Server Fault is a question and answer site for system and network administrators. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

I'm having a bit of trouble with disk usage on a Windows 2003 Server with AD using roaming profiles. Turns out the users Outlook related files (.ost, .pst and .tmp files) gets saved in their roaming profiles, thus using up a lot of space on the server. I was thinking of moving the roaming profiles to another machine with more storage (moving the actual folders and pointing out the new location for each user).

Will I break stuff this way? I'm mostly concerned about Outlook (we're using 2007 btw) and it's picky ways of using the .ost and .pst files.

share|improve this question
(this doesn't address your original question, but) I'd disable the OST (cached mode) if you're not going to store it locally - its sole purpose is to speed up inbox access with a local copy. Should help free up some space. – Kara Marfia Jun 1 '09 at 14:56
Something doesn't make sense here. By default, Outlook stores its PST and OST files in the local portion of the user profile, not the roaming portion. Have you applied a Group Policy which changes this default? – ThatGraemeGuy Jun 1 '09 at 15:03

I've never had a problem moving roaming profiles to a different server. Copy the folder to the new location then change the profile path on the user's account in AD. Then when you are happy that the changes have taken place properly you can nuke the old profile folder.

EDIT: GregD makes a good point about making sure the user is logged off... I failed to mention that part.

share|improve this answer

You can relocate roaming user profiles to another server with no issues. I wouldn't recommend doing it while a given user is logged-on, but you can definitely do it.

How are you getting Outlook to store OST files in the roaming portion of a profile? By default it won't do that. You've done something to cause that to happen.

share|improve this answer

Storing the outlook data files in the user's profile seems like a bad idea - windows synchronizes the profiles on each logon/logoff, I'd figure logon times for your users to be nightmarishly long, considering it has to move tens or hundreds of MB each way..

I'd put all the .PST files in the user's home folders instead (just a personal shared folder, you can set those up in AD same place you define the profile). This way you can backup the whole home folder store at once, and no one risks losing PSTs.

The OST should be stored locally on the computer, it has little value by itself, so backup is not required.

Regarding the move itself, a few suggestions and tips:

  • Don't erase the old folders until after the move has been successful.
  • Conduct the move when user isn't logged on.
  • Make sure that NTFS security permissions on the copied profile folder are the same as they were on the original folder. I cannot stress this enough! Permissions must be the same exactly, including ownership. I'd assume you would copy the folders with a domain admin/server local admin account, which could reset owner information for the folder, after which AD wont recognize it as the profile. Obviously, you have to remove hierarchy-delegated security settings from the new folders.
  • After you copy the folders and make sure it's the same, log on the user and see that it get's it's profile. You can stick a small file in the new profile, say, in the desktop folder, and see if it appears on the user's desktop on logon.

Good luck!

share|improve this answer

We use this setup a lot. I just did this a few months ago at a clients office. We will be migrating again this month. Because of the nature of PST's (they almost always grow) it is helpful to plan for another move in the future.

First, before making any changes, be sure you have a good backup of all data.

Assuming all of your foaming profiles are in a single location setup DFS to point to your profiles folder.

ie \mydomain.local\files\profiles goes to the directory where the profiles.

For this example I will assume that each users profile is located in a directory that is the same as the username (%username%).

Change all users profile location to \mydomain.local\file\profiles\%username% in ADU&C

What this does is allows you to change the location without changing the location listed in each user's properties.

Verify that there is no issues at this point and everyone accesses their profiles.

One night after hours when no one is logged in (after verifying you have a good backup), copy the files to the new server using robocopy (drag and drop can cause problems), and re-point the DFS share.

In the future all you will have to do is the last steps. I highly recommend DFS as it makes any kind of data move much less painful.

share|improve this answer

While I don't use .pst or Exchange in cached mode, I have successfully moved roaming profiles with little to no issues. The only gotchas that I can remember encountering were permissions on the roaming profile folders and, if I remember correctly, the profiles aren't saved until the user logs OFF. So if you move the profile while they're logged on, you can run into it's best to do this after hours when the users are all logged off.

share|improve this answer

A comment on V. Romanov's note about permissions... You can use Robocopy to preserve that type of permission data easily via a script. There are some excellent free GUI tools that will handle this as well, I recommend Microsfot's utility, RichCopy.

share|improve this answer

As others have said, the OST file should be default be in Local Settings, which (again by default) shouldn't be roaming. I'd suggest you run a few tests with a fresh user profile, and check which folders (don't forget to check the hidden ones) are being copied back to the server on logoff.

There is a Group Policy setting to include/exclude folders from roaming profiles:

Admin Templates -> System -> User Profiles -> Exclude directories in roaming profile

As for moving roaming profiles, if you want to be extra-safe, log the user off, copy their profile to the new location (checking that permissions and ownership are both replicated), then delete their locally-cached profile on their PC, and get them to log in again (CAVEAT: they will lose temporary files, cookies, and some history - ask them first!).

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.