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Windows Versions and Roaming Profiles

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Since the demise of Windows XP each version of the operating system (client and server) have their own unique way of using user profile information. This information applies to all windows operating systems not just the operating systems outlined in the sourced articles
Windows 10 Roaming Profiles

Roaming Profiles Overview

What is a Roaming Profile

A roaming user profile is a concept in the Windows Operating systems that allows users with a domain-joined computer that allows the user to log on to any computer on the same network and access their documents and have a consistent desktop experience, such as applications remembering toolbar positions and preferences, or the desktop appearance staying the same.


Roaming profiles copy the data from the c:\users\<username> folder onto the server on user logoff and back to the client computer on logon. This allows the user to logon to any computer and have a consistent desktop experience no matter which computer they logon to. This also allows the network administrators to back up the user’s data since it is stored in a central location. This makes for easier backups and allows the user to use multiple computers during their logon period without folder redirection as well the user is restricted to logon to only one computer (any computer in the domain at any one time or inconsistent behavior may surface.



Downsides are since roaming profiles are a merge not a move process client machines can accumulate large numbers of old profiles. Server file transfer speed is optimized for the movement of large files. However, user profiles may contain lots of small files (cookies/favorites, recent items, etc. These files may not take up large amounts of space but in terms of performance opening/creating a file is one of the costliest of file operations.

The time required to open/create a file may vastly outweigh the time to transfer the file thus slowing the merge by 90% or more. In a business or a school environment where large numbers of users logon or logoff at the same time you will experience network congestion (AKA a boot storm)

Profile Versioning

Client operating system Server operating system profile Version
Windows 10        Windows Server Technical Preview                          v5
Windows 8.1      Windows Server 2012 R2                                             v4
Windows 8          Windows Server 2012                                                  v3
Windows 7          Windows Server 2008 R2                                            v2
Windows Vista  Windows Server 2008                                                   v1

Profile compatibility

Profiles are compatible only between the following client and server operating system pairs: The issues occur because the profile will contain values that are used differently between the versions of Windows. The user profile will be missing default profile configuration information that is expected by the operating system, and could contain unexpected values that are set by a different operating system version. Therefore, the operating system will not behave as expected. Additionally, profile corruption may occur.
This also applies to server operating systems as well.

For example, if you try to deploy Windows 10 in an environment that uses roaming, mandatory, super-mandatory, or domain default profiles in Windows 7, you experience the following behavior:

After you use a user account that has an existing Windows 7, Windows 8, or Windows 8.1 profile to log on to a Windows 10-based computer for the first time, a "v5" version of the profile is created.

By default, this feature is enabled in Windows 10 clients and uses a .V5 profile folder extension unless the feature is specially disabled. On older operating systems, the default was "v2" unless the hotfixes that are described in the following articles are applied and the steps that are mentioned in the articles are followed.

What applies to Roaming Profiles also is applicable to mandatory, super-mandatory and domain default user profiles



  1. Use Folder Redirection in addition to roaming profiles to avoid the transfer of small files (favorites/cookies) and the larger files (video/music)
  2. Keep separate versions of the roaming data for each operating version i.e.

You do this by using WMI Filtering
2015-09-22_17-17-06.pngWindows 7 Client
SELECT version FROM Win32_OperatingSystem WHERE Version LIKE “6.1%” and ProductType = “1″

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Windows 8 Client
SELECT version FROM Win32_OperatingSystem WHERE Version LIKE “6.2%” and ProductType = “1″

Open in new window

Windows 8.1 Client
SELECT version FROM Win32_OperatingSystem WHERE Version LIKE “6.3%” and ProductType = “1″

Open in new window

Windows 10 Client
SELECT version FROM Win32_OperatingSystem WHERE Version LIKE “10.0%” and ProductType = “1″

Open in new window

You create a gpo for each operating system version i.e. Windows 7
2 sections to edit
Under Environment create an environment variable with
  1. Action: Create
  2. System Variable
  3. Name: OSVer
  4. Value: Win7

Profile Path
If you use the following registry fix for client computers
new Dwdord
UserProfilePathExtensionVersion value 1
2015-09-22_16-34-17.png2015-09-22_16-58-51.pngOr get the hotfix from Incompatibility between Windows 8 roaming user profiles and roaming profiles in other versions of Windows
Restart is required. Some people have stated that ending the userprofile with a \ will create the .v2/.v3,… automatically i.e. \\server\profiles\%username%\profile\

LVL 10

Expert Comment

by:Senior IT System Engineer
Thanks David.

I never knew about this before until you've shared this great article :-)

WHat's the impact in sharing or overwriting the user Roaming profile home directory ?
LVL 90

Author Comment

by:David Johnson, CD, MVP
WHat's the impact in sharing or overwriting the user Roaming profile home directory ? it is already a share.. so I don't understand the question

Expert Comment

by:Rusty Koenig
Could you create a custom system variable then target the policy to a certain PC?  Instead of keeping OS version profiles you could basically keep "local profile" versions for specific computers instead of specific OS versions?

Soon as I read your post FIRST thing that popped into my mind was using the same method for custom PC variables to separate "roaming LOCAL profiles" that are still stored on central server location but still be "local".

Like if you logged into Server2016 on server PC and Win10 on your desktop it would spit out the same version # for both but you wouldn't want the same profile you use for your PC on your server login.  I always got around this by adding another user with myname-server to use for server login so it wouldn't mix the profiles.  

I know a lot recommend core server but I want Desktop (I used Commodore64, most all the DOS versions, Apple II.... Faster to icon shit and use desktop for ordinary everyday functions  and just use command prompt/shell for specialized tasks or command functions).

AND I know you shouldn't use "Admin" roles to login for everything but It is home domain and I don't want/need several login names to use :)

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