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Using Roaming Profiles in the home


eagle63
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Hey guys, this question is not necessarily specific to WS 2012 Essentials R2 so feel free to move it if necessary.  I run a "mixed mode" household of both macs and PC's.  I've got an HP microserver (N40L) running WHS 2011 that is the core of my infrastructure and it's been running beautifully for a couple of years now.  For the past 6 months I've been experimenting with OSX Server on an old Mac Mini.  It does a number of things, but one of them is "Portable Home Directories".  This is the Mac equivalent of Roaming Profiles on Windows.  When it works it's a thing of beauty.  But far too often it doesn't work (sync issues, etc) and causes lots of frustration.  I've been curious about trying out Roaming Profiles on Windows but have a few questions:

 

1.  How reliable is it?  If it's as hit-and-miss as it is on OSX Server than I want no part of it.   

2.  Am I correct in assuming that in order to get Roaming Profiles working, I also need to setup a Domain Controller, AD, etc?  (all things I've never done before)  

3.  Is there any mac support?  So if I got all this up and running, can my Mac clients connect to the domain and even take advantage of the Roaming Profiles?  (I'm assuming no, but thought I'd ask anyway)

4.  I don't think WHS 2011 will support this sort of thing, but I do have a separate machine running Windows Server 2008 R2 (enterprise) on an older Technet license.  I assume this would support it?

 

Thanks in advance.  I love experimenting and will gladly put in the effort necessary, but if this is a huge boondoggle that will ultimately cause little value (for a home user) than I don't want to waste my time.  TIA!

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Even when I ran an Active Domain at home I didn't use roaming profiles. Where I am employed (~20,000 PCs nationally) we have worked to eliminate roaming profiles over the last couple of years. In my opinion they are more trouble than they are worth, generally speaking. You may have a special use case (note 1) that makes the bother worthwhile, but unless you just want to give them a try I would think very hard before commiting to them in my infrastructure, even at home.

 

I don't know what the equivalent would be on a Mac, but folder redirection on Windows 7 delivers, in my opinion, most of the benefits of roaming profiles with less hassle and higher reliability. I suggest you consider redirecting your My Documents and Favorites to suitable folders on the home server and leave it at that.

 

Note 1: at my church and school we use roaming profiles in some of the classrooms for generic accounts, but they are configured as mandatory profiles. It is not for the conveneince of the students, it is to lock down the desktops somewhat. It doesn't work all that well but is cheap (included in AD) and seems to be better than nothing. I am not recommending this, it is just an example of a possible special use case. I would not do this at home.

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Ugh.

 

Don't use roaming profiles. If you must sync stuff, Link a MS Account to your domain account, and use Folder Redirection (that "Implement Group Policy" option in the dashboard)

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Roaming Profiles are a resource hog so like other I'd suggest some sort of folder mapping.

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Roaming Profiles are a resource hog so like other I'd suggest some sort of folder mapping.

The "Folder Redirection" part of the "Implement Group Policies" automatically maps domain user's user folders to "\\SERVERNAME\Folder Redirection\user\userfolder", and sets up offline file sync automatically.

 

Which is why I recommended it. It won't sync settings, but it can sync most of the user folders. If you want settings to, you could manually add the "AppData" folder, as well, IIRC. But that definitely wouldn't be all settings.

 

But if you need wallpapers and other settings forced, there are group policies to do that as well.

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I have found that quite a few people use the term 'roaming profiles' when what they actually mean is the ability for your 'My Desktop' and 'My Documents' to move around with you wherever you happen to log in - and this is folder redirection.

 

I can see where the confusion arises as they both appear to do broadly the same things - but what is going on in the background is quite a bit different. So in answer to the original questions (and assuming we are talking about Folder Redirection rather than proper Roaming Profiles;

 

1) It's vey reliable - I use it all the time at home and on the networks of the various client companies I do work for.

2) Strictly speaking no, you can set it up manually creating shares on the server with the right permissions and repointing the various folders on a machine-by-machine basis. All this can be automated (and much easier controlled) with group policies and this does need active directory.

3) You can make Mac clients connect to a domain and make use of logins authenticated by the domain controller. No the folder redirection won't work automatically. What you could do (and I hesitate to suggest this because it is a massive amount of pain to get right and probably immensely flakey and unreliable as well) would be to setup shares on the server with the right permissions and accessible from the Mac clients and arrange them to auto-mount at startup. Then create symbolic links to each of them and replace the default Pictures, Desktop etc.folders inside the users' profiles with symbolic links pointing to the various shares. Should work but I've never tried it and I really can't see it ending well!

 

John 

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Everyone has already said it, but I'll concur with their recommendation to not use Roaming Profiles. We did this at work; tried for almost a year to get it to work properly for a pilot group. It was too 'flakey' so we gave up and reverted back.

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I've disabled the folder re-direction as part of my group policy simply because I felt OneDrive was where I wanted the unified file access to come from as opposed to locally on the server via folder re-direction - just another thought.

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