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Managing XP Profiles |

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A user profile is a set of files and folders that contain information about user-specific configuration settings such as customized desktop, personalized application settings, network and printer connection settings, display settings, and other specified settings. Microsoft Windows XP supports the following types of profiles:

Local user profile: A local user profile is a computer-based record about a specific user. It is created automatically on the computer’s local hard disk the first time when the user logs on to a computer. A local user profile is specific to the computer on which it is created. Both Windows XP Home Edition and Windows XP Professional operating systems support the local user profile. In Windows XP, a local user profile is stored in the Documents and Settings folder hierarchy on the system root drive. Whenever a user initially logs on to a computer running Windows XP, Windows creates the user-specific folder in the Documents and Settings folder. Each user profile contains several files and folders that store configuration information including the following:

1. Application Data: This folder is hidden by default and stores the user-specific application configuration information.

2. Cookies: A cookie is a small text file that is created by websites to store the user-specific information and preferences on a local computer.

3. Desktop: This folder stores files, folders, and shortcuts that are placed on a Windows XP desktop.

4. Favorites: This folder stores shortcuts to locations added to the Favorites list by a user in Windows Explorer or Internet Explorer.

5. My Documents: This folder stores documents and other user data.

6. My Recent Documents: This folder contains shortcuts to recently accessed documents and folders. A user can also access such documents from the Start Menu.

7. NTUSER.DAT: This file stores the information about changes made to Windows Explorer, taskbar, user-specific Control Panel, Accessories, and Internet Explorer settings.

8. NTUSER.DAT.LOG: It is a log file that provides help in the recovery of the NTUSER.DAT file when a computer crashes.

9. Templates: This folder is hidden by default and contains the template items created by the user applications. These items are used automatically when a user creates a new document.

10. Printhood: This folder contains the shortcuts to printer folder items.

11. NetHood: This folder contains shortcuts created by the Add Network Place option in My Network Places.

Built-in user profiles: In addition to the user-specific profile, Windows creates two built-in local user profiles at the time of installation:

1. Default User Profile: This profile works as a template to create all new profiles on the computer. A newly logged on user receives a copy of this profile as his or her personal user profile. The default user profile can also be customized in several ways and is stored in the \Documents and Settings\Default User folder, which is hidden by default. A user has to configure the Folder options appropriately to view the Default User folder.

2. All Users profile: The All Users profile contains settings that apply to each user who logs on to the computer. The All Users profile is stored in the \Documents and Settings\All Users folder. The All Users folder contains settings that are common for all the other profiles on the computer. The settings in the All Users folder are merged with the profile of the current user by Windows during the current logon session. If an administrator wants to apply a common setting for every user who logs on to the computer, then the most appropriate way for him is to modify the All Users profile. As an administrator, a user can directly edit the All Users profile to add or remove items as per his requirement.

Roaming profile: Before describing the roaming user profile, it is necessary to understand the meaning of a network client and the server. In a networked environment, a client computer can be defined as a computer that uses the shared network resources provided by another computer. A computer that provides the shared resources to all the client computers on a network is referred to as a server. A user who logs on to the network from different computers at different times is called a roaming user. The roaming profile is a user profile that is stored in a shared folder on a network server and is accessible by any of the clients on the network. When a user logs on to any of the computers in a network, the roaming user profile is downloaded to that computer from the network server. The roaming profile is automatically updated both locally as well as on the server when the user logs off.

Mandatory profile: A mandatory profile is a type of roaming profile that is pre-configured and cannot be modified permanently by a user. Mandatory profiles are generally used to restrict users from making permanent changes to their profiles. Any changes to the mandatory profiles remain till the current session lasts. The original settings are automatically restored as soon as the user logs on again. Mandatory profiles decrease the administrative overhead of managing desktop systems to a great extent. They can be implemented in two ways:

An administrator can either rename the file called NTUSER.DAT to NTUSER.MAN or he can append .MAN to the end of the name of the Roaming User Profile folder. The first option allows users to log on using a locally cached copy of the profile if the network is unavailable and the second approach forbids logging on unless the roaming user profile is accessible on the network. Such profiles are modifiable only by the system administrators and are supported by only the Windows XP Professional operating system.

An administrator or a user with the administrative privilege can manage the user profiles from the System Properties dialog box, which is opened by running Start menu > Control Panel > Systems. An administrator can copy a user profile, delete user profiles stored on the local computer, and create a roaming user profile by copying a local user’s profile to a network file share. Dallas Computer Repair

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