Microsoft Windows Server 2008 R2 Folder Redirection via Group Policy

Published on 02/19/2013 by Wouter Makkinje

Filed under Group Policy, Microsoft Windows 7, Microsoft Windows Server 2008 R2

Last modified 06/13/2013

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Scenario:

You have a Microsoft network with Server 2008 R2 servers and Windows 7 Clients.


Problem:

Users tend to login on different computers and wish to have their desktop, my documents, favorites, you name it show up on every computer.

 

 


Solution:

Folder Redirection allows you as an administrator to point a number of special folders, such as Documents, Music and Downloads, to locations of your choice. The most common use of this is to locate folders such as My Documents on a network share so that it can be centrally backed up.

As of Windows Server 2008 R2, the folders you can redirect are as follows

  • AppData (Roaming)
  • Desktop
  • Start Menu
  • Documents
  • Pictues
  • Music
  • Video
  • Favourites
  • Contacts
  • Downloads
  • Links
  • Searches
  • Saved Games

There are two main methods of redirecting a folder. Firstly, you can configure a policy to redirect all users’ folders to the same place. Alternatively, you can redirect folders based on group membership of the logged on user.

Redirected Folder Interface
Redirected Folders Interface

You can redirect each of the above folders to the following places

  • A subfolder named after a username, created in a folder you specify
  • A specifically specified folder.
  • The default location (in the local user profile)

In addition, for the Documents folder, you can choose to redirect the folder to the user’s home folder, as specified in the Active Directory account.

How to redirect folders

One of the most useful things you can do is redirecting the Documents folder (or My Documents for Windows XP and earlier). This allows you to store a user’s files on a network share, rather than in their local user profile. This has a number of advantages, including allowing you to back up these files centrally, and giving users access to their files even if they log on to a number of different computers. You can couple Folder Redirection with Offline Files to ensure that people can continue to work on their files even when they are not connected to your network.

To redirect the Documents folder, open the appropriate Group Policy Object (GPO) and navigate to User Configuration\ Policies\Windows Settings\Folder Redirection, then right click on Documents and choose Properties.

Redirecting Documents
Redirecting Documents

The image above shows the most basic combination of settings. The options for Setting are:

  • Basic – Redirect everyone’s folder to the same location
    This will redirect the Documents folder to the location you specify next, for every user the policy applies to.
  • Advanced – Specify locations for various user groups
    This redirects the Documents folder to a different place depending on a particular user’s group membership.
  • Not configured
    The folder will not be redirected.

Basic Setting

When the Basic setting is selected from the options above, you must then configure a target folder location. You have three or four options in this case:

  • Redirect to the user’s home directory
    Only available if you are redirecting the Documents folder. This redirects the Documents folder to the user’s home directory, specified in their Active Directory account information.
  • Create a folder for each user under the root path
    With this option, you enter the path to a folder, and Group Policy creates a subfolder for each user, and redirects the appropriate folder there.
  • Redirect to the following location
    This option allows you to redirect a folder to a specific folder, which is the same for all users. This can be useful if you are redirecting the Desktop folder, for example, and want common items to appear on every user’s desktop.
  • Redirect to the local userprofile location
    The default option.

Advanced Setting

If you choose the Advanced setting, the options available change to the resemble the following image.

Redirecting Documents - Advanced
Redirecting Documents – Advanced

This mode allows you to specify a number of Active Directory security groups, and how to redirect folders based on a user’s membership of that group.

Redirecting Documents - Advanced - Adding a group
Redirecting Documents – Advanced – Adding a group

The options available in this dialog are the same as the options available in Basic mode.

Settings

The Settings tab allows you to configure how the folder redirection will be handled.

Redirection Settings
Redirection Settings

Grand the user exclusive rights

This setting grants the relevant user access rights to the redirected folder exclusively, removing administrators and all other users from the access control list. This option cannot be used when redirecting the Documents folder to a user’s home directory.

Move the contents of [Folder] to the new location

This option applies when the folder redirection is first applied, and moves files and folders from the default location (the user profile location) to the new redirected location. This will obviously increase logon times if there is a lot of data in whatever folder is being redirected, but is a helpful option if you are imposing folder redirection on existing users who have existing data.

Be warned, however, that if you are using this option, any files and folders in the target folder will be deleted.

Also apply redirection policy to older operating systems.

This option allows the redirection to apply to older Windows operating systems as well as Windows Vista and Windows 7. This only applies if the older operating system contains the folder you are redirecting, namely: Application data, Desktop, My Documents, My Pictures and Start Menu.

Policy Removal

This defines what should happen when the policy is removed – you can either choose to revert to the standard Windows setting of locating the relevant folder in the user’s profile, or you can choose to leave the redirection in place. Removal of the policy in this case means if policy no longer applies for any reason. This includes moving a user account to a different OU, or applying security filtering to a GPO.

The following image shows folder redirection in action on a user’s PC, having redirected Documents to a subfolder under the folder \\WIN-AR6G020D3N3\Home\

Folder Redirection in Action
I could have written all this by myself but im simply reposting from group-policy.com as they did a great job of explaining folder redirection.
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