Windows 7 / Getting Started

User Profile Namespace in Windows Vista and Windows 7

To address concerns with using the user profile namespace in earlier versions of Windows, the following changes have been implemented for user profiles starting with Windows Vista:

  • The root of the user profile namespace has been moved from %SystemDrive% \Documents And Settings to %SystemDrive%\Users. This means, for example, that the user profile folder for user Karen Joe ( is now found at %SystemDrive%\Users\karen instead of %SystemDrive%\Documents And Settings \karen.
  • The "My" prefix has been dropped from folders storing user-managed data files to simplify their appearance. For example, documents are now stored in a folder named Documents instead of in a folder named My Documents. Note that in Windows Vista, these folders are displayed in the same way (that is, without the "My" prefix) in both the Windows Explorer shell and at the command prompt. Beginning with Windows 7, however, these folders display a "My" prefix when viewed within Windows Explorer but not when viewed at the command prompt. In other words, the Windows Explorer shell in Windows 7 adds a "My" prefix to the displayed representation of these folders, but the actual folders in the underlying file system do not include this prefix in their names.
  • The Windows Vista and later versions of My Music, My Pictures, and My Videos are no longer subfolders of My Documents. Instead, these and similar user-managed data folders are now stored under the root profile folder and are peers of the My Documents folder. The user profile namespace has been flattened in this way to help provide better separation between user-managed data and application settings and to simplify how Folder Redirection works.
  • New subfolders have been added under the root profile folder to help to better organize user-managed data and settings and to help prevent "profile pollution," when users or applications save data files in the root profile folder or in subfolders not intended for that particular purpose. Specifically, the following new profile subfolders have been added beginning with Windows Vista:
    • Contacts The default location for storing the user's contacts
    • Downloads The default location for saving all downloaded content
    • Searches The default location for storing saved searches
    • Links The default location for storing Windows Explorer favorites
    • Saved Games The default location for storing saved games
  • The system of using CSIDL values used in Windows XP to identify special folders, such as My Documents, used by applications has been replaced. These special folders are now referred to as known folders, and they are identified to the operating system by a set of globally unique identifier (GUID) values called Known Folder IDs. The Known Folder system provides a number of advantages over the older CSIDL system. For example, Independent Software Vendors (ISVs) can extend the set of Known Folder IDs to define additional application-specific known folders, assign IDs to them, and register them with the system. In contrast, the system of CSIDL values cannot be extended. A known folder added by an ISV can also add custom properties that allow the folder to expose its purpose and intended use to the user. All the known folders on a system can also be enumerated using the GetFolderIds method of the IKnownFolderManager interface. Finally, 13 known folders can be redirected to new locations by using Folder Redirection. By comparison, under the CSIDL system, only the My Documents folder could be redirected. A new, hidden folder named AppData located under the profile root is used as a central location for storing all per-user application settings and binaries. In addition, the following three subfolders under AppData are better at separating state information and helping applications roam:
    • Local This folder stores computer-specific application data and settings that cannot (or should not) roam, as well as user-managed data or settings too large to support roaming effectively. The AppData\Local folder within a Windows Vista or later user profile is essentially the same as the Local Settings\Application Data folder under the root folder of a Windows XP user profile.
    • Roaming This folder stores user-specific application data and settings that should (or must) roam along with the user when RUP is implemented. The AppData \Roaming folder within a Windows Vista or later user profile is essentially the same as the Application Data folder under the root folder of a Windows XP user profile.
    • LocalLow This folder allows low-integrity processes to have Write access to it. Low-integrity processes perform tasks that could compromise the operating system. For example, applications started by the Protected Mode of Internet Explorer must use this profile folder for storing application data and settings. The LocalLow profile folder has no counterpart in Windows XP.
  • The All Users profile has been renamed Public to better describe its purpose. (Anything stored in this folder is publicly available to all users on the computer.) The contents of certain subfolders within this profile, such as Desktop, merge with the user's own profile when the user logs on to the computer, just as the All Users profile does in Windows XP. As with All Users in Windows XP, the Public profile in Windows Vista and later versions has no per-user registry hive because the operating system never loads the profile. In addition, application data stored in the All Users profile in Windows XP is now stored in the hidden %SystemDrive%\ProgramData folder in Windows Vista.
  • Users now can share individual files easily and securely from within their user profile folders and subfolders.
  • The Default User profile has been renamed Default. As with Default User in Windows XP, the Default profile in Windows Vista and later versions is never loaded and is copied only when creating new profiles. The Default profile thus acts as a template for creating each user's profile when he logs on for the first time.

Note Only the local default user folder has changed from Default User to Default. The default roaming user profile located on the NETLOGON share on domain controllers is now called Default User.v2.

Table below compares the user profile namespace for Windows Vista and later versions with that of Windows XP. The folders in the first column are subfolders (or special files) of the root profile folder %SystemDrive%\Users\user_name; the folders in the second column are rooted at %SystemDrive%\Documents And Settings\user_name. Many of these folders are hidden.

Table below: The User Profile Namespace in Windows Vista and Later Versions Compared with Windows XP

Windows Vista AND later VERSIONSWindows XP
N/ALocal Settings
AppData\LocalLocal Settings\Application Data
AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows\HistoryLocal Settings\History
AppData\Local\TempLocal Settings\Temp
AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows\Temporary Internet FilesLocal Settings\Temporary Internet Files
AppData\RoamingApplication Data
AppData\Roaming\Microsoft \Windows\CookiesCookies
AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Windows\Network ShortcutsNetHood
AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Windows\Printer ShortcutsPrintHood
AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Windows\Send ToSendTo
AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Windows\Start MenuStart Menu
DocumentsMy Documents
MusicMy Documents\My Music
PicturesMy Documents\My Pictures
Saved GamesN/A
VideosMy Documents\My Videos

Note Windows Vista and later versions allow users to use the Encrypting File System (EFS) to encrypt all files and folders within their user profiles except for Ntuser.dat and the AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Credentials subfolder, which is essentially the same behavior as user profile encryption in Windows XP. To encrypt files that EFS cannot encrypt, use Windows BitLocker.

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In this tutorial:

  1. Managing Users and User Data
  2. Understanding User Profiles in Windows 7
  3. Types of User Profiles
  4. User Profile Namespace
  5. User Profile Namespace in Windows XP
  6. User Profile Namespace in Windows Vista and Windows 7
  7. Application Compatibility Issue
  8. Disabling Known Folders
  9. Windows 7 Understanding Libraries
  10. Working with Libraries
  11. Including Indexed Folders in a Library
  12. Adding Nonindexed Remote Locations to a Library
  13. Creating Additional Libraries
  14. Managing Libraries
  15. Implementing Corporate Roaming
  16. Understanding Roaming User Profiles and Folder Redirection
  17. Understanding Roaming User Profiles in Earlier Versions of Windows
  18. Understanding Folder Redirection in Earlier Versions of Windows
  19. Enhancements to Roaming User Profiles and Folder Redirection Previously Introduced in Windows Vista
  20. Additional Enhancements to Roaming User Profiles and Folder Redirection Introduced in Windows 7
  21. Improved First Logon Performance With Folder Redirection
  22. Implementing Folder Redirection
  23. Configuring the Redirection Method
  24. Configuring Target Folder Location
  25. Configuring Redirection Options
  26. Configuring Policy Removal Options
  27. Folder Redirection and Sync Center
  28. Considerations for Mixed Environments
  29. Additional Group Policy Settings for Folder Redirection
  30. Troubleshooting Folder Redirection
  31. Implementing Roaming User Profiles
  32. Creating a Default Network Profile
  33. Configuring a User Account to Use a Roaming Profile
  34. Implementing Mandatory Profiles
  35. Implementing Super-Mandatory Profiles
  36. Managing User Profiles Using Group Policy
  37. Working with Offline Files
  38. Enhancements to Offline Files Introduced Previously in Windows Vista
  39. Additional Enhancements to Offline Files Introduced in Windows 7
  40. Understanding Offline File Sync
  41. Modes of Operation in Offline Files
  42. Managing Offline Files
  43. Managing Offline Files Using Windows Explorer
  44. Managing Offline Files Using the Offline Files Control Panel
  45. Managing Offline Files Using Sync Center
  46. Configuring Offline Files on the Server
  47. Managing Offline Files Using Group Policy
  48. Offline Files Policy Settings Introduced in Windows Vista
  49. Additional Offline Files Policy Settings for Windows 7