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

11 Aug 2015   #950
Clairvaux

Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit (OEM)
 
 
Backing down somewhat from unorthodox antics

Kari,

I have used your tutorial for my last W 7 install, which is now 5 years old. It ran with no problems for a long time, now it's got clunky and weird and I'm going to clean reinstall.

I've followed with great interest your debate with Ed Bott about moving the User Profiles. Although I strongly support the housekeeping concept behind your method, I will now chicken out and do it the Microsoft way: moving User sub-folders individually through the Location button, but staying clear of tinkering with the User Profile itself and especially AppData.

There's no way for me to tell if my present troubles are due to your Magic Script, but I don't want to run the risk. So here are my questions :

1. Does your Audit Mode + Sysprep method still have advantages if one does not move the User Profiles ? I read your other, more extended tutorials, and it's certainly an attractive approach. Bear in mind that I'm the sole user of my PC, so I don't need to go around other users or other PCs, handing out ready-made "Windows kits", so to speak.

However, I have the same backup and clean-base philosophy as you. I'd like to be able to restore back from Macrium as often as necessary, with an image as reliable as as customized as possible.

2. You state :
Quote:
Using this method causes Windows 7 to lose activation information, and it needs to be reactivated afterwards. If your Windows 7 is an OEM version, you might not be able to reactivate it, at least not without phone activation option.
Is that OEM as "Compaq computer bought off the shelf", or as "home-built computer" ? I have the latter, with an OEM W7, the sort that's cheaper than full retail, and tied to the specific hardware of the first PC it was activated on.

3. Is that linked to sysprepping, or just clean install ? What I'd like to avoid is phone activation. I understand that doing a clean reinstall entails reactivating anyway.

4.
Quote:
A repair install is also an upgrade install, so if you have ever done a repair install (= in-place upgrade to same edition), you cannot sysprep.
I don't get it. Your method includes a clean install, so doesn't this mean everything starts from scratch ? Conversely, if I sysprep, does it mean I can't do a repair install later ?

5. Suppose I don't move the User Profile wholesale according to your method, but just the "legal" subfolders according to Microsoft. I image my 2 disks everyday : C (system + software) and D (data). What are my options if one of the disks dies, or the systems gets unstable again ? Would it work to restore only the original image of C, at the cost of lost software, customization and some program data ? Is it necessary to restore the complete image of C and D as it was made at the same time, at the cost of restoring manually data from the latest D image folder by folder ?

Many thanks.


My System SpecsSystem Spec
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12 Aug 2015   #951
Kari

Microsoft Community Contributor Award Recipient

 

Hi Clairvaux, welcome to the Ten Forums.

Let's have a look of your questions and concerns:

Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by Clairvaux View Post
I've followed with great interest your debate with Ed Bott about moving the User Profiles. Although I strongly support the housekeeping concept behind your method, I will now chicken out and do it the Microsoft way: moving User sub-folders individually through the Location button, but staying clear of tinkering with the User Profile itself and especially AppData.
Don't take this wrong, I subscribe to everything possible Mr. Bott publishes all around the Interwebs, for me he is one of the most respected IT writers. I agree with him about everything except this matter.

The source used in that infamous article was a TechNet article from when Windows Vista was still in beta. I have repeatedly had to correct the invalid information in it, in this thread and elsewhere here at the Seven Forums and our sister sites the Eight Forums and the Ten Forums. Two main points, not being able to upgrade and update have been proven false so many times I don't want to go to it anymore.

Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by Clairvaux View Post
I have used your tutorial for my last W 7 install, which is now 5 years old. It ran with no problems for a long time, now it's got clunky and weird and I'm going to clean reinstall.

There's no way for me to tell if my present troubles are due to your Magic Script, but I don't want to run the risk. So here are my questions :
That makes me quite frustrated and disappointed; you tell that your Windows has worked without problems but now something has come up, so your first thought is to suspect a procedure you did five years ago?

Really? I repeat: Really?

You sysprepped the Users to another drive 5 years ago and there has been no issues. After 5 years something does not work as you'd like to, and you think it might be because of the sysprep 5 years ago?

I have nothing more to say about that.

This however I want to make absolutely clear:

The "script", the answer file and how to use it with Sysprep is not my invention. In fact, I have nothing to do with it. I have just tried to simplify the instructions by Microsoft about a procedure they have built in to Windows. See this screenshot about Microsoft's Windows System Image Manager in Step 9.1 in customization tutorial, it shows how the option to determine the location of the Users folder as well as the ProgramData folder is built in to a tool made by Microsoft to service and customize a Windows image.

Sysprep is a process, a tool by Microsoft, a native tool of Windows. This and my other sysprep related tutorials are based on these native methods and tools by Microsoft to customize Windows, they are by no mean my invention.

Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by Clairvaux View Post
1. Does your Audit Mode + Sysprep method still have advantages if one does not move the User Profiles ?
Again, it's not my method. It is designed by Microsoft and done using native Windows tools. Relocating Users (and ProgramData) is only one small part of Windows image customization. Sysprep has many uses and can do almost anything, helping you to create a highly customized and personalized Windows install image.

Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by Clairvaux View Post
2. You state :
Quote:
Using this method causes Windows 7 to lose activation information, and it needs to be reactivated afterwards. If your Windows 7 is an OEM version, you might not be able to reactivate it, at least not without phone activation option.
Is that OEM as "Compaq computer bought off the shelf", or as "home-built computer" ? I have the latter, with an OEM W7, the sort that's cheaper than full retail, and tied to the specific hardware of the first PC it was activated on.
I rather warn too much than too little. The phone activation warning does not apply if you just relocate some folders. It is mostly intended to those who use Sysprep to generalize a Windows installation to be moved to another hardware setup, for instance in cases when the motherboard needs to be swapped; as the OEM installation is tied to the hardware setup it was originally activated this might in some cases cause re-activation issues.

Usually the re-activation issue only applies in this procedure: Windows 7 Installation - Transfer to a New Computer

Regarding this warning there's no difference between the "Compaq computer bought off the shelf" OEM installation and a system builder OEM you bought and installed on a PC you assembled yourself.

Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by Clairvaux View Post
3. Is that linked to sysprepping, or just clean install ? What I'd like to avoid is phone activation. I understand that doing a clean reinstall entails reactivating anyway.
Sysprep removes the activation and after the sysprep is run the machine needs to be re-activated.

Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by Clairvaux View Post
4.
Quote:
A repair install is also an upgrade install, so if you have ever done a repair install (= in-place upgrade to same edition), you cannot sysprep.
I don't get it. Your method includes a clean install, so doesn't this mean everything starts from scratch ? Conversely, if I sysprep, does it mean I can't do a repair install later ?
This process, to relocate Users folder can also be done on an existing Windows installation, not only when clean installed. In that case the sysprep will not run, giving an error message about sysprep not being able to run on an upgraded Windows. As a repair install is nothing else than an in-place upgrade install to same version and edition of Windows, this naturally means that sysprep cannot run if the Windows has been repair installed.

There's a simple workaround for this, removing one registry key and one DWORD in Windows registry, then changing the value of two other DWORDs. See the relocating tutorial at our sister site the Ten Forums, scroll down to last section called Upgrade and its Step 2, it shows this workaround: Users Folder - Move Location in Windows 10 - Windows 10 Forums

Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by Clairvaux View Post
5. Suppose I don't move the User Profile wholesale according to your method, but just the "legal" subfolders according to Microsoft. I image my 2 disks everyday : C (system + software) and D (data). What are my options if one of the disks dies, or the systems gets unstable again ? Would it work to restore only the original image of C, at the cost of lost software, customization and some program data ? Is it necessary to restore the complete image of C and D as it was made at the same time, at the cost of restoring manually data from the latest D image folder by folder ?
Use of word "legal" inclines that there's something "illegal" in the sysprep method. Bad choice of words there.

I always recommend to image everything.

Kari
My System SpecsSystem Spec
13 Aug 2015   #952
jgveill

Windows 7 Homepremium 64bits
 
 

Hello Kari,

Years ago I successfully used this method to move Users and ProgramData while doing a clean install on my new SSD.
Initially, I also moved MSOCache and Windows Installer with junctions. As I should not be able to upgrade to W10, I wanted to move everything back to the original location and found your #22 post.

First, I deleted the MSO and installer Junctions and ensured that the junction folder were really copied to the original folder location. No problem with this part.

I started command as admin, enter the sysprep command line but after few seconds I get the message that a serious error occured (this may not be the correct english wording as my W7 is french). I imagine some work was done before the error as my profile lost settings.

What should I try ? I have many disks image to come back in time as required.

Thanks in advance J Guy
My System SpecsSystem Spec
13 Aug 2015   #953
Kari

Microsoft Community Contributor Award Recipient

 

Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by jgveill View Post
What should I try ? I have many disks image to come back in time as required.
Hi and welcome to the Seven Forums. Did you remember to stop the Windows Media Player Network Sharing Service before running the Sysprep command? Not stopping this service is the most common reason for sysprep not working, getting a "fatal error" notification.

Anyway, Microsoft has changed the upgrade policy a bit, it is now possible in most cases to upgrade from Windows 7 and 8.1 to Windows 10 even when the Users folder is relocated. However, the ProgramData folder if relocated should be first moved back to C: drive as Windows 8 and later do not support relocating it.

More discussion about possibilities to upgrade with relocated Users folder on our sister site the Ten Forums, starting from this post int the relocating tutorial: Users Folder - Move Location in Windows 10 - Page 7 - Windows 10 Forums
My System SpecsSystem Spec
.

13 Aug 2015   #954
jgveill

Windows 7 Homepremium 64bits
 
 

Kari,

What a Lightning fast service ! Few seconds after completing my post I looked again at your pdf doc for relocating users and found the MediaPlayer network sharing service note at the end. I tried that immediately and sysprep went through. I canceled the popup window, did the command to relocate and a window poped up telling me something similar had been treated by sysprep. I thought it would not work but I'm not sure as my disk light is blinking.

So I went to another computer to add this note but you were faster than me !

Thanks you so much, I'll keep you posted with results. I will look at your links, thanks again !

J Guy
My System SpecsSystem Spec
13 Aug 2015   #955
Clairvaux

Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit (OEM)
 
 
Not letting Microsoft spoil a good hack

Kari,

Thank you for your answer.

It seems that my post has offended you somewhat, so some explaining is in order.

I did not complain about your tutorial. I did not criticize it. I did not even took sides between you and Ed Bott. As a matter of fact, I posted a comment taking sides for you in that ZD Net thread where you debated him.

I thought I had made clear I was appreciative of both the method you describe (in fact, it's what I have wanted to do all along on my PC), and the pains you took explaining it, so I will say it again : I'm impressed by the huge amount of work and the clarity of all the walk-throughs.

Please consider, however, that I do not have the expertise of either you or Ed Bott ; that it's my PC ; that I will have to do the reinstalling and that I will have to live with the results ; and that I will bear responsibility for it, irrespective of whose advice I choose to follow.

Addressing some of your points :
Quote:
Use of word "legal" inclines that there's something "illegal" in the sysprep method. Bad choice of words there.
Not sure whether you understood I meant it was against the law (of course not) or unsupported/discouraged by Microsoft (Ed Bott's opinion ; not mine). Please consider the quotation marks. That was an attempt at a light-hearted joke. Moreover, nobody (ASFAIK) disputes using Sysprep ; the point in debate is using it to move the Users folder.
Quote:
That makes me quite frustrated and disappointed; you tell that your Windows has worked without problems but now something has come up, so your first thought is to suspect a procedure you did five years ago?

Really? I repeat: Really?

You sysprepped the Users to another drive 5 years ago and there has been no issues. After 5 years something does not work as you'd like to, and you think it might be because of the sysprep 5 years ago?

I have nothing more to say about that.
Yes. Really.

That's why people reinstall. Something has gone wrong, they don't know what, rot has crept up somehow over the years, so they start all over again and try to do it right this time. Or am I missing something ?

Also, your description is wrong. I did not went suddenly from "no problems at all" to "not working as I would like". If I had, I would have been able to pinpoint the problem, and hopefully restore to a point back in time. And it was not exactly my first thought that moving the Users folder five years ago might be the problem. Maybe the second or third.

Rereading what Ed Bott wrote in that thread (again, please don't be offended ; this is not personal ; I'm not taking sides, I don't even have the technical expertise to do so ; I'm just listening to people presumably more knowledgeable than myself, and trying to make sense of it all) :
Quote:
If you try to move AppData, things will break. Maybe not right away, but eventually.
Is he right ? Is he wrong ? I don't know. I know I don't want problems.

You said :
Quote:
I have just tried to simplify the instructions by Microsoft about a procedure they have built in to Windows. See this screenshot about Microsoft's Windows System Image Manager in Step 9.1 in customization tutorial, it shows how the option to determine the location of the Users folder as well as the ProgramData folder is built in to a tool made by Microsoft to service and customize a Windows image.
Granted. So what is Microsoft exactly saying about relocating the Users folder, which I think we agree is the disputed point (as opposed to simply using Sysprep) ? Microsoft's pronouncements need not be the last word, but, especially in system-level matters, they certainly need to be taken into account.

In 2013, Bott pointed to this TechNet page to back up his claim that Microsoft did not support relocating the Users folder. I understand some people (you included) argue that this advice is Vista-related, but has been superseded since. So where does Microsoft stand today ?

I found this Microsoft Support article, last reviewed on 12/05/2013. It's extraordinary. First by its title :
Quote:
Relocation of the Users directory and the ProgramData directory to a drive other than the drive that contains the Windows directory
What?! So, moving the Users folder is "legal" -- sorry, supported after all ? Better yet, it would seem that Redmond goes even further than you, and lets us move the ProgramData folder, even though you warn :
Quote:
Microsoft does not recommend relocating, moving ProgramData, Program Files, Program Files (x86) and Windows folders.
Indeed, Microsoft seems to sympathise with our concerns :
Quote:
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 user’s 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.
Quite !... Jolly good !... At least, we're being heard ! Unfortunately, here comes the small print :
Quote:
Caution : Using the ProgramData setting to redirect folders to a drive other than the system volume will block your ability to upgrade to future versions of Windows.
OK. We knew this. Not a problem. There seems to be a consensus on the issue. You have described repeatedly how to undo, then redo the relocation to allow upgrading. (Providing one's willing to go through the moves, of course.)
Quote:
By changing the default location of the user profile directories or program data folders to a volume other than the system volume, you cannot service your Windows installation. Any updates, fixes, or service packs cannot be applied to the installation. We recommend that you do not change the location of the user profile directories or program data folders.
Haha ! Now it gets confusing. We know that's at least not true to a certain extent, since many people (myself included) have managed to apply many updates to such a modified Windows 7 installation. Besides, flat-out "not recommending" the change while explaining how useful it is and how to do it is a bit... weird.
Quote:
Note : If you use the FolderLocations unattend setting to move user data to a location other than the %systemdrive% drive, some servicing components may not be installed. These components may include critical updates, security updates, hotfixes, and service packs.
From the context, this might relate only to Vista... however, now it's only "may not be installed", as opposed to "cannot be applied" previously. Also...
Quote:
This issue is resolved if you have installed the servicing stack update for Windows Vista Service Pack 1.
Nobody is still using Vista out there, right ? And furthemore...
Quote:
Setting information from the Windows AIK and Windows OPK documentation
ProfilesDirectory
The ProfilesDirectory setting specifies the path of the user profile folder.
Use this setting to move the user profile folder (typically %SYSTEMDRIVE%\Users) to another location during Setup or Sysprep. The destination path can be on a volume other than the system drive, as long as it meets the following requirements:
  • It must be on an NTFS volume.
  • It must not be the path of another operating system user profile folder.
  • It must not contain any serviceable components.
This setting can be used to keep system data separate from user data. If Windows is re-installed on the system volume, a user who has administrative rights can manually recover data from this location.
Now it's legit again. (With this vague threat : "The destination path... must not contain any serviceable components". What prevents Microsoft from making certain "components" suddenly "serviceable" through an update ?)
Quote:
Important : These settings should be used only in a test environment.
Oh, all right, forget it. It's off again. We're talking production machines, not testing situations. It gets more precise :
Quote:
Microsoft recommends that you do not change the location of the user profile directories or program data folders. This is especially true for Windows Store apps. Changing the location of %programdata% will cause errors when you install, uninstall, or update these apps.
However...
Quote:
Note : If you use the unattend settings to set up the operating systems that are listed in this article, we will provide commercially reasonable efforts to support your scenario.
OK, it's on again ! So what is that supposed to mean : we know it will work, we will even help you make it work, but we reserve the right to break it someday through whatever update we like, so don't say you haven't been warned ?

We know that Ed Bott has some privileged access to inside Microsoft sources, through his work on books about Windows products. Could it be that his stringent position on the issue derives from credible hints he got from his contacts, roughly on the line I've just described ?

Can anyone make any sense of this ?

As I said on this ZD Net thread two years ago : count me as confused.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
14 Aug 2015   #956
Kari

Microsoft Community Contributor Award Recipient

 

Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by Clairvaux View Post
Kari,

Thank you for your answer.

It seems that my post has offended you somewhat, so some explaining is in order.
I just saw your long reply, before really responding to it please read this:

I am sorry if you took my words as if I had been or felt offended because your previous post. Not at all. I simply wanted to make a few points really clear:
- I like said IT writer's work, only disagreeing with him in one subject
- A procedure done 5 years ago is not culprit for your issues today
- The procedure told in this or other sysprep tutorials of mine is not invented, designed or found out by me. Instead it is made possible by Microsoft, using a native Windows tool

I was absolutely in no way offended and apologize if my words gave that impression. I like debate, I like to participate in a productive conversation. Your post was good, I enjoyed it and I was pleased to answer it.

OK, now to read your long post with thought, a "real" reply will follow

Kari
My System SpecsSystem Spec
14 Aug 2015   #957
Kari

Microsoft Community Contributor Award Recipient

 

Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by Clairvaux View Post
Can anyone make any sense of this ?
I will repeat this: the article mentioned in our recent posts was written using a Microsoft TechNet support article for Vista as the source, support article written when Vista was not yet released. Since that a lot has changed.

The quotes you had from TechNet, in addition to both your, my and other users experience make this IMO quite clear:
  • The warnings in that infamous article are simply not true. Windows Update has no issues with relocated folders
  • An in-place upgrade needed a workaround (move folders back to C:, upgrade, move folders again) but even that is now gone and an in-place upgrade to Windows 10 is possible from Windows 7 and 8.1 even with relocated Users folder
  • In Windows Vista and Seven the ProgramData can be relocated, Windows Store (Windows 8 and later) needs the ProgramData folder to be located on C:. I have addressed this fact by adding a warning about not relocating the ProgramData to the relocation tutorials at our sister sites the Eight Forums and the Ten Forums
  • There's no way this method can cause issues when applied correctly. The value of the environment variable %userprofile% will be changed and will be hard coded on the system. An occasional application using absolute folder addressing instead of Windows variables might cause Windows having double Users folders, one on C: and one on the drive you have it relocated to. This will not be an issue, system takes care of that, and the Users folder on C: will always remain insignificant in size. Windows has no issues with this
You mentioned the last of the three requirements in this quote from Microsoft TechNet, wondering its meaning:
Quote:
ProfilesDirectory

The ProfilesDirectory setting specifies the path of the user profile folder.
Use this setting to move the user profile folder (typically %SYSTEMDRIVE%\Users) to another location during Setup or Sysprep. The destination path can be on a volume other than the system drive, as long as it meets the following requirements:
  • It must be on an NTFS volume.
  • It must not be the path of another operating system user profile folder.
  • It must not contain any serviceable components.
This setting can be used to keep system data separate from user data. If Windows is re-installed on the system volume, a user who has administrative rights can manually recover data from this location.
This simply means that the drive should not contain any system elements from any current or previous Windows installation.

All in all, this sysprep method to relocate the Users folder is still the best method available. One command, given once, and all existing and future user profiles with everything they contain and will contain will be permanently located on another drive, saving space on C: drive.

One important fact: if the method would do any harm and was not to be used, why is it not only that MS has made it possible and included the option in the latest Windows 10, but also now without the upgrade limitations? Would MS have made the feature working better by removing earlier limitations if the method was not to be used? The two native Microsoft tools to customize a Windows image, Windows SIM and Windows ICD, both of them include a built-in component to move the Users folder to another drive.

Last: If you have plenty of time, please read through this tutorial thread. I mean, really through. You will find out that each issue posted has been due a user error. Of course there are a few posts like "This method broke my computer" and so on but if you follow those conversations, at the end you will notice that we have found out the mistakes and errors made by / caused by the user.

Kari
My System SpecsSystem Spec
14 Aug 2015   #958
jgveill

Windows 7 Homepremium 64bits
 
 

Kari,

I said I'll keep you posted. Finally, I was not able to return back my Users and ProgramData to their original location.

After shutting down Windows Media player network services, first sysprep step worked and PC booted as expected. I didn't take any chance, I shut down WMP network service again and run the relocate scritp with C: as target (I took my original relocate file used to transfer folders and changed target from E: to C.

A window appeared telling me that some part of the unattended had already been processed and the sysprep closed and nothing happened. I deleted the "users" line to move only programData and I got the same message.

As mentionned in a previous post, in this process, my user settings were lost and I was even told that my W7 was not a legitimate one, which is wrong. My system was fully up to date. So I suspect there may be something wrong somewhere. I finally decided to restore.

Now knowing that user folder can stay relocated for upgrades, I will change my approach and relocate only ProgramData. I will read again as much as possible this huge thread to find out what could be wrong in my process but as ProgramData seems much less complex than User directory, could I manually move it back ?

Can it be done easily ???

Thanks J Guy
My System SpecsSystem Spec
14 Aug 2015   #959
Kari

Microsoft Community Contributor Award Recipient

 

You can't move ProgramData manually. If you ever reinstall Seven, do not relocate it at all; that leaves you free to upgrade to 10 without any back and forth operations.

Did you overwrite the Windows folder? If not and you still have the log files in C:\Windows\System32\Sysprep\Panther folder, zip all 4 files and post here.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
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