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
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Kyle Beckman

Kyle Beckman works as a systems administrator in Atlanta, GA supporting Office 365 in higher education. He has 17+ years of systems administration experience.
Profile gravatar of Kyle Beckman

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. I

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.

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2 Comments
  1. avatar
    Julian Gudsell 1 year ago

    Hi Kyle

    I just wanted to pass on my thanks for the clearest and most concise article I have read on folder redirection and the sharing and ntfs permissions required. Great work - thank you!

    Julian

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  2. avatar
    Mec 6 months ago

    Hi Kyle

    a Happy New Year

    Thank you for this well described document to redirect folders. I am looking to do that just locally from a folder to my folder.
    But on my w7ultimate it seems that I can't find anything to "folder redirecting". I do see your last picture on GPMC, but can't see the "folder redirect" option. It' just not here.

    Any idea and/or suggestions? Many thanks again.

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