This document describes the technical details of Profiles and Folder Redirection, relevant to computers running Microsoft Windows on campus.

Windows Profiles

Windows settings, such as desktop wallpaper, mapped printers, Favorites, etc. are stored in what’s called a Profile.  Microsoft has 3 different types of profiles: Local, Roaming, and Mandatory.

  • Local Profile: the settings are stored locally on the computers internal drive
    • Advantage: No synchronization delays
    • Disadvantage: If you login to many Windows computers, you have to reset the same preferences each time
    • If hard drive fails or laptop is stolen, some settings might be lost (Please use CrashPlan)
  • Roaming Profile: the settings are downloaded from a network server when you login, and are uploaded when you logout
    • Advantage: If you login to many Windows computers, your settings follow you
    • Disadvantage: Can slow down login times, synchronization errors can lead to profile corruption
  • Mandatory Profile: similar to a local profile, except changes are not saved between login/logout
    • Advantage: consistent pre-defined settings are available for computers in public spaces ; read-only profile will not corrupt
    • Disadvantage: some custom settings cannot be saved
    • Many changes still persist through Folder Redirection, see below for more information.

Folder Redirection

In addition to the Profiles mentioned above, which contain a users entire home folder and subfolders, Microsoft also provides a means of redirecting certain folders (Desktop, My Documents, AppData, etc) to locations on network file servers.  When you login to a computer on campus (see chart below), the following folders will be redirected:

Folder Network Path
My Documents \\\files\User\%UserName%\MyDocuments
Desktop \\\files\User\%UserName%\WindowsOverhead\Desktop
AppData \\\files\User\%UserName%\WindowsOverhead\AppData

(%UserName% refers to your Andrew ID)

Special folders such as Music, Pictures, and Videos are subfolders of My Documents, and are automatically redirected under MyDocuments.

Many modern software packages use the AppData directory to store settings and configuration data.  Each software vendor creates a subfolder(s) under AppData where it can place files relevant to that program.  Settings and files related to these programs (which properly use AppData) will follow you, even if you are logging into a computer which uses Mandatory Profiles.

Carnegie Mellon University Qatar IT Policy

Please see the table below for the profile types in use, and whether or not folders are redirected, for various computers on campus.

Computer Category Users Profile type Folders
Cluster Students Mandatory* Redirected
Library, student lounge, open areas Students Mandatory* Redirected
Laptops Faculty, Staff Local Local
Desktops in offices Faculty, Staff Local* Redirected
Lectern PCs All Local* Redirected
Conference rooms/Pantries All Mandatory* Redirected
View virtual desktops All Mandatory Redirected

*Prior to 2015, these were Roaming Profiles