Maintaining a common user profile across different Windows versions

I wish I could take the credit for this, but I can’t: last week one of my colleagues (Brad Mallard) showed me a trick he has for creating a single user profile for multiple Microsoft operating systems. Michael Pietroforte wrote about the different user profile formats for Windows XP and Vista back in 2007 but Brad’s tip takes this a step further…

Using Group Policy Preferences, Brad suggests creating a system variable to record the operating system version for a given client computer (e.g. %osversion%) and assign it to the computer account. Then in Active Directory Users and Computers (ADUC/dsa.msc), set the user’s profile path to \\servername\sharename\%username%.%osversion%. ADUC will resolve the %username% portion but not the %osversion% part so what remains will be something like \\bigfileserver\userprofiles\mark.wilson.%osversion%.

Using this method, one user can hotdesk between several locations with different desktop operating systems (e.g. Windows XP and Windows 7). Each time they log on to a machine with a different operating system, a new profile will be created in a subfolder of their user name. Technically, that’s two profiles – but at least they are in one location for management purposes. Combine this with folder redirection for documents, IE favorites, etc. and it should be possible to present a consistent view between two operating system releases.

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