Folder Redirection in Group Policy allows a systems administrator to redirect certain folders from a user’s profile to a file server. In the last part of this series, I’ll discuss things that I’ve learned in implementing Folder Redirection and things you’ll need to consider before you implement.

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.

After implementing this in several organizations, I’ve discovered several issues that may be of interest if you’re planning on implementing Folder Redirection.

Test, test, test ^

If you’ve read other Group Policy articles I’ve read, I harp on testing. Sorry, but way too many people make a change in a production environment before trying it out on test systems first.

Communicate to end users ^

If Folder Redirection is new for your users, make sure they know the change is coming. Most users will never notice until they accidentally delete a file or have a machine die and you become their hero.

Slow logons after implementation ^

One of the things you’ll need to communicate with users if you have pre-Windows 7 computers is that they may see slow logons the first time they log into their computers after Folder Redirection is implemented. Not only are everyone’s files being copied to the file server, but the server’s NIC and the network will probably be saturated with file transfer traffic. (Microsoft improved this in Windows 7 with Fast First Logon.

Broken shortcuts and Recent Documents ^

If users have created shortcuts to documents or folders inside of folders that you’re redirecting, they may end up with broken shortcuts. The same is true for the Recent Documents feature in applications like Word and Excel.

Which folders to redirect ^

Decide beforehand what you want to redirect vs. what you really need to redirect. Is it really important to redirect Downloads? How about Saved Games? Everything you redirect is going to have an impact on how much storage you need.

Planning storage ^

For your shared folder, you’ll want to make sure that the share is on a volume that is large enough to handle the amount of data that your users will be storing. There are a few ways to accomplish this, but most of them depend on your server environment. If your file server is a virtual machine, you can always expand your virtual disk and then expand the volume in Windows if you start to run low on disk space later. In the event you’re using a physical server connected to some kind of Fiber Channel or iSCSI SAN, you can do pretty much do the same thing: Expand the volume on the SAN and then expand the volume in Windows.

The amount of storage you’ll need can vary widely depending on the types of users you’re supporting. I’ve seen administrative users (accountants, HR, etc.) users use as little as a few hundred megabytes and engineers use hundreds of gigs. Plan accordingly!

File server configuration ^

File server configuration can have an impact on Folder Redirection. Just be aware that things like antivirus or an IDS application can impact your users. Also be aware of whether or not File Screening is being used to block files on your file server since this will impact Folder Redirection also.

Consider using DFS ^

If you’re already using DFS, seriously consider using DFS for your folder redirections. In the event you need to change servers or create a more redundant file server, everything you need is already built in to DFS.

Stopping Folder Redirection for labs and kiosks ^

If you have training facilities, kiosks, or other computers where you don’t want user folders being redirected, you’ll need to use loopback processing. In most cases, using Replace will be the easiest since it will just ignore all of the User Configuration. In the event you do decide to use Merge, make sure you set a User policy that redirects all of the folders to the local user profile.

Offline Files ^

In most circumstances, the default settings for Offline files will probably be adequate. In the event you need to change those settings, Offline Files can be configured for the entire computer in the GPMC at Computer Configuration > Policies > Administrative Templates > Network > Offline Files. On the user side, it is located in User Configuration > Policies > Administrative Templates > Network > Offline Files. By default, Redirected Folders will be made available offline. On both sides, you can disable Offline Files by setting “Prevent use of Offline Files” to Enabled.

Folder Redirection - Prevent use of Offline Files

Folder Redirection - Prevent use of Offline Files

Disabled Offline Files and server availability ^

In the event you need to disable Offline Files for security reason, you’ll want to make sure that your file server is as highly available as possible. In the event your file server does need to be offline or reboot, just be aware that any logged in users will immediately lose access to their files until the file server becomes available again.

Folder Redirection - Offline Files disabled and file server unavailable

Folder Redirection - Offline Files disabled and file server unavailable

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8 Comments
  1. Joseph Moody 6 years ago

    Thank you for the link to fast first logon! Learned something new this morning!

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  2. antonio 3 years ago

    Hi Michael! Thanks and congratulation for this guide,

    Can you suggest me what is the best choiche for have best storage performance choosing between simple NAS share o an ISCSI virtual disk shared by the AD server itself!

    1+

  3. Kyle Beckman 3 years ago

    Actually, Antonio, I was the person that wrote this guide. 😉

    There can be a substantial difference between the two options you're asking about. A client system isn't going to know the difference between an iSCSI disk that is shared by a Windows server vs. a local disk that is shared by a Windows server. (Even a Windows server "sees" an iSCSI LUN as a local disk.) Typically, my recommendation would always be to go with a regular Windows filesystem and share whenever possible if that is an option. Many NAS front ends are Linux based and don't always support Windows filesystem permissions. That can cause problems for the clients... especially if you're using Folder Redirection. If you really want to use a NAS, make sure it supports CIFS.

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  4. antonio 3 years ago

    I'm sorry Kyle, excuse me for the mistake 🙂 and thank you for reply
    Ok, my NAS both supports CIFS but I asked you this question for understand which is the best storage choice for faster response of foldered directory.

    And how I can set this GP for set foldered directory avaiable when redirected path is offline??(For example: Disk fault, network down, share offline...)

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    • Kyle Beckman 3 years ago

      No problem! 🙂 I've done both and I can't say during typical usage I could really tell much of a difference between either, but that is comparing an Enterprise storage array with a NAS head to Enterprise servers. It really comes down to hardware you're using... Vendors should be able to provide you with performance information on each.

      Offline Files is enabled by default and folders that have been redirected are automatically made available offline.

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  5. Gerry 6 months ago

    Do you recommend DFS namespace or DFS replication or both?

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  6. HarryM 1 month ago

    Kyle,

    Thank you for the post. I have been encountering installation issues when redirecting documents and desktop to the H: drive (usually a folder called Users, that is shared with full access to System, Administrators and the specific username.

    Does not matter if it is using a policy or not.

    Sample command under Profile is:

    use H: for \\servername\users\%username%

    Under the H:\ drive, I create a folder called Profile. Set that folder to always be available offline and do a manual sync.

    Under that folder, I redirect the Documents, Desktop and Pictures folders from the C:\users\<username> folder

    Let's say I have a user called Test. The location of their items becomes:

    H:\Profile\Desktop

    H:\Profile\Documents

    H:\Profile\Pictures

    The user Test is a local administrator on their machine. When I install programs such as Quickbooks, or others that do something to the documents folder, I end up getting an error called invalid drive H:\. I do select Run As administrator. Even if I don't it still occurs.

    If I redirect the Desktop I also get an error that The system cannot find the path specified. [0x80070003]; Could not find Desktop folder (0x10);194 (This error was produced by ninite.com installers.)

    The only way to install the software on the local machine is to log in as a different user, such as the local Administrator user that does NOT have any folder redirection enabled.

    What am I doing wrong? Appreciate your suggestions.

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  7. Rishav 3 weeks ago

    Good morning,

    I am having issues applying folder redirection policies consistently to users in London. We have three sites, Toronto, New York and London. I, in the London office, initially setup folder redirection and later deployed it for users in TO & NY. I am using security groups in all three locations and have setup the polices and Users$ share as defined here: https://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/jj649078(v=ws.11).aspx

    When I first set up Folder Redirection everything was working fine and continued to work for 6-8 months, it then stopped working consistently and I have not been able to find the reason why. Group policy results show that all defined policies are applying correctly. (I will attach once case is open) But when the user logs in the folder redirection is not applied - Desktop, Documents ect. stay in the local location - c:\users\%user%

    To troubleshoot I have so far - created new users, reinstalled computers, created new GPO's and created new OU's. No consistent success.

    Now I'm stuck, HELP!

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