Why can’t Notebooks have “Roaming Profiles”?

On a Microsoft Windows Domain Network, Roaming Profiles allow a user to keep their personal settings, irrespective of the computer they are working on.

This is especially useful if users switch desks (or change / upgrade their machine). In such circumstances, they will not have to carry out any reconfiguration.

The system works by storing a copy of each user’s “profile” (settings) in a central location (normally the network server). This is downloaded each time the user logs in (and any changes are copied back to the server when a user logs out).

On the local machine, a users profile is normally found within “C:\Documents and Settings\%username%”.

Roaming profiles work best between desktop computers that have similar builds and have identical versions of application software and operating system. If there are major disparities, the profile can become “corrupted” and / or behave unpredictably.

Problems also occur when Notebook Computers are incorporated into the equation. By their nature, Notebooks / Laptops are built and configured differently to Desktops and therefore some elements of the profile will not work as expected.

In particular, Notebook Power Management settings are known to conflict with the ones configured on Windows XP Desktops.

Laptop Power Management Settings

The settings depicted above are typical of the power settings that are used on a Notebook Machine. These are obviously not suitable for a Desktop Environment.

To prevent the inoculation of laptop power settings into a desktop environment, it is recommended that the updating of roaming profiles is blocked from all Notebook computers. In other words, laptop profiles should be “read only”.

Creating a “Read Only” Profile for Laptop Computers

This can be useful for organisations with a mixture of Desktop & Laptop Computers.

In this scenario, when the Desktop user logs onto a Laptop, they will get all of their desktop profile settings (from the server), but when they log off, any changes they make during that session will be discarded.

This effectively prevents any of the laptop settings (particularly the power management settings) from making their way back to the desktop machine.

To achieve this, create an organisational unit / policy and place all the Notebook computers inside. Enable “Prevent Roaming Profile Changes from Propagating to the Server”. This will effectively set up a “read only” profile for all users of that machine.

Important information for Laptop Users

It is essential that users configure ALL of their initial settings using a desktop machine. The Notebook will automatically inherit these settings on first use.

Switching between a Roaming and Local User Profile

If any users spend the majority of their time using a laptop, imposing a “read only” user profile is likely to be inconvenient (as any changes made to the profile will be lost each time they login).

To compensate for this, it is possible to switch to using the local profile on the laptop for specific users.

[1] Logon to the Laptop Computer
[2] Open “System” within “Control Panel”.
[3] On the “Advanced” tab, under “User Profiles”, click “Settings”.
[4] Under Profiles stored on this computer, click the user profile you want to change, and then click Change Type.
[5] Select “Local Profile” to force the system to use the locally cached copy of the profile.

Laptop Local User Profile

Stephen Holder
09 January 2008


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