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Deploying Windows XP, Managing User State Page 2

By Marcin Policht (Send Email)
Posted Dec 30, 2004


In addition, the root directory also contains NTUSER.INI, with a list of folders excluded from roaming profiles (this setting is configurable through group policies).

The listing above indicates the complexity involved in maintaining and migrating user state. To make matters even more confusing, both file and registry structure have changed between different versions of Windows. Some of the settings might not be desired once the new operating system is installed (e.g., in cases where one application is replaced by another with equivalent or improved functionality). Older applications might not be truly XP compliant, placing user-specific settings outside of the profile. Furthermore, typically, you would want to backup user personal and shared data that has been stored (accidentally or intentionally) elsewhere on computer's hard drives (which means you must search for it).

One way to simplify the migration process is to implement alternative methods of managing some of the profile settings.

One way to simplify the migration process is to implement alternative methods of managing some of the profile settings. One of them, taking advantage of folder redirection through Active Directory-based group policies, has already been described. Another one involves assigning user network drives or network printer mappings dynamically via a login script (note that this applies to drive mappings other than the one defining the home directory, which, in a domain environment, is configured using Home folder and Connect entries on the Profile tab of the user account's Properties dialog box in Active Directory Users and Computers). This method has a number of additional benefits, including the capability to change settings remotely, thus eliminating the need for visits to users' desks whenever mappings must be modified. Login scripts can take the form of simple batch files, although they are typically created with more flexible, convenient, and feature-rich scripting languages. Specifics of a drive mapping (such as drive letter, as well as the target server, share, and directory defining the UNC path) are usually determined by a user's group membership. So be sure to check which groups the user belongs to within the login script).

Unfortunately, network printer mappings are a bit more complicated because they are typically computer-specific, not user-specific.

Frequently, users prefer to print to devices located nearby, which means that when they move from one location to another, mappings should be adjusted accordingly. One way to address this issue is to build logic into the login script that checks for either the IP subnet of the workstation a user logs into (for environments where you still have legacy operating systems) or its membership in a designated Active Directory group. Unlike in Windows NT 4.0 domains, in Active Directory environments, computers function as security principals and can be added to domain-based groups. If one of these conditions is satisfied, you can use scripting methods to create temporary (for the duration of login session) mappings to the closest printers. Obviously, this requires the creation and maintenance of a list of such printers.

Note that you can use the same approach to locate the closest server for user drive mappings, if desired. This is assuming you have multiple, synchronized replicas of servers residing on the network. With Windows XP clients in a Windows 2003 Active Directory environment, you can rely for this purpose on the Distributed File System, which automatically redirects the client to the closest server, as determined using Active Directory Site information. In such cases, you do not need to compare the client IP subnet against a list of servers in the login script.

Maintaining user state is relatively simple during operating system upgrades. User's profiles (and all of their data files) are preserved. Note, however, that upgrades from Windows 98 or ME require additional precautions that upgrades from Windows NT 4.0 do not, due to more significant differences in registry layout and file structure. On the other hand, fresh installations offer several important advantages over upgrades and therefore are recommended as the way to migrate to Windows XP. An operating system's state deteriorates during the course of its lifetime as the result of misconfigurations and changes introduced by installed applications, which have a potentially negative impact both during the upgrade process and following it. (They trigger difficult to troubleshoot problems.) The main drawback of an operating system installation is the need to transfer user state and setup all applications that might require access to their source files.

>> Approaching Migration

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