One of the reasons a user may experience a slow logon are problems with a large roaming user profile. This post explains how to troubleshoot slow logon in Active Directory domain in those cases.

I recently spent some time troubleshooting slow logons. I had several complaints and had also personally witnessed some very slow logons. After some investigation, I found that nearly all of the user’s had either a very large profile or had directories with extremely high file count. Rather than just delete and hope the problem didn’t happen again, I decided to seek out a solution that would prevent this from happening in the future.

As you may know, just before discovering a solution, there’s usually a key discovery that lowers your blood pressure and allows your confidence level to return to normal. For me, that moment was discovering the power of using the Exclude directories in roaming profile and Limit Profile size Group Policy settings together.

Exclude directories in roaming profile and limit profile size

The Group Policy Object (GPO) setting Exclude directories in roaming profile is one of those settings that is unusually self explanatory. It allows you to create a list of directories, from the root of the user roaming profile location, that should be excluded from roaming profile synchronization.

How do I configure it?

This group policy setting is located in the User Configuration/Policies/Administrative Templates/System/User Profiles section of a GPO. To add multiple folders, separate them in the list using a semi-colon. For example, to exclude the Cookies directory and the Mozilla directory use this for your value:


Slow logon - Exclude directories in roaming profile

Exclude directories in roaming profile

What to exclude

Sometimes profiles grow large and you may not be sure which directories are the cause. This is where the Limit Profile size setting comes in very handy. Enabling the setting allows you to specify what the Max profile size should be as well as the message to use to notify the end user. This could be a double-edged sword. It can prompt your user to contact you when their profile is large but should be used with caution depending upon your user group. In my experience, I found this was a great way to target those experiencing slow logons due to profile size.

For the admin, the real power in this setting is the Profile Storage Space dialog box that is enabled in the system tray of the user’s desktop. It allows you to quickly view a list of the files in the profile sorted by size. I found this to be invaluable. That is because the cause of each user’s large profile can be unique.

Slow logon - Profile Storage Space dialog box enabled with Limit profile size

Profile Storage Space dialog box enabled with Limit profile size

In your environment, I would recommend enabling this setting with a large Maximum profile size of somewhere around 300MB for those user’s that you know are having problems with slow logon. This will allow you to begin to assess the cause of the large profiles. As you add directories to the Exclude directories in roaming profile setting, you will see directories disappear from the Profile Storage Space view.

  • Modify Exclude directories in roaming profile GPO setting that applies to the user
  • Synchronize domain controllers
  • Refresh group policy by running gpupdate /force from the command line
  • Log the user off and then back on
  • Double click the Profile Storage Space icon in the system tray

Ideally, you want to get profile size below 50MB. Below is the list I’ve compiled that has taken care of this issue for most of my users. This should work for Windows Vista and later desktop users.
AppData\Roaming\Mozilla;AppData\Roaming\Adobe;AppData\Roaming\Macromedia;$Recycle.Bin; AppData\Local;AppData\LocalLow

In the next article, I’ll discuss how customizing the three-headed monster (Indexing, System Restore, and Windows Error Reporting) can improve user logon and desktop performance for domain users.

  1. Avatar
    Konstantinos 8 years ago

    Can you please tell me what happens to the files if a user exceed the limit?

    They deleted after the log off or they continue to exist, so the only thing that happens is that the user gets the notification or somehow the profile size drops to the limit that we set?

    Thank you

    • Avatar
      Rodrigo Alfaro 4 years ago

      Users will keep receiving the message that they exceeded the specified size. You can also set that size via GPO or disable the message.

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