Windows XP Offline Files and Folder Redirection

Just some background, we have 500 employees, across 15 locations, 10 file servers spread throughout different sites, with user Home folders being mapped to H: \\server\homefolder\%username%, with the 'server' being different depending on the users location or site. The question below deals specifically with one location with one file server that is being physically replaced. Clients are Windows XP, Servers are 2003.

Depending on which site the user is at, will depend on which server their home fodler is mapped too. We also have Network/Offline files enabled, with Folder Redirection set up to Basic, Path: \\%HOMESHARE% %HOMEPATH% with the options to Grant user exclusive rights to My Documents, Move the contents of My Documents to new location, and Policy removal behavior to Leave Contents (leave the folder in the new location when policy is removed)


- (Old file server is brought offline, files are manually moved to new file server [new name], and paths are updated accordingly in active directory) Changing the path in the Active Directory properties of the user's Home folder will prevent the user's My Documents folder from being updated correctly.  Their H: drive network map will update, however when clicking on My Documents, still has the folder redirection to the old server, and is never updated.  Found only that manually changing entry in registry to new path or deleting user profile and recreating seems to correct there any way for this to be updated automatically, if so how?

-If a user's policy is updated, however for some reason they do not have the new path apply to their profile, as a result they work offline, never syncing with the server.  The files are still available offline, and can be retrieved if running the CSCCMD command line....what happens to the currently cached offline files if the Offline Files folder policy is DISABLED?  Will the offline files folder still remain, or will it be deleted when this policy is disabled? So if a user at one point had offline files, the policy is disabled, will I still be able to run the CSCCMD utility to retrieve files from the cache?

-Best practice/procedural question:
User's currently have home folder mapping to \\OLDserver\files\%username% with Offline Files Enabled and Folder Redirection configured as above
We want to change to \\NEWserver\files\%username% with Offline Files and Folder Direction Enabled as before.  How do we avoid the Offline message once the OLDserver is brought offline? How do we prevent loss of Cached files/folders from local workstations in event that they previously were not synchornizing correctly with the server?

Also, what changes are there if any with regards to the way Server 2003 handles the Offline Files and Folder Redirection compared to Server 2008R2? (The new server will be 2008R2)

Sorry I know I jumped all over the place with the questions, but I'll help you break it down if need be.  Thanks.
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pwindellConnect With a Mentor Commented:
I am in agreement with the Offline files.  What will be the result in the case of disabling the offline files policy, and there are files that are offline and didn't yet synchronize with the server, will they be lost?

That just it.  You never know what to expect from Offline files when they screw up,..and they love to screw up.  I have had it Sync the side that didn't have the files to the side that did and just wiped out all the files when it was supposed to go the other direction.

Generally when you turn off the Offline Files it will ask you if you want to move the Server Files to the local machine and you would tell it yes.  But I don't trust that either and would make a backup of the Files first before turning if off so they can be put back if they need to be.   anyway my main point is to just only use Offline Files on the machine that really can justify it and not do it anywhere else.

DFS.  Yes the DFS in 2008 and I think even 2003R2 was greatly improved and was more more efficient over slow WAN links.  You may also want to check out the Branch Cache concept with 2008.  Anyway, yes you need to revisit DFS,...solve whatever problems you have with it,...and use it. It is certainly worth the trouble to troubleshoot it and get it working correctly.  I certainly don't have all the answers with it, but I know enough to know that is what you should be looking at.

Mapped Drives and Home Folders are two different things.  

Mapped Drive are bad just in and of themselves. They have high overhead, maintain a near constant connection (bad), do not always reconnect properly if they time out (bad), and screw up or impede the user's "thinking" causing users to think of everything as on a "Drive" somewhere when they really need to grow in their thinking and think of things being in "Locations" instead of drives.  

Home Folders are just another throwback to the evil Dinosaur days of Novell,...I mean it just isn't even logical.  My Documents??  A Home Folder that shows as yet another "Drive"??  What's the point? It is redundant and confusing.  All they need is the My Documents and then use Folder Redirection (maybe combined with Roaming Profiles) to centrally store the files where they can be backed up.  Then you combine all that with DFS to distribute and replicate the Profile and Redirected Folders.  In fact DFS can make the backups less important because if a Server goes down one of the other DFS members can pickup the traffic and it all keeps going seamlessly, particularly if you have at least 2 DFS Members in each physical location.
Don ThomsonCommented:
You mentioned that you are able to get it working by going into the registry and manually changing the key that points to the new server

If it's something like \\newserver\%username%   and there is nothing specific about the line other than the actual new servername
Why don't you do 1 machine - go into the regedit  and export that line

Then Change it back to the original - run the .reg file and verifiy that the new server entry is there
If it is - then create a batch file Something like this

echo From Sysadmin - please say yes when the popup comes up - this is a fix for the off-line syncronization associated with the new file server

Put that bat in the login script for the server on those people that need the fix
You could also put a line in that creates a folder on the server with the username as the foldername to let you know it's been done

With a couple of If Exists  you can just run it the first time

Just a thought
fireguy1125Author Commented:
Is the %username% recognized by the registry? I thought that is something only Active Directory based?

Can you elaborate on what to put in the login script? Not too familiar with scripting.
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Don ThomsonCommented:
Whicjh registry entry did you change at the workstion level that worked - Can I get an example of what it was and what it is after you changed it. (export them and change the extention to .regtxt to avoid any accidents)
fireguy1125Author Commented:
Still no resolution on this, request for additional support
I think you need to rethink the entire process and methods.  There should not be any Registry Hacks and File Copying.

To move files to another server location you would use a normal Backup Utility that backs up and restores NTFS Permissions as well as the Files and Folder themselves.  Them when you move them (actually Restore them) to a new location all the permissions are preserved.  Then as long as your Mapped Drives (which are a horrible idea) are adjusted and the Redirection Paths are adjusted it should all work.

However what you should really be doing with these multiple file server is using DFS combined with DFS Replication then you can add, remove, and move Servers around all days and everythign keep working seamlessly.

Mapped Drives are a curse held over from the Novell days back when Dinosaurs roamed the earth and they need to be eliminated.  Files needed stored and accessed via UNC Network Paths and those paths can be made transparent and consistent via DFS

Offline Files.  Offline Files tends to be just plain horrible in many cases.  Use them ONLY for Laptops that are periodically removed from the premises and need local copies of the files.  Never ever use Offline files for Desktops if they always stay on the LAN (and even laptops if they are never carried out)
fireguy1125Author Commented:
I am in agreement with the Offline files.  What will be the result in the case of disabling the offline files policy, and there are files that are offline and didn't yet synchronize with the server, will they be lost?

The problem we have had with the DFS was the replication never worked correctly, caused it to hang for most of the servers, resulting in journal_wrap errors.  This was as a result of a combination of having a tremendous amount of files being replicated between certain servers, over "slow" wan links (dsl), and the occasion when a wan link would go down for a significant period of time, which prevented the replication, generated errors, and caused in some instances loss of files.  This was with our 2003 servers.  Since this happened we moved onto a third party program which seems to have been working good.  However, we are rolling out 2008 R2, slowly but surely, and my understanding is that it has been tremendously improved since 2003, so we may give it a try.

So what you are saying regarding the mapped drives is that the active directory profile properties for users is to NOT have a Home Folder drive mapping like we currently do?  So what should we do, just redirect the My Documents folder to the UNC network path?

This looks like it makes more sense, because managing this method has been a headache especially when staff move between locations and their home folder is organized by location/dept corresponding to the OU creating instead 1 folder, with just all the user "home folders", and allowing DFS to determine which server they would be connecting  to based on availability/speed?  The only problem I see with this is, that it would require the "home folders" to be replicated to ALL the servers correct? Most of our remote servers don't have the storage capacity for this.
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