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User profiles overview

Updated: January 21, 2005

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

User profiles overview

On computers running Windows Server 2003 operating systems, user profiles automatically create and maintain the desktop settings for each user's work environment on the local computer. A user profile is created for each individual user when the user logs on to a computer for the first time.

Advantages of using user profiles

User profiles provide several advantages:

  • More than one user can use the same computer. When users log on to their individual workstations, they receive the desktop settings as they existed when they logged off.

  • Customization of the desktop environment made by one user does not affect another user's settings.

  • User profiles can be stored on a server so that they can follow users to any computer running a Microsoft® Windows NT® or later operating system on the network. These are called roaming user profiles.

As an administrative tool, user profiles provide these options:

  • You can create a default user profile that is appropriate for the user's tasks.

  • You can set up a mandatory user profile that does not save changes made by the user to the desktop settings. Users can modify the desktop settings of the computer while they are logged on, but none of these changes are saved when they log off. The mandatory profile settings are downloaded to the local computer each time the user logs on. For more information on mandatory profiles, see Create a mandatory user profile.

  • You can specify the default user settings that will be included in all of the individual user profiles.

User profile types

A user profile defines customized desktop environments, which include individual display settings, network and printer connections, and other specified settings. You or your system administrator can define your desktop environment.

Types of user profiles include:

  • Local user profile--A local user profile is created the first time you log on to a computer and is stored on a computer's local hard disk. Any changes made to your local user profile are specific to the computer on which you made the changes.

  • Roaming user profile--A roaming user profile is created by the system administrator and is stored on a server. This profile is available every time you log on to any computer on the network. Changes made to your roaming user profile are updated on the server.

  • Mandatory user profile--A mandatory user profile is a roaming profile that can be used to specify particular settings for individuals or an entire group of users. Only system administrators can make changes to mandatory user profiles.

  • Temporary user profile--A temporary profile is issued any time that an error condition prevents the users profile from being loaded. Temporary profiles are deleted at the end of each session. Changes made by the user to their desktop settings and files are lost when the user logs off.

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