New York University Faculty of Arts and Science College of Arts and Science Graduate School of Arts and Science

Computing Resources

Windows Roaming Profiles


Roaming profiles try to ensure that your Windows environment is the same on each computer you log into. The profile consists of several directories including My Documents, Desktop, and Application Data. The profiles are stored on the file server as a subdirectory of your Unix home directory and downloaded each time you log into a PC.

While roaming profiles are generally useful in a multi-user environment, there are some problems associated with them. Data is only written back to the server at logout. This means that your data is not being backed up until you log out of Windows. If your local hard disk crashes, you are in danger of losing data.

Copying the profile from the server at login (and to the server at logout) can take several minutes for large profiles. Sometimes this process dies in the middle and your profile is left in an inconsistent state where the locally cached copy does not match the copy on the server. In these cases, Windows may choose to only work from the cached copy, meaning that your data will not be written to the server until the original problem is resolved.

Recent Changes

The My Documents, Application Data, Desktop, and Recent directories are now written immediately to a new subdirectory in your home directory called .windows rather than the previous only at logout scenario. This has the benefit of speeding up the login and logout process a great deal.

Potential Problems

As a result of these changes, those four directories are no longer located under C:\Documents and Settings\username but instead can be found in Z:\.windows. We have noticed that certain applications do not automatically pick up on this change. Two of them are Thunderbird and Netscape 7.x. If you have been using either of these applications in the past, you should take the following steps before attempting to open them again:

  • Use the application's profile manager to rename your original profile to something else.
  • Create a new profile with the same name as the old one. For the folder location, give it the same location as the original profile by navigating to your Application Data folder (now under Z:\.windows). Everything should function normally with the new profile.

Two other applications require modifying the registry. These are Exceed and Corel Word Perfect. If you had been using either of these, you will need to make the following changes:

  • Go to Start->Run and type regedit.
  • Navigate to HKEY_CURRENT_USER and locate the Software key. Under this key, there should be several subkeys for all of the software installed on the PC. For Exceed, rename the Hummingbird key to something else. For Word Perfect, find the key labeled Corel and rename this one to something else. The next time you start the application, new keys will be created and it should function normally.

If you have trouble with any other applications, please report them to helpdesk(at)cims.nyu.edu.