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I'm configuring a laptop that will function as a "floater", or spare, for whoever needs one in the office. Because I want people to be able to work pretty quickly and not spend a few hours setting up their profiles, I was wondering if there is an equivalent to Unix's /etc/skel in Windows, where I can set initial new-user configurations? The OS is Windows XP SP3.

I'm not to the point where I can use centrally managed profiles yet, but that will come along shortly. I'm hoping for a band-aid until then.

Any suggestions?

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Is the machine joined to a Windows Domain ? – JS. Jul 2 '09 at 16:23
It will be, but is not at the moment – Matt Simmons Jul 2 '09 at 17:00
up vote 4 down vote accepted

You can customize the 'Default User' profile by:

Creating a new user with local admin rights.

Login as the new user and make the changes you require such as

  • Desktop Wallpaper
  • Desktop Theme Keyboard language
  • Screen Saver
  • Power Saving settings (this needs admin rights)
  • Start Menu
  • Desktop Icons Program Shortcuts
  • etc

Once you have finished remove the admin rights from the user (unless you want the default user to have admin rights), and reboot the machine.

Log back in as a different user with admin rights, open My Computer, Tools Menu, Folder Options, View Tab and make sure 'Show hidden files and folders' is enabled. Click OK. Next, right click my computer and choose properties, click the Advanced tab, and then the settings button for user profiles. Highlight the new user you created earlier and click the 'copy to' button, click browse and expand the tree to c:\documents and settings\default so default is highlited.Click Ok. Click the 'Change' button below 'Permitted to use' and type 'everyone' and click OK. Back on the 'Copy to' window click OK. Click Yes on the confirm copy dialogue.

If the 'Copy to' button is greyed out make sure you have rebooted before copying the profile.

Now when you login as a newly created user the customized default profile will be applied.

Later on you can turn this into a Domain default profile which would be applied to any domain users logging onto any Domain joined computer. Add in some Group Policy to deploy applications / map drives/ printers /etc and adding new user in the future will just take a few seconds.

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Maybe this KB article is suitable for your needs.

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Thanks! This should help a lot. I'm going to leave the question open for a bit to see what else people come up with. – Matt Simmons Jul 2 '09 at 15:00
You're welcome. – Maxwell Jul 2 '09 at 15:10

JS was very, very close.

As it turns out, "c:\Documents and Settings\Default User" still exists, but must be unhidden with attrib. After running

attrib -H -S -R "Default User"

You can use the technique JS mentioned to overwrite the profile.

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Hi Matt, I did mention in my post that enabling 'Show hidden files and folders' was a necessary step. – JS. Jul 27 '09 at 23:41
I've got my settings to "show hidden files" and "don't hide system files", and the folders didn't show up. I'll see if I can recreate tomorrow. If so, I'll give you the answer back, but I'm 99% sure I tried that. – Matt Simmons Jul 28 '09 at 2:44
Hmm, you had me doubting there. Just tried it on a vanilla XP sp2. Enabling 'Show hidden files and folders' is all you need to show the 'default user' folder under 'c:\documents and settings'. If you just want to see the contents of the 'default user' folder in explorer, then you can put 'c:\documents and settings\default user' in start > run without needing to enable 'show hidden files'. However if you are using the 'copy to' profile dialogue it is necessary – JS. Jul 28 '09 at 8:45
I haven't tried it yet, but I believe you. Given you the answer back. I must have done things out of order from what I remember. Thanks – Matt Simmons Jul 28 '09 at 12:06

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