Windows User Profiles

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Windows User Profiles

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A Microsoft Windows user profile describes the Windows configuration for a specific user, including the user's environment and preference settings.

The user profile contains those settings and configuration options specific to the user, such as installed applications, desktop icons, and color options. This profile is built in part from System Policy information (for example, those things that a user has access to and those things that the user can and cannot change) and in part from customizations a user makes to their Windows Desktop and configuration.


Profiles FAQ
Windows SteadyState
User Profile Hive Cleanup Service
How to Create a Custom Default User Profile

Default User Profile

The default user profile is normally the hidden folder: C:\Documents and Settings\Default User.

The default user profile is a 'skeleton' profile with basic settings to be used by all newly-created user profiles. New user profiles will be greated the first time a user logs inta a particular Windows machine (unless roaming profiles are used and a roaming profile exists for the user).

If there are numerous identical configuration changes for a particular machine that will be needed by all users of that machine, consider customizing the default user profile.

Roaming Profiles

Roaming profiles are normally used in domain-based networks. They generally permit a user to move from one workstation to another wile maintaining all or most of his customized settings and documents.  Imagine that your workstation hard drive just failed...

Roaming profiles use the file NTUSER.DAT and are "two-way sync". That is:

a) User logs in; his profile is copied to user's local profile on local disk.

b) User logs off; the profile is copied from local profile to the shared folder on the server.

c) User logs in on another workstation; the profile is copied again from the server to the local profile.

Workgroup Environments (beta)

If you open lusrmgr.msc (Local User Manager), then open any account's properties, you will notice the Profile tab. In this tab you can specify a UNC location for the profile (ie. \\server\profiles\%username%). This means that you can have roaming profiles in workgroup environments.

Mandatory Profiles

Mandatory profiles allow an administrator to 'fix' a particular user profile in a particular state.  Changes made to a Windows session are lost as the mandatory 'fixed' profile is loaded at the next login.

Mandatory profiles use NTUSER.MAN and are "one-way sync". That is:

a) User logs in; profile is copied from server to the users's local profile overwriting whatever is fond there.

b) User logs off; changes are not saved to the server.

c) User logs in again; the profile is copied again from the server practicaly restoring the profile settings to the mandatory (consistent) state. In other words, a mandatory profile is a read-only variant of roaming profile.

Creating Mandatory Profiles

After the user's roaming profile is created on a server, you can rename NTUSER.DAT to NTUSER.MAN thus turning the roaming profile into a mandatory profile.


If you want to enable users to keep their profiles regardless of the workstation they use, then use roaming profiles.

If you want to enforce a uniform profile, use mandatory profiles. These are used mainly for kiosks or other applications that need to revert to default state after being used.

If you want to enforce only a few settings, such as company wallpaper and screensaver, then use local policy setttings (in workgroup environments) or group policy settings (in domain-based networks).

Last Updated on Saturday, 31 January 2009 19:27