If you are working with roaming user profiles (server based user profiles) in your organisation, then be prepared for big changes. Windows Vista and Windows XP user profiles are not compatible! However, you can use folder redirection to make XP and Vista roaming user profiles interoperable. Even if you are only working with local user profiles, I recommend reading on.
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We always have problems with roaming user profiles whenever we move to a new Windows version. The worst change was from Windows NT 4.0 to Windows 2000. User using NT and Win2000 machines always had problems logging on to a Windows domain. This kept our help desk busy for months. In theory, Windows 2000 and Windows XP have the same profile structure. Unfortunately, this is only in theory. It seems that some applications just don't know about this theory.
When one of our sysops told me some weeks ago that XP and Vista user profiles are incompatible, I assumed that it is just due to this well known chaos, we always have with Windows upgrades. But, then, I have read that Vista can't even load roaming user profile created by XP. I was just stuck dumb. How can this work? What about our users who logon on three or four different machines? And our students who logon on every computer on the campus? Must we upgrade all our Windows PCs on one day?
My sys admin, then, handed me this white paper (Word file) which contains our salvation. It is called folder redirection. Folder direction also works with Windows 2000/XP. Basically, you redirect some crucial folders from the user profile to a share on a fileserver. We use this technique for our student machines because they use different computers daily. The advantage is that logon is faster when a student uses a computer for the first time since the data is accessible immediately. The disadvantage is that whenever the file server is unavailable, users can't access their data. You can work with offline files to solve this problem, but I, often, have trouble with this.
The trick is to use Group Policy to redirect folders for XP and Vista machines. If you logon for the first time to a Windows domain on a Vista machine, a new roaming user profile will be created on the server. It has the extension V2 to distinguish it from the XP user profile. The documents folder, application data, etc. from the XP profile will be available thru redirection. If you logon again on an XP machine, Windows will load the old user profile and access the same redirected folders on the fileserver.
Well, that's the theory. It is obvious that many things can go wrong here. The folder structure of user profiles in Vista and XP are quite different. Although Vista uses mechanisms to help legacy applications to get on with the new structure (junctions for example), I am sure that this will cause many problems. I highly recommend studying the afore mentioned white paper in detail even if you are not working with roaming user profiles. Many compatibility issues between XP and Vista will probably be caused by this change. The document lists all important modifications.
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My last advice is directed to prevent users from working on machines with different Windows versions. Make a list of those users using multiple computers and upgrade them to Vista, first. I hope you belong to those lucky sys admins with this option. Unfortunately, we're not that fortunate. I will share our experiences with this transition in the next months. Stay tuned!