Limit profile size with Group Policy

One of the runaway storage consumption points of Windows systems is profiles. Learn how to enforce correct data usage and manage profiles with Group Policy.

As a Windows administrator, I want to ensure that data management is performed to organizational standards; this includes putting files in their correct place. I'm not a fan of the "Desktop File System" or the "Email File System" practice that many Windows users seem to like. As a Windows user, I want an experience that is customized to my liking while still meeting organizational standards.

One way to address this is to limit profile size via the Group Policy Object, which you can find by going to User Configuration | Administrative Templates | System | User Profiles. You can set a size in MB to enforce how large the profiles are on local or network storage. This is important because an organization can partially enforce a data management practice by forcing data and files to be stored on a network resource or collaboration tool, such as SharePoint. Figure A shows this setting being configured on a Windows Server 2008 R2 domain. Figure A

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This setting works pretty well, but it is not absolute. The Windows notification area will constantly display a profile icon with the space used, and if the space exceeds the threshold, notifications start to pop up. The profile size is made up of a number of factors, including Desktop and My Documents contents. Figure B shows a Windows 7 system with the profile size exceeded from My Documents activity. Figure B

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Group Policy configures the setting to use notifications and display a message that the profile size must be reduced, but this is a task that can be killed during the logoff process.

The effective use case for this setting is a basic enforcement mechanism for a data management strategy. This can also relieve IT staff from the inevitable case of lost data, as the user clearly would ignore this setting if the local profile size kept growing. Help desk calls will inevitably increase with this setting, especially if it is applied to an existing user base.

How do you add more levels of control for user profiles? Share your comments in the discussion.