Roaming Profiles & Folder Redirections: How They Work and Why They Lag

Suggested Optimizations and Performance Enhancers

  1. Keep your Desktop clean. (Less than 500MB)
  2. Minimize the size of cache\temporary storage.
  3. If you use DropBox, make sure it's storage folder is on the harddrive and not in a redirected or synced folder.
  4. Be aware of programs that install to appdata and try for an alternative destination. (i.e. DropBox)
  5. Empty your Downloads folder before logging off of any machine.
  6. If possible, log out of every machine you are logged into before the end of each day.
  7. Reboot your machine, at a minimum, weekly.

Windows 7 Roaming Profile Information

A roaming profile allows a users desktop and applications settings to follow them no matter what domain member Windows workstation they log into. A domain users roaming profile is located under /sysvol/windows/profiles/<username>.V2 or \\cifs.cs.brown.edu\profiles\<username>.V2. Though, not everything in the local user profile, c:\Users\<username>, is stored in the roaming profile. As a result of this information being synced with the copy saved on the server, the size of a user's profile is directly proportional to a users log in and log out times.

The following folders are excluded by default from the roaming profile sync on Windows 7:

More folders can be excluded from being synced by adding a registry key:

HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Winlogon\ExcludeProfileDirs [REG_SZ]
The limitation is that only folders can be added, not individual files, for exclusion.

The following folders and files are synced during log on and off:

The following folder redirections happen to all Windows users during log on:

With folder redirection, the AppData and Desktop changes are no longer synced during log on or log off. This makes Windows log on and log off a little faster. However, if the cifs servers have problems, then the Windows client might malfunction because Windows can't access its desktop. Also, software applications that store their settings in AppData will hang.

Some common problems with Windows Profiles

Windows Profile and Quota Limits

In the Windows environment at CS, there are two differing ways in which quota limits may cause problems with users.

In 'My Computer', all users will notice a z: drive, which is a mapped drive that is pointing to their one true home directory. If you open up your z: drive, you will see the same directory listing 'ls -a' would give you when logging into one of the Linux systems. One folder in your z: drive, 'My Documents', is important to note. The 'My Documents folder that is on your desktop is actually a link to this 'z:\My Documents' folder.

Any data saved in the z: drive, including 'My Documents' on your desktop, is subject to the general quota all users have. As of now, the quota in place is a shared quota, in which all users share the same storage pool. This storage pool is quite large. The amount of storage space that is taken up by users is checked, but not enforced. This means that if a user suddenly puts 100GB of data in their z: drive, Windows will not prevent them from doing so, but a member of the Tech Staff will be dropping by for a visit in the near future to discuss this seemingly excessive storage usage.

The other quota limit component that is present in our Windows infrastructure is that of the roaming profile. Upon logging in to our out of any Windows system, user profile data is copied to and from the file server. This user profile data contains all files and folders on your desktop, along with additional Windows configuration files. Windows profile space (below) contains more information. If, after following the directions in the CS Wiki link, you are still being presented with a profile size problem, contact problem@cs.brown.edu and ask for an increase to your Windows roaming profile. You will then be contacted and given additional information on how to proceed.

Profile space

In our current Active Directory setup (if you don't know what this is, don't worry about it), each user is limited to a Windows Profile of 30 MB. This profile is loaded into the system every time you login, and stored back on the file server every time you logout (including any changes you made while you were using it). This might not seem like a lot of space, but the more space, the more of your time is wasted loading/saving the profile on login/logout.

There are several things that contribute to your profile space. Most importantly is anything that you put on your desktop...the profile also includes things like your customized desktop environment, network and printer connections settings, and in some cases application specific data (depending on where it is stored).

One can tell what files (and their sizes) are in the user's profile by double-clicking an icon at the far right of the menu bar. This icon is a picture of a person in front of a computer monitor with a ruler and paintbrush crossed beside him. If you hold your cursor over this icon, it will tell you how much space you have left in your profile.

Odds are that if you are reading this, then you have exceeded your roaming profile storage space (30MB). Windows tells you this with a message when you try to logout, but also by replacing the aforementioned icon with one of a red circle with a white "X" through it. In order to get rid of this bad omen, one should first move all of the files they need on their desktop into their "My Documents" folder, which should be mapped into their home directory on the file server, and thus will be available both here and elsewhere (like from a linux machine). If that still doesn't do it, double-click on the red circle icon, and a list of files in your profile comes up, ordered by size from greatest to least. This list of files assumes a base directory of c:\Documents and Settings\<username>, where <username> is your login. It may be necessary to configure windows to view hidden files in order to see all of the files presented in the profile window. Find the ones that you know about and can remove. If you've done all this, but still you are over-quota and can't determine what else you should delete, contact problem@cs.brown.edu.