Roaming User Profiles in Mixed Environments

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Roaming User Profiles in Mixed Environments

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Roaming User Profiles in Mixed Environments Roaming users move between different computers in a mixed network environment.

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  1. Roaming User Profiles in Mixed Environments Roaming users move between different computers in a mixed network environment. To achieve this, you will need to create roaming user profiles, and then enable and configure profile information for each of the roaming users in your organization. When you enable roaming and specify a network share for roaming files, some files and folders automatically roam with the users. This makes the user files available to roaming users, regardless of the client computer from which the user logs on to the domain. Creating and enabling a roaming user profile is a two-step procedure: 1. Create and configure a test user profile. 2. Copy the test user profile to a network server. Note Before enabling roaming user profiles, it is recommended that you consider the important point of application compatibility. The underlying reason is straightforward, although, strangely enough, overlooked. The problem is that some new features and functionality available in newer versions of applications might be unavailable to users who have earlier versions of the same applications. This, of course, becomes a source of confusion in networks that use a mix of different versions of the same application. One such example is Microsoft Outlook 2002, since some of its features are unavailable to the users of Outlook 2000. Therefore, if you are using Microsoft Outlook as a mail client, it is recommended that you ensure that the same version of the application is used in a single area (such as a domain), or at least perform a centralized upgrade. To create a test profile for a roaming user on a client computer running Windows 2000, Windows XP, or Windows Server 2003, follow these steps: 1. Log on as Administrator, open the Administrative Tools applet and click the Computer Management icon. 2. In the console tree, expand Local Users and Groups, right-click Users and select the New User command from the right-click menu. 3. When the New User window opens (Fig. 10.10), type in a name and password for the user, then clear the User must change password at next logon checkbox. Click Create, and then click Close.
  2. Figure 10.10: Creating a test user account 4. Quit the Computer Management snap-in and log off the computer. 5. Log on as the test user account that you have just created. A user profile is automatically created on the local computer in the %SystemDrive%\Documents and Settings\Username folder (where Username is the name of the new user account that you have just created). 6. Configure the desktop environment, including appearance, shortcuts, Start menu options, etc. 7. Log off, and then log on as Administrator. After creating a test profile, you need to copy it to a network server. To achieve this goal, proceed as follows: 1. Create an account for the administrative user on the Windows 2000 Server or Windows Server 2003 PDC (use Active Directory Users and Computers for this purpose). This user will be the administrator of the user profiles. Also create a shared directory for storing user profiles, for example: \\Server_name\Profiles. Within this shared folder, create a user_name folder for each user. 2. Copy the roaming profile that you have created and configured, to the user_name folder(s) on the network server. To do so, log on as Administrator on the client workstation, open the User Profiles window (see Fig. 10.8), select the profile that you want to configure as roaming from the Profiles stored on this computer list, and click the Copy To button. In the Copy To dialog (see Fig. 10.9), click the Browse button and specify the path using the UNC (Universal Naming Convention) format (for example: \\Server_name\Profiles\user_name). If the folder doesn't exist, it will be created. 3. On the Windows 2000 Server or Windows Server 2003 PDC, start the Active Directory Users and Computers MMS snap-in. In the console tree, expand the Domain node, and then click the folder where users are located (typically, the Users folder). In the list of user names, right-click the name of the user whom you are going to configure for roaming, and then click Properties. Go to the Profile tab (Fig. 10.11).
  3. Figure 10.11: Configuring a user profile for roaming 4. For clients running Windows NT, Windows 2000, Windows XP, or Windows Server 2003, go to the Profile Path field in the User Profile group. Type in the full path to the user profile folder that you have created for the roaming profile of that user (for example, \\Server_name\Profiles\user_name. For clients running Windows 9x/ME, set the Connect radio button and type the full path to the user folder into the To field.) 5. Logon to the network from the client workstation. From the Start menu, select Settings | Control Panel, then launch the System applet and go to the User Profiles tab. The profile type for the user to whom you've assigned the roaming profile will change to Roaming. 6. Repeat these steps for each user whom you are configuring for roaming. To make this profile mandatory, rename the Ntuser.dat file as Ntuser.man in the user's profile folder. Notice, however, that in Windows XP and Windows Server 2003, mandatory user profiles are supported for backward compatibility only. Note Starting with Windows 2000, standard access rights to roaming profiles have changed in comparison to those in Windows NT 4.0. For example, administrators no longer have Full Control access to all user profiles. Consequently, if an administrator needs access to the contents of the user profile, he or she will need to take ownership for the appropriate file system objects (if the user profiles are stored on the NTFS partition) and also to take ownership for the respective registry hives. From a security point of view, this is a wise thing to do, because the operation of taking ownership is an event that can be audited. Also notice that Windows Server 2003 does not support the use of encrypted files with roaming user profiles. Windows XP and Windows Server 2003 Enhancements to Roaming User Profiles Windows XP and Windows Server 2003 introduce several enhancements to user settings management, including more reliable roaming, an improved user profile merge algorithm and several new group policy settings. Let us consider these enhancements in more detail.
  4. First of all, user profile policies in Windows XP and Windows Server 2003 have their own node in Group Policy Editor (Fig. 10.12). Furthermore, there are three new policies. To view these policies, proceed as follows: Figure 10.12: User Profile Policies have their own node in Group Policy Editor 1. Click Start, click Run, type mmc, and then click OK. 2. From the File menu, select the Add/Remove Snap-in command, go to the Standalone tab and click Add. 3. From the Available Standalone Snap-ins list, select the Group Policy option and then click the Add button. When the Select Group Policy object window opens, select the Local Computer option to edit the local Group Policy object, or click Browse to find the Group Policy object that you want. 4. Click Finish, then Close, then OK. The Group Policy snap-in opens the Group Policy object for editing. Expand the console tree in the left pane of this window as follows: Computer Configuration | Administrative Templates | System | User Profiles (Fig. 10.12). The three new policies that have been added with Windows XP are the last ones in the list of the available policies in the right pane of the Group Policy window: Prevent Roaming Profile Changes From Propagating to the server. As its name implies, this policy specifies whether the changes made by the users to their roaming profiles are merged with the copies of their roaming profiles stored on the server. If you set this policy, the users at login will receive the copies of their roaming profiles, but the changes they introduce will not be merged with their roaming profiles. Add the Administrator security group to the roaming user profile share. As was aforementioned, starting with Windows 2000, the default permissions for newly created roaming profiles provide full control permissions for the user and no access to the Administrators group. If you want to reset this behavior in a way
  5. compatible to Windows NT 4.0, where the Administrators group has full control of the user's profile directories, you should set this policy. Do Not Allow users to change profile type. Allows an administrator to control whether a user is allowed to change their profile type from a Roaming Profile to a Local profile. Note Besides new policies, Windows XP and Windows Server 2003 provide other improvements to roaming profiles management. For example, in Windows 2000 there may be situations in which applications and services keep registry keys open during logoff. This prevents Windows from unloading the user's registry hive and saving the user profiles modifications to the server. As a result, such "locked" user profiles never get unloaded, and take up a large amount of memory on a server that has many users logging on. If such a profile is marked for deletion at logoff in order to clean up the disk space on the server, it also never gets deleted. In Windows XP this problem was not an issue. Now Windows saves the user's registry hive at the end of the 60-second delay and roams the profile correctly. In contrast to Windows 2000, when the application or service closes the registry key that locks the user profile, Windows XP and Windows Server 2003 unload the hive and free the memory consumed by the user profile. In cases where an application or service never releases the registry key, Windows XP will delete all profiles marked for deletion at the next reboot. Non-Roaming Folders and Quotas on Profile Size The way the users get their profiles depends on the profile type configured for them. Let us consider this process in more detail. For local profiles the procedure comprises the following steps: The user logs on. The operating system checks the list of user profiles located in HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\WindowsNT\CurrentVersio n\ProfileList (Fig. 10.13) to determine if a local profile exists for the user. If an entry exists, then this local profile is used. If a local profile is not found, and the computer is part of a domain, the operating system checks if a domain-wide default profile exists (it must be located on the domain controller's NETLOGON share in a folder named Default User). If a default domain-wide user profile exists, it will be copied to the following subfolder on the local computer: %SystemDrive%\Documents and Settings\Username. If a default domain-wide user profile does not exist, then the local default profile is copied from the %Systemdrive%\Documents and Settings\Default User folder to the %SystemDrive%\Documents and Settings\Username subfolder on the local computer.
  6. Figure 10.13: The list of user profiles is stored in the registry under the HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\ProfileList key The user's registry hive (Ntuser.dat) is mapped to the HKEY_CURRENT_USER portion of the registry. When the user logs off, a profile is saved to the local hard disk of the computer. For roaming profiles this process is as follows: The user logs on, and Windows checks the list of user profiles stored in the registry under HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\WindowsNT\CurrentVersio n\ProfileList key to determine if a cached copy of the profile exists. If a local copy of the profile is not found, and the computer is part of a domain, Windows checks to determine if a domain-wide default profile exists in the Default User folder on the domain controller's NETLOGON share. If a default domain-wide user profile exists, it will be copied to the followingsubfolder on the local computer: %SystemDrive%\Documents and Settings\Username. If a default domain-wide user profile does not exist, then the local default profile is copied from the %Systemdrive%\Documents and Settings\Default User folder to the %SystemDrive%\Documents and Settings\Username subfolder on the local computer. The user's registry hive (Ntuser.dat) is copied to the local cached copy of their user profile, and is mapped to the HKEY_CURRENT_USER portion of the registry. The contents of the local cached profile are compared with the copy of the profile on the server, and the two profiles are merged. The user can then run applications and edit documents as normal. When the user logs off, their local profile is copied to the path configured by the administrator. If a profile already exists on the server, the local profile is merged with the server copy. Note In Windows NT 4.0, the merge algorithm was based on the Xcopy command with full synchronization support. That means that there is only one master copy of the profile at any given time. When the user is logged on, the master profile is on the
  7. local computer, and when the user is not logged on, the master copy of his or her profile is on the server. This algorithm works fine in most cases, where a user logs on to only a single computer. However, a user who logs on to multiple computers at the same time might experience unexpected behavior. Windows XP and Windows Server 2003 eliminate this problem by introducing the profile merging at the file level. When a document or file is updated, the new algorithm compares the timestamp of the destination file with the timestamp of the source file. If the destination file is newer, it is not overwritten. As was mentioned earlier, roaming user profiles are copied from the server to the client when the user logs on, and copied back when the user logs off. However, Windows 2000, Windows XP, and Windows Server 2003 include the per-user Local Settings folder within the user profile that is not copied during log on or log off sessions. Operating system components and other applications can store non-roaming per-user data in this folder. On the other hand, the IntelliMirror technology includes the Folder Redirection feature that allows administrators to redirect the location of specific user profile folders to a network location (from the user's point of view, this looks just like roaming, but in this case the user settings actually remain on the network share). Folder redirection can be used with all types of profiles, including local, roaming, or mandatory. Combining Folder Redirection with roaming profiles allows you to get all the benefits of roaming profiles and at the same time to minimize network traffic. Table 10.3. lists the folders that roam with the profile by default, and indicates whether they can be redirected using Group Policy. Table 10.3: Folders that Roam with the Profile Folder Name Description Roams with Redirect with Profile by default Group Policy Application Per-user roaming application data Yes Yes Data Cookies User's Internet Explorer cookies Yes No Desktop Yes Yes Favorites User's Internet Explorer favorites Yes No Local Settings Temporary files and per-user non- No No roaming application data My User's documents Yes Yes Documents NetHood Yes No PrintHood Yes No
  8. Table 10.3: Folders that Roam with the Profile Folder Name Description Roams with Redirect with Profile by default Group Policy Recent Shortcuts to recently used Yes No documents Send To Yes No Start Menu User's personal start menu Yes Yes Templates Per-user customized templates Yes No
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