Establishing Roaming and Mandatory Profiles

Profiles make life easier for both users and administrators. Part 2 of our series on Creating User Profiles demonstrates how to create roaming and mandatory profiles.

By Brien M. Posey | Posted Dec 4, 2000
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In Part 1 of this series ( User Profile Basics ), I discussed the three basic types of user profiles. I also discussed some of the basics involved in working with roaming profiles and mandatory profiles. In this article, I'll conclude the discussion by providing you with more specific information on how to establish roaming and mandatory profiles.

As you may recall from Part 1, a roaming profile follows users from computer to computer. A mandatory profile is nothing more than a roaming profile to which the user has read-only access. The only real difference between the two types of profiles is that a user can make changes to a roaming profile, but not to a mandatory profile. Any changes a user makes while logged in with a mandatory profile are gone the next time the user logs in.

Because of the similarities between the two types of profiles, I'll begin by talking about how to establish a roaming profile. After I've thoroughly covered roaming profiles, I'll explain how to turn a roaming profile into a mandatory profile.

How Roaming Profiles Work

Before I discuss how to create a roaming profile, it's important to know a little bit about how roaming profiles work. As you may recall, each Windows 2000 Professional machine has the ability to create local profiles automatically any time a new user logs on. These local profiles are stored on the local machine. However, roaming profiles must be accessible from anywhere. Therefore, the profile is initially stored on a server-based share point that can be accessed from across the network.

The first time a user logs in from a PC, the computer copies the profile and all the user's documents to the local computer. The next time the user logs in, the system checks for the existence of a local copy of the user's profile. If a copy exists, only the changes to the profile and documents will be downloaded from the server, rather than the entire profile. This saves time during the login process, because Windows doesn't have to download the entire profile and document set each time the user logs in.

Choosing a Server

When preparing to create roaming profiles, you must remember that although the server copies the profile and document files to each local machine the user logs in to, the files ultimately exist on the server. So, you should choose the server location for the profiles carefully. For starters, make sure the server you use to store the profiles is backed up regularly. Imagine the nightmare if the server failed and you lost all the users' documents, desktops, and all the other goodies that go along with a profile!

The other important criteria for a server is available workload. The process of copying profiles and documents can consume a lot of server resourcesparticularly bandwidth, processing power, and hard-disk capacity and performance. Therefore, you need to make sure your server can handle the workload. Unless you have a very small network, it's best to use a member server instead of a domain controller for this task. After all, domain controllers already have the additional responsibility of authenticating users into the domain.

Planning for Implementation

Setting up roaming profiles can be a lot of work, especially if you have a lot of users. So, before you get started, you need to make a few decisions. Are you going to try to tackle all the profiles in one night or one weekend, or do you need to span the process over a couple of weeks? And, do you want to start with a template profile?

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