Windows

Video: Give users anywhere access to their data with Windows Folder Redirection

Bill Detwiler explains how Windows Folder Redirection works, how to deploy it with Group Policy, and why it's often better than roaming profiles.

Making sure users always have access to their data is critical for business success. On Windows systems, roaming profiles have long been the answer, but those using Windows XP, Vista and now Windows 7 should consider an alternative--Windows Folder Redirection. In this TR Dojo video, I'll explain how Windows Folder Redirection works, how to deploy it with Group Policy, and why it's often better than roaming profiles at giving end user anywhere data access.

For those of you who prefer text to video, you can click the Transcript link that appears below the video player window or you can also read Derek Schauland 's article, "Keeping user data recoverable with folder redirection," on which this video is based. You can also check out the following TechRepublic resources for more help configuring and troubleshooting Folder Redirection:

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About

Bill Detwiler is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and Tech Pro Research and the host of Cracking Open, CNET and TechRepublic's popular online show. Prior to joining TechRepublic in 2000, Bill was an IT manager, database administrator, and desktop supp...

29 comments
sangraal
sangraal

does this happen on the active directory level or do you have to do this for every computer the user sits at manually? This is in regards to ANYWHERE access for the user... thanks

gbrosegr
gbrosegr

sounds like microsoft borrowed a page from unix/linux use of nfs and userhelper, with a little bit of unison shaken in for good measure ;-)

microface
microface

This whole blog stinks, not because of teh content, but because i can't print the transcript for reference, and to give this to my IT departmnet. INCREASE THE VALUE OF THIS BLOG, ALLOW PRINTING !!!!

vucliriel
vucliriel

Hmmm... Where's the link to the Text PDF?

ken.it
ken.it

I try to set the redirect folders like: 1. administrator can access each users' redirected folders. 2. Users can access their own folders, but cannot see each other's folder. 3. Offline files are available. It seems have problem to complete 3. does anyone have experience to do that?

techrepublic
techrepublic

While both options tend to have some synchronization issues, I have experienced far more synch issues with folder redirection that roaming profiles. Roaming profiles also offer a way to more rapidly get a user back to work on a different machine if their regular workstation becomes unusable. However, for users that regularly VPN into the network, the increased bandwidth requirement for synching a roaming profile will, in and of itself, contribute to the time-outs that cause synchronization errors. In a non-mobile, shared-workstation environment, roaming profiles are a necessity. Even over a 100Mbps network, the bandwidth impact of having multiple roaming profiles synching simultaneously is, in my experience, minimal (partly due to the tendency of users to favor using one workstation over another, which means less data to synch). This is particularly true if the DC containing the profiles has no other "heavy lifting" duties assigned, such as Exchange or IIS.

agorman
agorman

I think this is a great way to learn more. I found it informative. I have done similar in the past so it helps me remember how to save time and space not to mention bandwidth.. Thanks Art

john.light
john.light

What problems did you encounter? The offline files is configured on the share.

frwagne
frwagne

I had to fight hard against roaming profiles - the problem - the printer mappings - getting mapped to printer on the wrong floor. Local profiles, but with the network login script mapping their S (shared) drive and U (personal) drive tot he same place regardless of where they logged in worked much better. For offline access, the briefcase concept seems designed for this purpose, without involving group policies. Just my 2 cents...

Aakash Shah
Aakash Shah

The sync issue you are experiencing is due to the Offline Folders technology and not the Folder Redirection technology. But, I know what you're referring to since I've also experienced sync issues on Windows XP. I would strongly suggest switching to Vista/Win7 since the offline folders technology has been greatly enhanced in these OSs and has far fewer sync issues.

Cincinnerdi
Cincinnerdi

Woe to the admin who tries to "undo" Folder Redirection some time later. Google 2003 folder redirection issues if you want to see what I mean.

connectsavin
connectsavin

The Problem is when you redirect windows user folder or my docu it will also by default redirect my music and my picture. that will end up on your server utlizing more server space , network bandwidth and more time to backup. Thanks, Savin

BlueCollarCritic
BlueCollarCritic

I'm sure I will be the only decenting voice here about how to handle this but that's because I'm a dev/power user and not the admin and so I see this from the users perspective. While I agree that Folder Redirection is better I believe that when implemented it should be done locally so that the redirection is done to a local share/location that is a seperate partition/drive from the OS that is then synchronized to a netwrok backup location. This way a users access to the material in the redirected lcoation is not so dependent on connection. Even with off line files you can have issues as I have personally run into. Basically not every application is Folder Redirection friendly when said redirected location is somewhere other then the local computer. I have a laptop and the redirection in place has caused me numerous aggrivations when I'm traveling or just not connected to the lcoal network. If the setup were to always have at least 2 partityions, an OS partition and a FILES partition and redirect User specific fiels (like app settings) to the FILES partition you'd have a way to localize user specific files that would not be loas if the OS must be repaired or reinstalled. You can then ensure these redirected items are backed up by synchronizing the redirected location to a network share. This allows users to work when not connected to the network and still allow the IT folks to backup users files.

FJ593
FJ593

People really need their email settings and bookmarks to work efficiently. I wonder if USB can save bandwidth problems of roaming profiles. And people can manage their USB without trouble IT department.

Michael.Ross
Michael.Ross

It took a while, with a lot of mistakes and stumbling in a test domain, but I got it working, redirected folders has been great! I can get users setup on new computers more quickly, and most have been trained well to keep everything they care about in My Documents! The additional load on a 10/100 network hasn't been an issue with appropriate segments configured and reasonable switching hardware.

Chris.Thomson@Cogeco.Ca
Chris.Thomson@Cogeco.Ca

I have a network where the client requires that the agent have write access to the desktop but all 30 people need the same set of icons/files in addition to the files that they create. Roaming Profiles would allow for the All Users desktop to be common but if a file needed to be updated then I would have to update each system manually... Folder Redirection would allow the files to exist on a server but All Users Desktop no longer applies and then I would have to update each user's desktop manually... I feel that I can create a script to modify the registry and alter the Current User's desktop and the All Users Desktop to a network location and that would satisfy my needs MUCH better. I can't believe that I am the first to experience this... Is there a better method to accomplish my needs?

Brenton Keegan
Brenton Keegan

I can watch other TR videos but this one specifically will not play for me in either Firefox 3.5.2 or IE8. I mention this because I suspect there is a problem with this video itself and not my workstation as I can play other videos. I get the ad, then a pause and then it brings me to where I can hit replay or see related videos. EDIT: Nevermind, got home from work and it works fine from here. Strange though.

alec.wood
alec.wood

That's not covered until next week's IT Dojo video :D

ken.it
ken.it

offine files can be set on shared folder, and group policy, I check both settings. And enable the offline functions.

handyman1972
handyman1972

Just drag the "Music" and "Pictures" folders out from under the "My Documents" folder and place them on the desktop, or other location on the PC that is not being redirected. For users that may have business related items in "My Pictures" just leave it be. Personally, when it comes to my CEO's laptop, I make sure EVERYTHING is redirected, including his entire ipod library. Being "Da Boss" allows hima few perks :)

Aakash Shah
Aakash Shah

This limitation only applies to Windows 2000, XP and Server 2003. On these OS's, one thing that may work (I haven't tried this) is to modify the registry to point the Music and Pictures location to the local computer by modifying the keys at HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\User Shell Folders. If the redirection Group Policy keeps changing this back, another thing worth trying is to not use the redirection group policy and to manually all of the folder settings in the registry.

mqualls
mqualls

We use both folder redirection and roaming profiles on our network. With the folder redirection the roaming profiles stay around 10 MB or so in size and allow the users to move from PC to PC and keep all their settings (network printers, favorites, outlook settings) without the torturous signon with large roaming profiles.

Aakash Shah
Aakash Shah

Chris: When you configure the Group Policy for Folder Redirection, the second setting under the Desktop redirection menu is "Basic - Redirect everyone's folder to the same location". This approach would mean that anytime one user added/removed a file from the redirected desktop server location, all users would see this.

Elvis.GodZilla.777
Elvis.GodZilla.777

Yes. I have been having trouble watching TR videos for MONTHS. The other day it worked; today it does not. : - ( IE 7, Firefox 3, Opera 10.

Aakash Shah
Aakash Shah

You can use Group Policy Preferences to copy items to the All Users folder of each computer. The All Users Desktop folder can only be modified by Admins and hence this would satisfy your "read/execute" requirement for certain files (assuming your users are not admins on their computers). I'll try to address the individual points in your original question: [I have a network where the client requires that the agent have write access to the desktop] Redirected desktops can accomplish this to a folder on the server where the the user has modify access. [but all 30 people need the same set of icons/files in addition to the files that they create] You can use Group Policy Preferences to keep a consistent All Users Desktop folder. [Roaming Profiles would allow for the All Users desktop to be common] Note that roaming profiles do not affect the All Users Desktop folder, but rather the user's personal desktop folder. [but if a file needed to be updated then I would have to update each system manually...] You can use a script/Group Policy Preference that updates the All Users Desktop folder upon each login from a folder on the server. Another option would be to simply add a shortcut to the user's desktop that points to a folder on the server to which the user has read-only access. This would allow you to update the read-only folder whenever you want, and the user would see an updated copy immediately instead of having to login and logout. Or, you can do the opposite and redirect all of the user's to a shared folder to which they have read-only access. Then, you can have a folder in this read-only folder to which you can apply modify access that user's can save files to. [Folder Redirection would allow the files to exist on a server but All Users Desktop no longer applies and then I would have to update each user's desktop manually...] Note that Folder Redirection does not affect the All Users Desktop, but the user's personal desktop. [I feel that I can create a script to modify the registry and alter the Current User's desktop and the All Users Desktop to a network location and that would satisfy my needs MUCH better.] The current user's desktop can be modified by the standard Folder Redirection Group Policy. But, you would need need to use the registry to manually alter the All Users Desktop as you mentioned, although I have never tried this.

Chris.Thomson@Cogeco.Ca
Chris.Thomson@Cogeco.Ca

I need certain icons to be read/execute but they also need access to the desktop for their personal files. No Start Menu (well no 'programs' anyway) No My Documents Just Desktop...and the personal files need to be available only to the creater.

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