You have a Microsoft network with Server 2008 R2 servers and Windows 7 Clients.
Users tend to login on different computers and wish to have their desktop, my documents, favorites, you name it show up on every computer.
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)
- Start Menu
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
If you choose the Advanced setting, the options available change to the resemble the following image.
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.
The options available in this dialog are the same as the options available in Basic mode.
The Settings tab allows you to configure how the folder redirection will be handled.
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.
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\