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Windows 7: User Profiles - Create and Move During Windows 7 Installation

26 Oct 2015   #1040
Kari

Microsoft Community Contributor Award Recipient

 

Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by Clairvaux View Post
So, what would be the correct backup and restore method ?
I don't know what the correct method would be, I can only speak about how I see this topic, how I would do.

Set up system restore giving the shadow copies exactly the same percentage on both drives. When restored, the application data will also be restored but the fine thing with system restore is it does not touch your personal user data (docs, pics, etc.). They remain intact when using a restore point.

I have totally moved to Windows 10 and one of the most positive things in it (for me) is the seamless OneDrive integration. All my personal data is stored on OneDrive (I have 8 TB OneDrive available), all my libraries and default Save As locations are set to OneDrive, so I do not have to worry about losing any information when doing a system image restore.

If you do not use OneDrive or any other cloud service to store your data, you of course need to backup your locally stored data before restoring a system image because the restore wipes the drives empty before restoring.


Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by Clairvaux View Post
Suppose something wrong happens system-wise, and one tries to correct it by using Windows' Restore points. What would happen ? Would Windows be clever enough to roll back back whatever in ProgramData and AppData pertains to the system itself, and not to roll back whatever in there is "user data" in a common-sense way ? For instance, would one be able to repair one's system without losing one's last mails, or the last adjustments made to software menus ?
See above, System Restore only restores the Windows system and applications (plus application data) but does not touch / change user's own data. All your personal files and folders remain intact. All your Word docs will still be there, all your Outlook's PST files as well, and so on.


Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by Clairvaux View Post
And another situation : suppose the problem is not corrected by Windows' Restore points, and one decides to restore from a Macrium image. When you image C and D with Macrium, it makes a single image file, but when restoring from it, you can chose C, D or both.

What would be the correct choice ? If you restore only C, do you run the risk of not repairing something system-related which might be in ProgramData or AppData, or of creating inconsistencies because the system itself on one hand, and ProgramData + AppData on the other hand, wouldn't be restored to an identical point in time ?

And if you restore C + D, obviously you would lose any recent changes to your documents, so that must be out of the question, right ?
Correct choice would be to restore everything (both). See above about the importance to backup your personal data before restoring a system image.

Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by Clairvaux View Post
By the way, I've now done my second sysprepping installation on the lines of your other, mammoth tutorial, and I'm happy to report that it works. I even added some extra touches to the Answer file like setting up two user accounts for myself instead of one, putting the product key in two different places so that the product key input screen wouldn't show at all, instructing Sysprep to retain drivers despite the Generalize switch, and setting the time zone. Although I spent a lot of time chasing errors that prevented Sysprep to execute the Answer file. And I'm still not out of the woods for this install , but that's not related to Sysprep -- at least, I don't think so ! )
Nice

The tutorial you mentioned is meant to be a walkthrough showing the basic steps. Of course, the combination Audit Mode & Windows SIM (answer file) & Sysprep is quite amazingly powerful and you can do some pretty awesome stuff; it's up to you to test the limits.

One tip: When in Audit Mode and you have installed Windows SIM, create a system image. In case your tests take you beyond the possible limits, just restore the image and try again. This is why I use a Hyper-V virtual machine to do my customized Windows install images: I set everything ready and create a checkpoint. If sysprep returns an error, it takes a minute to restore the checkpoint and try again.

Kari


My System SpecsSystem Spec
.
26 Oct 2015   #1041
tjg79

Windows 7 Professional x64 SP1
 
 

Kari,

You mentioned that the sysprep method to move folders is not compatible with upgrade versions of the Win 7 OS. Does that also apply to the free upgrade version of Win 10? From what I've read about the free Win 10 upgrade, you have several options and one of those options is to create the install media on a DVD where you will need your new Win 10 software key. I was wondering if I accepted the free Win 10 Pro upgrade, downloaded the software and created an install iso, burned to a DVD and then attempted an install with AIK, SIM, sysprep, and answer file, would it work?
My System SpecsSystem Spec
26 Oct 2015   #1042
Clairvaux

Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit (OEM)
 
 

Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by Kari View Post
One tip: When in Audit Mode and you have installed Windows SIM, create a system image. In case your tests take you beyond the possible limits, just restore the image and try again.
Quite. That's what I did, at several steps during the Sysprep phase. And I did frequently have to restore the install to a previous state, because things had gone wrong. I'm sure the real way of doing it is using a VM, but I'm not there yet. I'd probably have thrown the blasted thing out of the window by now if I hadn't kept images along the way.

Regarding the backup of an install with ProgramData and AppData on D, I'm still not sure I understand.

Quote:
Correct choice would be to restore everything (both).
If we're at time t, and I restore an image of C + D taken at t - x, then all my documents and user data are back to t - x. Which means that at that stage, I've lost the last state of my Outlook messages (.pst file in AppData -- mine has gone up to 2 Gb in the past), of my browser favorites (also in AppData, I have 10 000 of them)...

Are you saying that one should first restore wholesale from the old D taken at t - x, in order to repair what might be system-related in AppData and ProgramData, then restore manually from another image of D taken at time t (or from files kept in the cloud in your case), injecting back the Documents folder, for instance, then injecting individually all real "user data", such as the Outlook .pst file, into the previously restored ProgramData or AppData ?

This is certainly possible, but it sure defeats the whole concept of imaging as a simple and reliable method for data backup, as opposed to folder-by-folder backup ! You're now back to tracking individually all "user data" and making sure you forget nothing (a near-impossible task in my experience), instead of just taking a picture of the whole partition/disk, and being confident that you can flash it back into existence in one go ! But maybe the structure of Windows itself makes that impossible ? Whether you shift the User profiles on D or not ?

Quote:
The fine thing with system restore is it does not touch your personal user data (docs, pics, etc.).
Those files are not a problem. Word proccessing documents or pictures are clearly separate in the folder structure. The problem is the grey and murky zone of ProgramData and AppData.

Quote:
System Restore only restores the Windows system and applications (plus application data) but does not touch / change user's own data. All your personal files and folders remain intact. All your Word docs will still be there, all your Outlook's PST files as well, and so on.
The problem there is that Microsoft's view of things is not the way human beings consider them. Microsoft thinks that my mails are application data. Normal human beings consider that their mail is their own data. Microsoft puts Word documents into Documents, and Outlook mails into AppData, but to a regular person, his mails should go into the same drawer as his letters.

So, do I understand correctly that ProgramData and AppData keep both system-related files (i.e. a black box which might go "boom" at any moment, and need to be "restored"), and "user data" in the normal human sense (i.e. my mails, my favorites) ?

I think I read somewhere that the beauty of shifting User profiles to D was that if you needed to restore your system because it had become unstable, you only had to restore C. D would be left untouched, and both would reconnect seamlessly (maybe it was even in Microsoft's Sysprep documentation). But what we're saying here seems to contradict that.

If the latter is true, what's the point of all that shifting ? Except in the case of SSDs which are short on space ? Isn't the fundamental flaw of Windows the fact that it mixes system data and user data in ProgramData and AppData folders (again, if I understand correctly), and not where it puts those folders ?

Maybe we should just accept that Microsoft is the Master of All Things, and that User profiles belong where He thought it wiser to lay them in the first place ?
My System SpecsSystem Spec
26 Oct 2015   #1043
Kari

Microsoft Community Contributor Award Recipient

 

Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by tjg79 View Post
Kari,

You mentioned that the sysprep method to move folders is not compatible with upgrade versions of the Win 7 OS. Does that also apply to the free upgrade version of Win 10? From what I've read about the free Win 10 upgrade, you have several options and one of those options is to create the install media on a DVD where you will need your new Win 10 software key. I was wondering if I accepted the free Win 10 Pro upgrade, downloaded the software and created an install iso, burned to a DVD and then attempted an install with AIK, SIM, sysprep, and answer file, would it work?
Windows 10 removed this obstacle; upgrading a system with relocated system folders was a pain in you know where, still is for those upgrading 7 to a superior edition of 7 or 8. Take your case, if you wanted now to upgrade to Windows 8.1 you would need to reverse the process first, sysprep the folders back to C:, then upgrade, and finally sysprep the folders once again back to D:. See the part Upgrade in this tutorial at our sister site the Ten Forums (link takes you directly to that part): Users Folder - Move Location in Windows 10 - Windows 10 Forums

Windows 10 removed this hassle a few builds ago (I think it was Build 10162, released RTM being 10240), allowing you to upgrade regardless where the system folders are located.


Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by Clairvaux View Post
Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by Kari View Post
One tip: When in Audit Mode and you have installed Windows SIM, create a system image. In case your tests take you beyond the possible limits, just restore the image and try again.
Quite. That's what I did, at several steps during the Sysprep phase. And I did frequently have to restore the install to a previous state, because things had gone wrong. I'm sure the real way of doing it is using a VM, but I'm not there yet. I'd probably have thrown the blasted thing out of the window by now if I hadn't kept images along the way.

Regarding the backup of an install with ProgramData and AppData on D, I'm still not sure I understand.

...

Are you saying that one should ...
I am saying that a system restore to an earlier point is the first to try, and if it fails, next is System Image Restore. If using the image restore, yes you lose the personal data saved or modified since the image was made, which is why before restoring an image you should backup your personal files and folders.

Anyway, I recommend System Restore before Image Restore because of its ability to keep my personal data intact.

About Outlook and its PST / OST files, my previous answer was based on the fact that not even in my wildest dreams could I think someone being stupid enough to accept Outlook's default Data File settings. Nothing personal, just plain and simple my honest opinion. In my case the Outlook 2016 data is stored in Kari.ost file in E:\Users\Kari\OneDrive\Outlook, my Users folder being relocated to E:.

Kari
My System SpecsSystem Spec
.

26 Oct 2015   #1044
Kari

Microsoft Community Contributor Award Recipient

 

Checking my previous post for possible typos, a task we non-native English speakers are used to do, I noticed that I was too short in my answer which might cause issues for some users if they just do what I told I am doing without thinking it through.

If you save Outlook PST and / or OST files on OneDrive folders, be sure to create a subfolder for each computer in which you have Outlook installed. It is not a good idea to use the same PST / OST file in different Outlook installations on different computers where you sign in with the same MS account.

Use PC names for folder names. Example: store PST / OST file from PC-1 to OneDrive\Outlook\PC-1 folder, PST / OST file from PC-2 to OneDrive\Outlook\PC-2 folder, and so on.

When selecting which folders to sync, select only the OneDrive\Outlook\PC-1 folder on PC 1, OneDrive\Outlook\PC-2 folder on PC-2 etc.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
27 Oct 2015   #1045
Clairvaux

Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit (OEM)
 
 

Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by Kari View Post
I am saying that a system restore to an earlier point is the first to try, and if it fails, next is System Image Restore. If using the image restore, yes you lose the personal data saved or modified since the image was made, which is why before restoring an image you should backup your personal files and folders.

Anyway, I recommend System Restore before Image Restore because of its ability to keep my personal data intact.
This is obvious. But that's not the point. My question is : does moving ProgramData and AppData folders from drive C to D allows one to restore Windows on C from an image of C only, while keeping intact user data on D ?

Does it create independance beween system and data, whereas in a regular installation, if you restore C, you crush ProgramData and AppData (contained in Users folder), which makes you lose some user data ?

Does it permit the following scenario :
  1. System gets corrupted or clunky.
  2. Restore from a known working image of drive C.
  3. Do absolutely nothing on drive D.
  4. You're back in business ?
That's what Microsoft says it does (to the best of my understanding, anyway) :

Quote:
Relocation of the Users directory and the ProgramData directory to a drive other than the drive that contains the Windows directory

%systemdrive% is defined as the drive that contains the Windows directory. There are various reasons why you may want to relocate the Users directory or the ProgramData directory to other drives.

For Windows, the most common reasons are as follows:
  • It is easier to back up data from a single drive and from a drive that contains only user files.
  • It is easier to rebuild the operating system drive on a userís computer if user data is located on a separate volume. In this case, the drive that contains the Windows directory can be formatted, and Windows can be reinstalled without having to worry about how to remove user data.
From what I've read on forums, that's one of the most common reasons people want to move those folders on D. It's certainly my reason for doing so.

Now you seem to imply that moving ProgramData and AppData on D does not achieve independance between system and data, and that one has to restore both C and D in case of a system dysfunction. Which one is true ?

Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by Kari View Post
About Outlook and its PST / OST files, my previous answer was based on the fact that not even in my wildest dreams could I think someone being stupid enough to accept Outlook's default Data File settings. Nothing personal, just plain and simple my honest opinion. In my case the Outlook 2016 data is stored in Kari.ost file in E:\Users\Kari\OneDrive\Outlook, my Users folder being relocated to E:.
I think this is delusional -- and irrelevant. I'm sure most people accept default settings, not only for Outlook, but for all software. I think that's a reasonable decision : after all, if you trust a software developer enough to use his software, it's also natural to trust his default settings. Besides, most people have other things to do than second-guess their computers. The law of probability tells us that there are many intelligent people using Outlook in the world, who do not even know what "default data file settings" are. Thinking people are stupid just because they do things differently from oneself is foolish. Nothing personal, just my honest opinion.

Besides, Outlook .pst files are but an example here. Many software don't let you chose where to put some (or all) of their user data (Outlook being one of them). That's the reason one has to come up with a general solution.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
27 Oct 2015   #1046
Kari

Microsoft Community Contributor Award Recipient

 

Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by Clairvaux View Post
This is obvious. But that's not the point. My question is : does moving ProgramData and AppData folders from drive C to D allows one to restore Windows on C from an image of C only, while keeping intact user data on D ?
...
...
...
Besides, Outlook .pst files are but an example here. Many software don't let you chose where to put some (or all) of their user data (Outlook being one of them). That's the reason one has to come up with a general solution.
One of us is trying to make this more difficult than it in reality is. I take the blame, accepting that I am the one making this now so difficult. Let's try again:

Yes, as Microsoft says one of the advantages in this method is the total separation of Windows system and user data. Yes, it is totally possible to reinstall Windows on C: or restore only the C: drive from an image backup, keeping data drive D: or X: or whatever intact. Yes, the system would work perfectly even after that.

And: Yes, in that case the ProgramData and AppData folders would possibly contain some unused configuration and other files which might or might not cause issues in the future. These folders would have the data as of now, this moment, whereas the Windows system would be restored to the state it was when the image was created. That is, partially restored: ProgramData and AppData are Windows system folders, they would not be restored.

I have nothing more to say or add to this but the following:

If you use this method to relocate some of the system folders, I wholeheartedly recommend to include both system and data drives in System Image Backup and use System Restore on both. When restoring an image, restore both drives.

This is how I do, your methods and way to work with Windows system images might be different.

Kari


P.S. A user who does not now what Outlook Data File means and how to move it from AppData should in my opinion not even consider using this method. As so often in computing in general and Windows in particular, you can of course do whatever you want to without understanding the procedure, its background and reasons to do it simply by following the instructions you do not understand to the letter, but my recommendation is that these advanced methods should only be used by users who understand the idea, understand what's happening, understand what's possible.

These users know what Outlook Data File is.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
02 Nov 2015   #1047
Camera

Windows 7 Professional 64 bit
 
 

Some time ago I followed the advice here and successfully moved ProgramData and Users files to a separate drive. I am now about to upgrade from Windows 7 64-bit Pro to Windows 10.
You suggest above that the upgrade process can now cope with these folders on a separate drive. However on the Windows 10 forum your advice on splitting the folders seems to suggest moving the Users data only and leaving the ProgramData on C:
Do I need to move ProgramData back before upgrading?

Thanks
Dave
My System SpecsSystem Spec
02 Nov 2015   #1048
Kari

Microsoft Community Contributor Award Recipient

 

Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by Camera View Post
Some time ago I followed the advice here and successfully moved ProgramData and Users files to a separate drive. I am now about to upgrade from Windows 7 64-bit Pro to Windows 10.
You suggest above that the upgrade process can now cope with these folders on a separate drive. However on the Windows 10 forum your advice on splitting the folders seems to suggest moving the Users data only and leaving the ProgramData on C:
Do I need to move ProgramData back before upgrading?

Thanks
Dave
Relocating ProgramData is only possible in Windows Vista and 7. In 8 and later it totally screws your system and should not be done.

When upgrading a system where both of the folders (Users and ProgramData) have been relocated, I recommend moving both back to C: drive before the upgrade. See the upgrade section of this tutorial at our sister site the Ten Forums: Users Folder - Move Location in Windows 10 - Windows 10 Forums

Kari
My System SpecsSystem Spec
02 Nov 2015   #1049
Camera

Windows 7 Professional 64 bit
 
 

"When upgrading a system where both of the folders (Users and ProgramData) have been relocated, I recommend moving both back to C: drive before the upgrade. See the upgrade section of this tutorial at our sister site the Ten Forums: Users Folder - Move Location in Windows 10 - Windows 10 Forums"


Thanks Kari

Dave
My System SpecsSystem Spec
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