Working with Roaming User Profiles (Corporate Administrators)


The roaming user profiles feature allows multiple users to use a single installation of Internet Explorer while retaining unique individual settings for each user. This feature also allows settings to follow a user to another computer. Corporate administrators should consider how best to configure roaming user profiles for network configuration and user needs.

If a network is used, user profiles can roam. This means that the user's copy of User.dat is stored on a central server and downloaded to any workstation that the user logs on to. This way, users can see the same environment no matter what workstation they use. It also allows administrators to have central control over individual user settings.

Internet Explorer and the Internet Explorer Customization wizard include options for caching temporary Internet files. These options can be useful when you are using roaming user profiles on a network. If you do not use these options, all temporary Internet files are copied to the user's profile folder when the user logs off. The temporary Internet files are then copied back to the local computer the next time the user logs on. This can be time-consuming and can use a lot of server space.

Caching Options

You can use a caching option in Internet Explorer to delete all cached Internet files when a user quits the browser. This option does not delete cookie information. Cookie information (which is usually small) is copied when the profile is saved. To set this option in the browser, carry out the following procedure:

Cc939856.prcarrow(en-us,TechNet.10).gifTo set caching options in Internet Explorer

  1. On the Tools menu in Internet Explorer, click Internet Options .

  2. Click the Advanced tab.

  3. In the Security area, select the Empty Temporary Internet Files folder when browser is closed check box.

You can also use the System Policies and Restrictions screen of the Internet Explorer Customization wizard or the Internet Restrictions screen of the IEAK Profile Manager to set this option before deployment. In the Security area, select the Delete saved pages when browser closed check box.

Understanding Roaming Profiles

The Personalized Item Settings dialog box in Control Panel can control the content and settings saved on a per-user basis. This control is especially useful for conserving disk space and for avoiding excessive network traffic. Even if a server might have unlimited disk space to store content, it is not always practical for content in a profile to pass back and forth between the server and a client. Thus, to minimize the amount of data stored in profiles, you can specify personalized item settings as follows:

  • Desktop folder and Documents menu - If the Active Desktop is part of the corporate installation, this setting can be left on.

  • Start Menu and Program folders - Because these folders are dependent on the programs installed in a standard corporate installation, this setting can be turned off.

  • Favorites folder - This setting should be left on so that users can maintain a personal Favorites list.

  • Downloaded Web pages - This setting affects the Temporary Internet Files folder, which contains Cookies and History. If strict size limitations are necessary, this setting can be left on, but in most cases it can be left off.

  • My Documents folder - Network traffic can be minimized if this setting is turned off and a network share is used for document storage.

If roaming profiles are already enabled on a computer, installing Internet Explorer does not automatically move the new folders to the profile. You need to select the items from the User Profiles Manager by clicking the Users icon in Control Panel in Windows. If you run Internet Explorer on Windows NT 4.0, the Users icon does not appear in Control Panel. Windows NT 4.0 either uses a preconfigured profile or creates a local user profile automatically when you log on.

Note Because roaming profiles are handled by the operating system, they are bound by the differences between user profiles for specific operating systems.

Creating User Profiles

Before you can create a user profile, you first need to enable them on the User Profiles tab of the Passwords Properties dialog box (to access this dialog box, click the Passwords icon in Control Panel.)

To create a new profile in Windows, just log on using a user name that is new to the system and, therefore, has no corresponding password list (.pwl) file. The system prompts you to confirm the new user password and asks whether you would like to use global settings or per-user settings.

Instead of logging on with a new user name, you can click the Users icon in Control Panel to run the User Profile wizard, which you can use to add and configure user profiles. This is an alternate user interface for creating a new profile.

Understanding Advanced User Profile Functionality

If a path is stored in the per-user registry, it probably points to a folder with contents that are also per-user. You should consider whether these contents also should roam from one computer to another. Keep in mind that although any file can be made to roam, not all files should. In addition to performance issues when large numbers of files are copied to and from the user's logon server, there are security issues. For example, a user may not want or expect sensitive documents to be copied to any workstation on which they log on and to remain there even after they log off.

You need to be particularly careful with links to programs. Links usually contain hard-coded paths (such as a shortcut to C:\Program Files\Internet Explorer\IExplore.exe), which may not roam well. If you want the contents of a folder full of shortcuts to roam, create shortcuts that don't contain absolute paths.

When working with roaming profiles, there are several ways you can use folder settings:

  • Not per-user - The setting is the same for all users and does not follow the user to other computers.

  • Optionally per-user - The user or network administrator can choose whether users get their own version of the setting. Note that it's possible for this optional configuration to be per-user. That is, either all users get their own version of the setting or none of them do, or some users get their own setting and others use the default.

  • Optionally both per-user and roaming - Either all users get the same setting and the contents do not follow them from computer to computer, or users get their own settings and the contents follow them. This is how the Desktop and Start menus work in Windows 95. Whether a particular user gets a unique copy or uses the default is determined on a per-user basis.

  • Always per-user, optionally roaming - All users on a computer get their own version of the setting, but the contents of the folder do not follow the user to other computers on the network.

  • Always per-user, always roaming - Users each get their own content because their individual content always follows them. This is the way typical per-user registry items work; it is also how the user's Favorites, Cookies, and History folders are expected to work.