Contents of a user profile

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

Contents of a user profile

Every user profile begins as a copy of Default User, which is a default user profile stored on each computer running a Windows Server 2003 family operating system. The NTuser.dat file within Default User contains Windows Server 2003 family configuration settings. Every user profile also uses the common program groups contained in the All Users folder.

The user profile folders contain various items including the desktop and Start menu. The following table lists and describes the contents of each user profile folder.

User profile folder Contents

Application Data

Program-specific data (for example, a custom dictionary). Program vendors decide what data to store in this user profile folder.


User information and preferences.


Desktop items, including files, shortcuts, and folders.


Shortcuts to favorite locations on the Internet.

Local Settings

Application data, history, and temporary files. Application data roams with the user by way of roaming user profiles.

My Documents

User documents and subfolders.

My Recent Documents

Shortcuts to the most recently used documents and accessed folders.


Shortcuts to My Network Places items.


Shortcuts to printer folder items.


Shortcuts to document-handling utilities.

Start Menu

Shortcuts to program items.


User template items.

NTuser.dat file

The NTuser.dat file is the registry portion of the user profile. When a user logs off of the computer, the system unloads the user-specific section of the registry (that is, HKEY_CURRENT_USER) into NTuser.dat and updates it. For more information about the registry, see Registry structure.

All Users folder

Although they are not copied to user profile folders, the settings in the All Users folder are used to create the individual user profiles. The Windows Server 2003 family supports two program group types:

  • Common program groups are always available on a computer, no matter who is logged on.

  • Personal program groups are private to the user who creates them.

Common program groups are stored in the All Users folder under the Documents and Settings folder. The All Users folder also contains per-computer settings for the Desktop and the Start menu.


  • The My Documents, My Pictures, Favorites, Start Menu, and Desktop folders are the only folders displayed in Windows Explorer by default. The NetHood, PrintHood, Local Settings, Recent, and Templates folders are hidden and do not appear in Windows Explorer. To view these folders and their contents in Windows Explorer, on the Tools menu, point to Folder options, click the View tab, and then click Show hidden files and folders.

  • On computers running Windows Server 2003 operating systems with the NTFS file system, only members of the Administrators group can create, delete, or modify the common program groups.