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On a Windows XP Professional machine, you manage user profiles with the User Accounts control panel that I describe earlier in this chapter, and with the System control panel's User Profiles dialog box (see Figure 12-2). Use the latter to delete a user profile, copy a profile from one location to another (you can't use Windows Explorer for this task), and change the type of profile from local to roaming or vice versa.
Figure 12-2: Create, delete, and change profile typew here.
If you want to change a roaming profile back to a nonroaming profile, or (for that matter) vice versa, run the System control panel's Advanced tab, click the Settings button in the User Profiles area, and click the Change Type button to display the Change Profile Type dialog box (see Figure 12-3). If the 'roaming profile' choice appears dimmed, as in the figure, then the user account is probably not a domain account - or no profile directory was set up for it.
Figure 12-3: Changing a profile's type.
Folder redirection: An alternative to roaming profiles
Roaming user profiles are cool, but they can add a lot of traffic congestion to a busy network. Every time you log on to a particular network computer for the first time, all your roaming profile data flows across the wire. A good way to work around that problem is to use folder redirection. Files in redirected folders only travel across the wire if and when the user works with them.
You have to set up folder redirection on a Windows 2002 or 2000 server machine, using the Group Policy tools. The process is pretty easy. You simply choose an organizational structure, such as a domain, and open the Group Policy editor for that structure. (I'm omitting the boring details; they won't be on Exam #70-270.) Then you navigate your way to a policy node named Folder Redirection. There, you can specify that (for example) when any domain user logs on, the user's My Documents folder doesn't live on the workstation hard drive, but rather on a network server - for example, in \\srv01\redirect\ %username%, where %username% is a variable corresponding to the user's logon name.
Instant Answer You can use folder redirection as a way of providing personal documents to users if you find that roaming profiles put too much traffic on the network.
Folder redirection doesn't let user settings roam the network with the user; for that, you must enable roaming profiles.
The home folder (or home directory, as we called it in Windows NT 4.0) is an alternative to the My Documents folder as a place for users to keep their data files.
Remember Microsoft prefers that you use My Documents, but it continues to provide home folders - mainly for organizations that have used them in the past and are happy with them, or that have decided against roaming profiles for some reason.
Home folders typically live on a network server, where users can get to them from any workstation, although technically home folders can live on client PCs. Microsoft recommends putting them on an NTFS disk for the greater control over access permissions that such disks provide. Microsoft also suggests putting all home folders under one 'umbrella' folder, which makes your server's file structure cleaner and easier to manage.
After the home folders are set up on the server, all you have to do at the user's workstation is run the Computer Management console, open Users and Groups, right-click the user name, choose Properties, and (on the Profile tab) point a drive letter with the home folder (see Figure 12-4). Users can then save their data files to that drive letter without worrying about specifying a long and involved network path.
Figure 12-4: Pointing a drive letter at a home folder on the server.
Offline Files and Folders
Windows users have been able to 'work offline' to some degree for quite a while now - the 'Briefcase' concept debuted in Windows 95, as did offline printing - but Windows XP extends the capability and makes it more convenient for network users. (That convenience may not extend to network administrators, who must deal with the extra traffic burden that synchronization can bring!)
The venerable, little-used Briefcase is still present, by the way, and recommended for situations where you use a Zip disk or direct cable connection (parallel or serial) to reconcile notebook files with those on a desktop machine. If you use a network connection to synchronize versions of files that you take away from the office, then Offline Files and Folders is the preferred choice.
The offline concept
Offline files and folders are similar in many ways to roaming user profiles. However, while roaming user profiles let you work with your settings and documents regardless of what PC you log onto, offline files and folders are intended to let you work with your network documents regardless of whether the network's available or not.
The basic concept is that administrators and, optionally, users can designate network files and folders to be cached (copied) to the local workstation. Why would users want to do this? If a network connection breaks, the affected user can keep working with the designated files and folders as if the network connection were still present - the view of the network stays the same, file and folder access permissions stay the same. (When the server is down, the user is working with the local copies, or 'working offline,' whether she knows it or not.) Then, when the network connection again is available, Windows can automatically update, or synchronize, the network copies of any changed files and folders.