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Using User Profiles with Windows

This article was previously published under Q224012
This article has been archived. It is offered "as is" and will no longer be updated.
Users with roaming user profiles can log on interchangeably to computers running Windows. Both operating systems can read the same user profile and do not prevent users from logging on from either operating system. This article describes some issues that administrators should plan for when users have this capability.

Hard-Coded Paths for User Profiles

In Windows NT 4.0, locally cached profiles are stored as a subfolder of the %SystemRoot%\Profiles folder. In Windows 2000, if the installation is an upgrade, the existing profile path continues to be used. In new installations, a "Documents and Settings" folder is created on the same volume as the Windows 2000 installation to hold locally cached versions of user profiles.

Some programs use hard-coded paths for determining where a user's cached profile (for either a local or roaming user) is located on the local computer. When a user roams between computers running Windows, unexpected behavior may occur if a program is hard-coded to find the user's locally cached profile in the %SystemRoot%\Profiles folder.

For example, when a user is logged on to Windows NT 4.0, the program may behave as expected because the user's locally cached profile is stored in the location that is correct for that version of Windows. If the same user logs on to a new Windows 2000 installation, the profile may not be found if the program expects the profile to be stored in the same place. If a program experiences problems when users roam between operating systems, the program may be using hard-coded paths.

NOTE: The path to a user's locally cached profile can be determined by typing set at a command prompt.

For additional information about the location of user profiles in Windows 2000, click the article number below to view the article in the Microsoft Knowledge Base:
228445 User Profile Storage in Windows 2000

System and Group Policies Applied to the User

A system policy used in Windows NT 4.0 is in the form of a binary file that has mandated registry settings that override any existing settings in the user's profile. These settings are cached as part of the user's profile.

Windows 2000 policy settings are located in a different area of the registry. Windows 2000 components also expect these settings to be in a different location and use the settings located there to configure the user's environment.

Because of this, a user logging on to Windows NT 4 receives administrator-mandated settings from the Ntconfig.pol file. This is downloaded from a domain controller in the user's account domain. The mandated settings may be present anywhere in the user's profile. When the user roams to a Windows 2000-based computer, Group Policy places the settings from any Group Policy Objects (GPOs) that apply to the user in the following registry location:
NOTE: If the administrative template (.adm file) used in creating the GPO settings is from Windows NT 4.0 or earlier, the settings may be applied outside of the key listed above.

This should not present any problem. However, the size of the user's profile is increased by the number of registry values mandated by both types of policy. The administrator should be aware of this behavior when setting policies in Windows.

Article ID: 224012 - Last Review: 10/20/2013 22:37:12 - Revision: 2.2

Microsoft Windows 2000 Server, Microsoft Windows 2000 Advanced Server, Microsoft Windows 2000 Professional Edition, Microsoft Windows 2000 Datacenter Server, Microsoft Windows NT Server 4.0 Standard Edition, Microsoft Windows NT Workstation 4.0 Developer Edition

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