Microsoft  Windows Profiles

For CSE Undergraduate student Windows accounts, the roaming profile feature is used in conjunction with Folder Redirection.

What are profiles?

Your user profile stores your individual settings under Windows. It is used to re-create your preferred system environment when you log on. This includes everything from your wallpaper and desktop, to your email settings and network connections. A roaming profile is stored on a central server which can be accessed from all domain computers. This allows you to have the same environment settings on every machine to which you log on. Your roaming profile is copied to a machine when you log on, and the synchronized back to the server when you log off.

What is Folder Redirection?

Folder Redirection is when Windows policies are applied that tell a windows computer to store files and folders that are normall stored locally, to a network location. For instance: When you save something to the Desktop or My Documents folder,  in windows, it actually saves it to C:\users\%username%\Desktop or C:\users\%username%\Documents, but with folder redirection, anything you save to the Desktop or My Documents is saved to a network file server for persisitence accross different lab workstations. 

Why use roaming profiles and folder redirection?

User profiles allow multiple users to share a Windows system and still maintain their own preferences. You can set your background to chartreuse without affecting anyone else who uses the machine. Folder redirection allows you to use Windows as you are used to, but to have files saved on the Desktop and My Documents, follow you around to each workstation. Some of the things you can set that are stored in your profile and redirected folders include:

  • Wallpaper
  • Screen saver
  • Display properties - colors, fonts and sizes
  • Shortcuts on the desktop
  • Whether to display or not to display web content
  • A personalized Taskbar
  • Desktop Toolbars
  • Settings for some applications

How is my profile initialized?

In C:\Users there  is a Default User profile and an All Users profile. The Default User profile is used as the starting point for each new user. When you log on to the CSENETID Windows domain for the first time, a new folder is created in which to store your profile, and  the default profile is copied into  your profile. Changes that you make are recorded in your profile.

Your Start menu and Desktop contain all of the items from your individual profile as well as those from the All Users profile. The items from the All Users profile are considered “common” program items, which are seen by every user on the system, and cannot be deleted.

Is there a profile quota?

Because roaming profiles are stored on a server, their size must be controlled for two reasons. First, the server does not have unlimited storage capacity, and space must be available to store every user's profile. Second, a roaming profile is downloaded to the local machine each time you log on, and uploaded to the server each time you log off. A very large profile can cause significant delays in your logon and logoff, can cause network congestion, and can become corrupted.

Roaming  profiles have a quota limit  of 350 MB. You will be warned when you go over quota and not allowed to log off until you are within quota. In certain instances, over quota profiles can get uploaded to the server. If this happens, you will receive a warning by email. Failure to respond can result in your account being disabled.

What can cause me to go over quota?

Profiles generally grow in size over time. The most common cause for going over quota is that Folder Redirection fails. When Folder Redirection fails, files that should be stored in your My Documents are saved into your roaming profile, instead of being redirected. Please contact SUPPORT to rectify broken Folder Redirection. The second most common reason, is that you or an application you use stores files in your profile, instead of on your Z:\. DropBox is known to do this, among many others. You use the custom install option, and redirect these applications to store their files on your Z:\. There are also other possibilities to numerous to list here.

What can I do if I go over quota and receive: "Profile storage space exceeded error message" ?

 If you receive the error below it is because your profile has grown too big. We restrict the size of your profile to prevent it becoming too large which would cause logons to take a long time. You will not be able to log off the machine until your current profile size is reduced.

exceeded quota warning

To fix the problem, you will need to free up some space in your profile:

      1. Select OK to hide the error message.

      2. Save all of your work and close all application windows or programs that are running.

      3. Double click on the red circle with the white cross displayed in the Taskbar (which is located at the bottom right hand side of your screen).

 where it at yo

      4. This will bring up a list of files that are contained in the your profile (see below)


    5. The list is relative, so the location of the files would be C:\users\%username%\"the path in the window above", use the window shown above to find and remove files in your roaming profile. 

What can cause my roaming profile to become corrupted?

Anything that interrupts the process while your profile is being uploaded to the server during logoff can potentially corrupt your profile. Common causes are:

  • Going over quota
  • Timeouts while copying large files in your profile
  • Rebooting the machine while you are logged on
  • The machine crashes while you are logged on
  • Simultaneously logging off two machines
  • Network connectivity interrupted while logging off
  • An Act of God

What should I do  if my roaming profile has become corrupted?

Often the only practical way of recovering from a corrupted profile is to delete the current profile and allow the system to create a new one. Keep in mind that resetting your profile will cause all preferences to be lost. Your profile cannot be deleted while you are logged on. If you are having an issue that you believe is caused by a corrupt roaming profile, please email SUPPORT.

What else should I know about my roaming profile?

If you are logged on to more than one machine at a time, both machines will update your roaming profile when you log off of them. This means that the last machine from which you log off will write it's changes last and that will be the profile you see on your next logon.

If you have icons or shortcuts on your desktop or in your start menu that point to files or other programs on the local machine, those items will not function when you're logged on to some other machine, unless those files or programs exist.

To sum it all up...

Because of the potential for data loss or corruption, the increase in network traffic, and increassed logon/logoff times, it is strongly recommended that you do not use your roaming profile for any file storage. All CS accounts are provided with a home directory on a file server that is mounted at logon as the Z:\ drive. Store your files and folders in your home directory, and place shortcuts to them on your desktop. Three advantages of using your home directory are:

  1. Files stored in your home directory are being stored on the file server, and they are accessible from your Linux account as well as from your Windows account.
  2. Home directories on the file server are reliably backed up.
  3. There is a snapshot facility on the file server that automatically backs up your files so that you can recover them with fine granularity.