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What's the difference between a user's home path and their profile path in Windows Server 2003?

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5 Answers 5

up vote 12 down vote accepted

The profile path is the location of the user's user profile. The "Home" path may be the same, but it could be set to another location (via the user account properties).

The home path is a bit of a vestigial thing. It dates back to Windows NT, prior to the 'My Documents' directory. I believe the original intent was to provide a "Home Directory" similiar to Unix environments, but the user profile ended up (with the advent of "My Documents") being the default storage location for files (which led to the whole "redirect folders out of the user profile" functionality that came on after W2K).

"Folder Redirection" can use the legacy home path setting as the destination for redirecting the "My Documents" path. This can be handy if you have groups of users who need their "My Documents" path redirected to various server computers, as you can set a different home path on a user-for-user basis. (You can do the same thing w/ multiple group policy objects, or with a single folder redirection policy based on group membership, too.)

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Bonus rep for use of "vestigial" –  squillman Jun 22 '09 at 20:08
    
Do you know if there is any disadvantage to storing both the profile and the home path in the same directory? It seems like the fuzzy line between the two suggests they should be in the same place. –  user10369 Jun 22 '09 at 20:09
    
smile Yeah-- except that I'm at today's rep cap. (I can't say I ever noticed hitting the cap on prior days. Oh, well. I'll just continue my trip to the top a little bit slower... heh heh...) –  Evan Anderson Jun 22 '09 at 20:09
    
@Andrew: I can't think of a reason to set them to be the same that would provide any good functionality. In fact, I'm coming up with some ideas that could provide bad functionality (excessively replicating files, for one, if you set the home path to "map" a "drive" to the folder where the user profile was stored and the user started storing general files there). I would not set them to be the same thing. In most of my networks today, the "Home Path" is left blank. –  Evan Anderson Jun 22 '09 at 20:11

The home path is the share where you can store your personal files.

The Profile path is where you can store roaming profiles, which contain all of the personalization, customizations, and other settings related to your userprofile.

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Plus, how you determine which is where for your user:

C:\>set HOME
HOMEDRIVE=C:
HOMEPATH=\Documents and Settings\kuba

C:\>set USERPROFILE
USERPROFILE=C:\Documents and Settings\kuba
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I can answer for Server 2003 AD ... there may be some adjustments in Server 2008 AD.

1- The "profile path" is the location where profile specific information is stored. By default, it is a location on the specific computer (see Kuba's answer). When a path is filled into the AD value for the user, a roaming profile for that user is activated, and the profile is stored at the network path specified, and copied/updated at that location whenever the user logs in.

2- I don't know how the "local path" setting in the "Home Folder" section functions, as I have only seen that section left default, or the "Connect" setting used to map a drive letter to a network path. At my current company, we do neither, using a Kixstart login script to map a drive to a "home" folder.

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HOMEDRIVE/HOMEPATH is where the user has his personal files, e.g. downloads, music, documents, etc.

HOMESHARE is used instead of HOMEDRIVE if the home directory uses UNC paths.

USERPROFILE is used to store the user's application and OS configuration files and personalization settings. It includes both local and roaming (Active Directory) folders.

It's important to note that although HOMEDRIVE/HOMEPATH is often the same path as USERPROFILE, it's not always the case.

References:

http://support.microsoft.com/kb/100843

http://blogs.msdn.com/b/patricka/archive/2010/03/18/where-should-i-store-my-data-and-configuration-files-if-i-target-multiple-os-versions.aspx

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