Limit the size of user profiles in Windows NT

Proquota.exe, a utility that ships with Windows NT Service Pack 4, allows you to limit the hard disk space that user profiles can consume. Follow these steps to enable profile quotas.

Soon after roaming profiles became standard on Windows NT networks, administrators discovered a potential problem—their size. Because profiles can grow to several hundred MB, uploading and downloading them over the network can cause problems. Imagine 1,000 users logging on each morning and waiting for their 100-MB profiles to download.

To check the size of a profile, open Control Panel, and double-click the System icon. On the User Profiles tab, you can see the size of the profiles stored on the computer.

Microsoft shipped a special utility (Proquota.exe) with Windows NT Service Pack 4, which allows you to limit the hard disk space that user profiles can consume. When profiles exceed their defined limits, users must delete some files, or they can't log off.

Proquota.exe also lets you prevent profiles from sending specific folders over the network. For example, temporary Internet files are part of the profile, but you usually don't need them on every computer. Because they can become quite large, you can keep profiles from sending them over the network.

You can enable profile quotas by using a system policy. Follow these steps:

  1. Open the System Policy Editor by running Poledit.exe.
  2. Select Options | Policy Template, and load the Common.adm and Winnt.adm templates.
  3. Create a new policy, or open an existing one.
  4. Open Default User, and expand Windows NT User Profiles.

Choosing the Limit Profile Size option allows you to limit the size of the profile. (The default is 30,000 KB.) The Custom Message setting lets you set the reminder message when users exceed the storage space.

Selecting the Exclude Directories In Roaming Profile option prevents the duplication of some folders to the server. By default, profiles don't copy temporary Internet files and temporary folders.

However, if you use Proquota.exe, be aware that it has some issues. For starters, users can easily circumvent Proquota.exe by opening Task Manager and killing the process. This allows them to continue working and to successfully log off even when they exceed the defined storage space limitations. And nothing prevents users from physically shutting down the machine instead of logging off.

Proquota.exe can also misreport the size of users' profiles because it counts the explicitly excluded folders from the roaming profile. This leads to inaccurate calculations and potential logoff problems. Fortunately, Service Pack 6 fixed this bug.

When users exceed their defined storage space and want to log off, the computer prompts them to delete some files. Proquota.exe displays a dialog box, which lists the files in the profile.

But the dialog box doesn't show small files. This can pose a problem, especially with temporary Internet files. Because these files are usually small, they don't show up in the dialog box.

Since users usually have hundreds or thousands of them, they can take up a lot of hard drive space. Because Proquota.exe won't list the files, users must manually delete the temporary Internet files from Internet Explorer by going to Tools | Internet Options and clicking Delete Files.

Editor's Picks

Free Newsletters, In your Inbox