User Experience Virtualization (UE-V) – Part 1: Client configuration and deployment

Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack (MDOP)  2012 delivered a huge breakthrough in application data management. UE-V is an elegant solution to roaming user application data.

Joseph MoodyMVP By Joseph Moody - Tue, January 8, 2013 - 0 comments google+ icon

Joseph Moody is an admin for a public school and helps manage 5,500 PCs. He is a Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP) in Software Packaging, Distribution, and Servicing. He blogs at DeployHappiness.com.

Show of hands everyone – who loves roaming profiles? Not the idea of roaming profiles but actually managing it day to day. Just what I thought, not that many of you. And if I had to bet, most of us do not care much for using Folder Redirection to “roam” the AppData folder either.

While the benefits of universal application data access is awesome, there are problems with the traditional methods of doing so. The problem with both of these technologies is that they either impact user logons or can completely overwhelm a file server with the constant writing of files. And so for years, we have either used these technologies (with their drawbacks) or kept all application data locally. With users expecting near instant access and a seamless configuration across devices, it is more important for IT to keep up than ever before. UE-V takes the best parts of both technologies and combines them into an extremely simple solution comprised of just four components.

UE-V components

UE-V, at a core level, is comprised of two pieces and two storage locations.

First, the UE-V Agent is required on any machine that will make use of application data virtualization. The second component is the UE-V Generator which is used to generate custom application setting templates. UE-V, naturally, needs a network location to store data from application settings. This can be a dedicated network share (with permissions set similar to Folder Redirection) or a home folder (that is already configured for the users).

By default, the UE-V client will use a home folder. This location can be changed during the client deployment (or with Group Policy). If you plan on using the UE-V Generator to create custom templates, you will also need a second share to store them. This template catalog is regularly checked by the UE-V agent for updated application templates. UE-V also recommends that Offline Files be enabled. This is restriction can be turned off and is configurable in Group Policy though.

By default, Offline Files are enabled on Windows 7. Because our test environment is using Windows 8, we first must enable Offline Files. We will create a new GPO named Configuration: UE-V and we will enable “Allow or Disallow use of the Offline Files feature”. As a note, this computer side setting requires a reboot to take effect.

UE-V - Allow or Disallow use of the Offline Files feature

Allow or Disallow use of the Offline Files feature

In this same GPO, we will also add in the UE-V agent MSI to our GPO. If you do not want to use Group Policy Software Installation to deploy the client, Microsoft provided a lot of flexibility in getting the client into your enterprise. You can deploy the MSI through batch, PowerShell, MDT, SCCM, or even remotely by using PSEXEC! For a full list of supported methods and deployment guidance, see this TechNet article.

The UE-V MSI that is ready for deployment

The UE-V MSI that is ready for deployment.

If you do install the ADMX setting for UE-V, you do get the option to configure the UE-V client. As an example, you can allow for the UE-V client to work without requiring Offline Files. For the full list of configurations, see this page.

UE-V client installation

Now that our GPO is configured, let’s link it and deploy the UE-V Client to a machine.

GPSI installing the UE-V Client

GPSI installing the UE-V Client

The UE-V client does require a reboot after installation. If you are using GPSI (or not suppressing the reboot), this will automatically occur after Group Policy finishes startup processing.

Once finished, we can login into our first desktop to test out our UE-V installation. Our default background is the Windows 8 daises picture.

Our background on Desktop 1

Our background on Desktop 1

To test UE-V, we will change our desktop background from the default daisies to the desert landscape.

Our changed background on Desktop 1

Our changed background on Desktop 1

We will then log out of desktop 1. If we open Explorer from our data server and look in our user’s home folder, we will see a new hidden folder named SettingsPackages. Inside of this folder, we can see our saved applications and Windows settings stored by the UE-V agent.

The application settings location for our test user

The application settings location for our test user

On desktop 2, we will log in as our same test user and look at the desktop! When we first login to our second Windows 8 computers, the desktop tile changes from the daisies to the desert tile nearly instantly! It is the same as the one we set on our first computer!

The desktop background on Desktop 2

The desktop background on Desktop 2.

By default, the UE-V Agent automatically monitors and saves application settings for a few built-in Windows applications (Calculator, Notepad, WordPad), Internet Explorer (versions 8-10), Microsoft Office 2010 and Windows settings for Windows 7+. This is why UE-V is so simple to get running. Without any client configuration, our Windows settings (desktop background) was kept continuous on our first and second computer.

UE-V ADMX settings

If desired, the default application templates can be disabled with the UE-V ADMX settings.

In my next post, I will show you how to create a custom application template and explore the UE-V rollback feature which allows you to instantly revert back user changes per application!

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