Manually move Server 2008 and Windows 7 Profiles (Users) directory.

As of Windows Server 2008 (and Windows Vista/7), Microsoft has decided to save all of the local profiles under the directory 'C:\Users'. This is a far-cry better than the 2000/XP directory of 'C:\Documents and Settings'. I would think this method will also work for a Windows Vista or Windows 7 machine, but I have not tested.

However, I have since the early 90's setup all of my customers with a 'Users' directory on the server as the root of where network users should save all of their work to server. It took me about 2 seconds to recognize that having both a 'C:\Users' and 'H:\Users' was going to cause major grief and confusion. For all of my customers, it would make much more sense if the local profiles were stored under the directory 'C:\Profiles'. It is worth noting that the other new directory, 'C:\ProgramData' is fine, no need to change that directory.

I have also created a page for Installing Server 2008 (and R2) with alternate Profiles (Users) directory using unattended method. That method is a nice time-saver over this manual method, but of course will only work if when doing a fresh install.

DISCLAIMER: Using this information, or any of this advice may turn your system into a puddle of silicon. Use at your own risk! Perhaps it was an accident that this worked for me. This information is intended for IT administrators, if you are unsure of any of these terms then you should probably get some expert advice.

I deployed several 2008 R2 servers, using the following method to move the local profiles from the C:\Users to the C:\Profiles directory:
Presumptions: logged in as administrator, not joined to a domain, no roles or services installed yet.
- Create a 'C:\Profiles' directory
- Edit the 3 registry values under HKLM\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\ProfileList containing %SystemDrive%\Users to reflect the new %SystemDrive%\Profiles directory.
- Move all the directories, except 'Administrator' under 'C:\Users' to 'C:\Profiles'.
(you won't be able to move the Administrator directory while logged in as Administrator).
- Using Computer Manager, create a 2nd user, and make sure that new user is a member of the local Administrators group. In this example, the 2nd user login name is 'TempAdmin'.
- Reboot the system, to release any locks on files in the Administrator profile directory.
- Log in as TempAdmin (you can optionally verify that the new TempAdmin user profile directory was created under 'C:\Profiles').
- Optional: as a security measure, we will rename the Administrator account, to mildly help thwart brute-force login attacks. In this example, I used Computer Manager to rename 'Administrator' to 'RootAdmin'. Since you can not be logged in as Administrator to rename the account, now is the perfect time to do that.
- Move the Administrator profile directory from 'C:\Users' to 'C:\Profiles'. - Optional: I prefer to have the profile directory name match the login name, so as I move the Administrator profile directory, I would rename the directory to 'RootAdmin' to reflect the new name. - Edit the registry value at HKLM\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\ProfileList\-500\ProfileImagePath to reflect the new profile directory location (and directory name if you optionally choose to rename the directory).
NOTE: the Administrator account under the ProfileList will always end in '-500'. But if you have already joined the machine to a domain, you may have 2 accounts ending in '-500', one for local administrator and one for domain administrator. I have had success moving both Administrator profile directories.
- Logoff as TempAdmin, login as RootAdmin to test, all should be fine.
- After you are sure RootAdmin can login without problems, you can optionally delete the User TempAdmin from Computer Manager and the corresponding profile directory. (I will typically preserve the TempAdmin account in the event the RootAdmin password should inadvertently get changed).

Feel free to send me feedback if you find any mistakes, of if this saved you a bunch of time (email address on home page).

Note: the warning at TechNet - Unattended Windows Setup Reference, ProfilesDirectory to only do this in a test environment should be heeded when defining a location on a different volume. I have not tried that scenario, I only changed the location on the same volume and have not had any (detected) problems.

If you define an alternate profiles directory, there are known issues with system directory junction points documented in Microsoft KB article 929831. I have created a page for fixing system directory junction points after defining alternate profiles directory.



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