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Folder Redirection Overview

Applies To: Windows Server 2008

Folder Redirection

User settings and user files are normally stored in the local user profile, under the Users folder. The files in local user profiles are accessible only from the current computer, which makes it difficult for users who use more then one computer to work with their data and synchronize settings between multiple computers. Two different technologies exist to address this problem: Roaming Profiles and Folder Redirection. Both of these technologies have their advantages, and they can be used separately or together to create a seamless user experience from one computer to another. They also provide additional options for administrators managing user data.

Folder Redirection allows administrators to redirect the path of a folder to a new location. The location can be a folder on the local computer or a directory on a network file share. Users have the ability to work with documents on a server as if the documents were based on a local drive. The documents in the folder are available to the user from any computer on the network. Folder Redirection is located under Windows Settings in the console tree when editing domain-based Group Policy using the Group Policy Management Console (GPMC). The path is [Group Policy Object Name]\User Configuration\Policies\Windows Settings\Folder Redirection.

New in Windows Vista

Folder Redirection through the GPMC in Windows Vista includes new features:

  • The ability to redirect more folders in the user profile folders than in earlier Windows operating systems. This includes the Contacts, Downloads, Favorites, Links, Music, Saved Games, Searches, and Videos folders.

  • The ability to apply settings for redirected folders to Microsoft Windows 2000, Windows 2000 Server, Windows XP, and Windows Server 2003 computers. You have the options of applying the settings you configure on Windows Vista to only Windows Vista computers, or applying them in addition to these earlier Windows operating systems. For these earlier Windows operating systems, you can apply these settings to folders that can be redirected, which are the Application Data, Desktop, My Documents, My Pictures, and Start Menu folders. This option is available in the Settings tab in the Properties for the folder, under Select the redirection settings for [FolderName].

  • The option to have the Music, Pictures, and Videos folders follow the Documents folder. In earlier Windows operating systems, these folders were subfolders of the Documents folder. By configuring this option, you take care of any issues related to naming and folder structure differences between Windows Vista and earlier Windows operating systems. This option is available in the Target tab in the Properties for the folder, under Settings.

  • The ability to redirect the Start Menu folder to a specific path for all users. In Windows XP, the Start Menu folder could be redirected only to a shared target folder.

noteNote
This capability is new only to the Start Menu folder. All other redirectable folders in Windows Vista can also be redirected to a specific path for all users.

Folders that can be redirected

You can use the Group Policy Management Console to redirect folders in Windows Vista and folders in earlier Windows operating systems.

 

Windows Vista Equivalent Folder in Earlier Windows Operating System

AppData/Roaming

Application Data

Contacts

N/A

Desktop

Desktop

Documents

My Documents

Downloads

N/A

Favorites

N/A

Links

N/A

Music

N/A

Pictures

My Pictures

Saved Games

N/A

Searches

N/A

Start Menu

Start Menu

Videos

N/A

Advantages of Folder Redirection

  • Even if a user logs on to various computers on the network, their data is always available.

  • Offline File technology (which is turned on by default) gives users access to the folder even when they are not connected to the network. This is particularly useful for people who use portable computers.

  • Data that is stored in a network folder can be backed up as part of routine system administration. This is safer because it requires no action on the part of the user.

  • If you use Roaming User Profiles, you can use Folder Redirection to reduce the total size of your Roaming Profile and make the user logon and logoff process more efficient in terms of time for the end user. When you deploy Folder Redirection with Roaming User Profiles, the data synchronized via Folder Redirection is not part of the roaming profile and is synchronized in the background using Offline Files after the user has logged on. As a result the user does not need to wait for this data to be synchronized at logon/logoff as is the case with Roaming User Profiles.

  • Data that is specific to a user can be redirected to a different hard disk on the user's local computer from the hard disk that holds the operating system files, making the user's data safer in case the operating system has to be reinstalled.

  • As an administrator, you can use Group Policy to set disk quotas, limiting the amount of space that is taken up by user profile folders.

Selecting a Folder Redirection target

The Target tab of the folder's Properties box enables you to select the location of the redirected folder on a network or in the local user profile. You can choose between the following settings:

  • Basic—Redirect everyone's folder to the same location. This setting enables you to redirect everyone's folder to the same location and will be applied to all users included in the Group Policy object (GPO). For this setting you have the following options in specifying a target folder location:

    • Create a folder for each user under the root path. This option will create a folder in the form \\server\share\User Account Name\Folder Name. Each user will get a unique path to their redirected folder.

noteNote
If you enable the Also apply redirection policy to Windows 2000, Windows 2000 Server, Windows XP, and Windows Server 2003 operating systems option on the Settings tab, this option is not available for the Start Menu folder.

  • Redirect to the following location. This option will use an explicit path to the redirection location. This can cause multiple users to share the same path to the redirected folder.

  • Redirect to the local user profile location. This option will move the location of the folder to the local user profile under the Users folder.

  • Advanced—Specify locations for various user groups. This setting enables you to specify redirection behavior for the folder based on the security group memberships for the GPO.

  • Follow the Documents folder. This option is available only for the Music, Pictures, and Videos folders. This option resolves any issues related to naming and folder structure differences between Windows Vista and earlier Windows operating systems. If you choose this option, you will not be able to configure any additional redirection options or policy removal options for these folders and settings will be inherited from the Documents folder.

noteNote
This behavior will also occur by default if you enable the Also apply redirection policy to Windows 2000, Windows 2000 Server, Windows XP, and Windows Server 2003 operating systems option on the Settings tab when configuring redirection settings for the Documents folder.

  • Not configured. This is the default setting. This setting specifies that policy-based folder redirection has been removed for that GPO and the folders will be redirected to the local user profile location or stay where they are based on the redirection options selected if any existing redirection policies have been set. No changes are being made to the current location of this folder.

Configuring additional settings for the redirected folder

In the Settings tab in the Properties box for a folder, you can enable these settings:

  • Grant the user exclusive rights. This setting is enabled by default and is a recommended setting. This setting specifies that the administrator and other users to not have permissions to access this folder.

  • Move the contents of [FolderName] to the new location. This setting moves all the data the user has in the local folder to the shared folder on the network.

  • Also apply redirection policy to Windows 2000, Windows 2000 Server, Windows XP, and Windows Server 2003 operating systems. This enables folder redirection to work with both Windows Vista and earlier Windows operating systems. This option applies only to redirectable folders in earlier Windows operating systems, which are the Application Data, Desktop, My Documents, My Pictures, and Start Menu folders.

noteNote
The AppData/Roaming (previously Application Data in earlier Windows operating systems) folder in Windows Vista now contains a number of folders that were previously under the root folder of the User Profile folder in earlier Windows operating systems. For example, in earlier Windows operating systems, the Start Menu folder was not under the Application Data folder. It might not make sense to redirect all of the folders under Application Data when you enable the Also apply redirection policy to Windows 2000, Windows 2000 Server, Windows XP, and Windows Server 2003 operating systems setting. Therefore if you choose this setting, Windows Vista does not redirect the following folders automatically: Start Menu, Network Shortcuts, Printer Shortcuts, Templates, Cookies, Sent To. If you do not choose this setting, Windows Vista will automatically redirect all folders under the Application Data folder.

  • Policy Removal. The following table summarizes the behavior of redirected folders and their contents when the GPO no longer applies, based on your selections for policy removal. The following policy removal options are available in the Settings tab, under Policy Removal.

 

Policy Removal option Selected setting Result

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

Enabled

  • The folder returns to its user profile location.

  • The contents are copied, not moved, back to the user profile location.

  • The contents are not deleted from the redirected location.

  • The user continues to have access to the contents, but only on the local computer.

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

Disabled

  • The folder returns to its user profile location.

  • The contents are not copied or moved to the user profile location.

noteNote
If the contents of a folder are not copied to the user profile location, the user cannot see them.

Leave the folder in the new location when policy is removed

Either Enabled or Disabled

  • The 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.

Additional considerations

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