Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Folder Redirection: Duplicate User Files Folders II

Duplicate folders appearing in Vista have become an obsession if my Google hits are to be believed - and for good reason. I am amazed at how many different ways Vista and Folder Redirection can cause duplicate or extra folders to appear. If this article doesn't match your situation, take a look at my article Duplicate Folder Problems? Talk to me! which will lead you to my other articles on the subject.

Did you just configure user(s) for Folder Redirection and end up with duplicate User Files Folders like this?:

Or maybe you got lucky and can tell the duplicates apart because of the Offline Files sync icon like this:

The problem is likely caused by the Folder Redirection GPO setting "Move the contents of ______ to the new location" which can be set for each of the 13 User Files Folders. If the setting is disabled, you will get the duplicates shown above.

Here's what happens... The User Files Folders are subfolders displayed under the user's name (SRDTest5 in this case). But the user's name actually represents the parent folder C:\Users\SRDTest5. Any subfolders located in this directory location are displayed. (You will sometimes see even more folders if the user chooses to see hidden and system files.) The folder will also display any redirected folders (wherever they are stored) as if they are located within C:\Users\SRDTest5. When User Files Folders are redirected to a network location, the folders are still displayed as if they are stored locally. However, if the setting to move contents to a new location was not set, then the original folders were not moved and will still exist locally -- and will also be displayed. This gets you your duplication.

You now have a slight problem on your hands. The only way to tell the folders apart is to check out the properties of the folders which will tell you the real storage location. The folders stored on the network are the only legitimate folders, but the local folders are the only ones storing any user data!

You will need to find a way to merge these two folders and delete the illegitimate one. If this situation just occurred and the user hasn't stored anything in the new redirected folder, you may have an easy solution. Look into unlinking the Folder Redirection GPO from your affected user(s). Once Folder Redirection is cancelled and each user has logged in at least once with local folders, you can set the move contents settings described above and relink your GPO to the affected user(s). Vista should think that it is redirecting folders for your user for the first time and move the data to the new folders.

To ensure that no new Vista users (and particularly migrated ones) end up with duplicate folders, you should leave the Folder Redirection GPO set to "Move the contents of ______ to the new location" at all times. This will ensure that the local User Files Folders do not remain local. This also has added benefit for those of you who have been using Vista for a while without Folder Redirection. In your case you are likely to have users who have logged onto multiple Vista computers and left multiple Local User Profiles lying around. With this settings, a user's Redirected Folder will hoover up any local user files left in the various local User Files Folders. This will ensure that all of the user's files are safely stored on the network.

Now that we have all that cleared up, come back for my next article where I tell you to do exactly the opposite.

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