline Files

Redirected Folder Recommended Offline Folder Settings

My Documents

Auto-caching for documents or manual caching for documents (if you want users to have to manually make files and folders available offline).

My Pictures

Auto-caching for documents or manual caching for documents (if you want users to have to manually make files and folders available offline).

Application Data

Auto-caching for programs.


Auto-caching for programs if the desktop is read only.

Always enable the Synchronize all offline files before logging off Group Policy setting.

Enabling this setting ensures that offline files are fully synchronized and that all the files in the users redirected folder are available when they are working offline. If this setting is not enabled, the system only performs a quick synchronization, and as a result only recently used files will be cached.

Have My Pictures follow My Documents.

It is recommended that you configure the My Pictures folder to follow the My Documents folder, unless you have a compelling reason not to.

In general, accept the Default Settings for Folder Redirection.

If you are storing roaming profiles on the same server as Offline Files is enabled, Redirected Folders ensure that Offline Files are set to synchronize at logon and logoff.

When a share is unavailable, Offline Files considers the whole server to be unavailable until the offline cache is manually synchronized. Roaming profiles will not be synchronized with the server while Offline Folders considers the server to be unavailable. If you are using Offline Files in conjunction with Folder Redirection and roaming user profiles, for the best performance you should ensure that you leave the default setting of synchronizing Offline Files at logoff enabled.

Do not open multiple instances of Outlook 2000 when redirecting the Application Data folder.

If a user has redirected Application Data and has multiple instances of the Outlook 2000 messaging and collaboration client running on different machines, and one of those instances is Outlook 2000, the user will experience poor performance opening e-mails. Outlook 2000 continually holds the file outcmd.dat open. This file stores information about toolbar customizations (such as position) made in Outlook. When another instance of Outlook attempts to access this file, it cannot do so since it is locked by the running instance of Outlook 2000. The second copy of Outlook keeps trying to access outcmd.dat many times, which causes a long delay when opening messages, replying to messages, and so on.


Outlook version 2002 (included in Office XP) doesn't hold outcmd.dat openthis is only a problem when running Outlook 2000 on one of the machines.