Folder Redirection in Group Policy allows a systems administrator to redirect certain folders from a user’s profile to a file server. In part 1 of this series, I’ll introduce Folder Redirection and show where to find it in the Group Policy Management Console

If you’re like me, you’ve probably gotten a frantic call from a customer because they have a computer that won’t boot and they have irreplaceable files on their local hard drive. Try adding clicking or grinding sounds coming from that computer along with no recent backup to the mixture. Sound familiar? That combination can add up to a very upset customer and possibly a very expensive bill if you have to get data restored from that failed hard drive.

The good news is that there is something you can start doing today to start combatting that problem: Folder Redirection in Group Policy. To get started with Folder Redirection, you’ll need to be running Active Directory (any functional level), have an available file server, and a management station running the Group Policy Management Console. As with most Group Policy, the latest version of the GPMC is preferred, but most of these settings are available in older versions.

So what exactly does Folder Redirection do? Folder Redirection takes common user profile folders from C:\Users (or C:\Documents and Settings\ in Windows XP) like the Desktop or Documents and puts them on a UNC path instead of the local hard drive of the computer.

In addition to the immediate benefit of having that data on a file server that is much easier to keep backed up, the user also gets the benefit of being able to go to multiple computers in your organization and still have access to their data. Using the default Windows settings and the default share settings on your file server, these redirections will be even made available offline automatically for your users. (Don’t worry, this can be controlled separately in Group Policy, which we’ll cover in a later article.)

Folder Redirection - Documents Redirected in Windows 7

Documents Redirected in Windows 7

In the GPMC, the Folder Redirection settings can be found in User Configuration > Policies > Windows Settings > Folder Redirection. If you’re using the GPMC in Windows XP, you can redirect Application Data, Desktop, My Documents, and the Start Menu. In addition, folders in Windows XP that are inside the My Documents folder like My Music and My Pictures will follow My Documents when it is redirected.

GPMC in Windows XP Showing Folder Redirection

GPMC in Windows XP Showing Folder Redirection

If you’re using the GPMC in either Windows 7 or Windows Server 2008 R2, you’ll see that the list of folders that can be redirected is much longer. AppData (Roaming), Desktop, Start Menu, Documents, Pictures, Music, Videos, Favorites, Contacts, Downloads, Links, Searches, and Saved Games can all be redirected in Vista, 7, Server 2008, and Server 2008 R2.

GPMC in Windows 7 Showing Folder Redirection

GPMC in Windows 7 Showing Folder Redirection

In the next post of this series I will explain how to set up Folder Redirection.