We are deploying desktop icons across our network to Windows 7 machines via Group Policy Preferences (Registry, User Shell Folders) and have found that for most users this works great - the "Common Desktop" icons configured under HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE merge correctly with the HKEY_CURRENT_USER icons and all is well.

However, for a particular group, there is no merge - none of the "Common Desktop" icons show.

Permissions and such are all set correctly and there is no difference in the registry changes applied to a group working and a group that does not work.

The Common Desktop key is under HKLM\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\User Shell Folders, and the usergroup-specific desktop key is under HKCU\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\User Shell Folders.

They are being redirected to a network drive, mapped at logon. I have tried using UNC paths instead, but this caused all users to lose "Common Desktop" icons.

Further Background

So, our menu system is stored on our file server. For the purposes of explanation, let's say it's at \\dfsroot\menus. Each category of user has a sub-directory here - \\dfsroot\menus\finance, \\dfsroot\menus\sales, and each sub-directory contains a Desktop and Start Menu folder containing shortcuts to be placed on each, respectively.

There is also a folder, \\dfsroot\menus\Common which are shortcuts common to all users (eg, Microsoft Word).

Common menus are controlled by HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE User Shell Folders configuration.

Group-specific menus are controlled by HKEY_CURRENT_USER User Shell Folders configuration.

Both are applied without errors for all users in the domain via Group Policy Preferences.

This allows us to manage icons quickly and easily, as we can drop a new icon into one of these UNC paths and update several hundred desktops immediately.

However, the Common directory seems to fail to apply for one group of users. There are no errors in the event log and even looking at the registry with regedit shows the correct value for the registry keys. There just aren't any icons showing from Common. Only the group-specific menus.

I am happy to provide further clarification if it is needed.

  • This question needs more details and a clearer picture of what's going on. Are you saying you are putting shortcuts (not icons) on both the "all users" desktop folder and on the "current users" desktop folder, then having those folders redirected to the network using a mapped drive? GPP logs to even logs on error, what do they say? You can enable lots of GPP logging for troubleshooting, have you done that? Are offline files enabled? – Bret Fisher Mar 14 '12 at 5:11
  • @Bret updated the original question, let me know if it's still unclear. I tried enabling logging in GPP and checked the event logs and haven't seen any errors - everything applies successfully. – Matthew Iselin Mar 14 '12 at 5:33
  • @Bret offline files are disabled. – Matthew Iselin Mar 14 '12 at 5:33

It likely has to do with you using folder redirect without offline files of crucial folders like ~Desktop, and setting those via manual reg rather then the "supported" way of Group Policy folder redirect. Disabling offline files for crucial folders will affect performance as each computer constantly has to send SMB packets back and forth since those shared folders are "online only". This is not Microsoft best practice. Three things I would do that would likely resolve your issue, put you back in the realm of "common use and MS supported", likely improve desktop Windows Explorer performance, and reduce network traffic.

  • Enable offline files, they "just work" in Windows 7. Any redirected folder will auto sync for offline use.
  • Use Group Policy "folder redirection" to control user folders, rather then setting registry settings via GPP.
  • Rather then the "old school" way of pointing people to a shared network folder for shortcuts, I would use GPP shortcuts feature to create those locally. Also, no need to use common desktop redirection if you're using GPP user shortcuts (it just creates the tiny .lnk files in each users local profile). I've used this for hundreds of shortcuts (pointing to local and network files) on networks with over 4,000 computers (even in XP) with no issues. If there was ever an issue it was permissions related and GPP would state it clearly in Event Logs.

Basically, IMO, your using GPP wrong. Using GPP to set reg settings when there are other more-supported ways in Group Policy to do it is just asking for trouble :)

  • I like the idea of GPP user shortcuts. The registry settings had originally been set in order to maintain a much more complicated structure that has just been consolidated. I'll see how we go with GPP Shortcuts. – Matthew Iselin Mar 14 '12 at 22:35
  • Out of interest, are there any folders that are recommended to have offline files enabled? The sync of everything each login has been problematic for us in the past. – Matthew Iselin Mar 14 '12 at 22:40
  • As long as you leave Offline Files enabled (the default), every profile folder you redirect will sync Offline. It will not sync all files every time, it will just check to ensure it hast the latest versions of each file. – Bret Fisher Mar 15 '12 at 2:56
  • Yea if I can deploy 4,000 XP desktops including kiosks, point-of-sale, monitoring stations, auto-logon, public pc's, and all sorts of odd config's using 100% Group Policy plus GPP w/o touching manual registry entries (other then permissions for legacy apps) then I bet you can too :). – Bret Fisher Mar 15 '12 at 2:59
  • this works really well for our needs, from what I've seen so far in testing. Thanks :) – Matthew Iselin Mar 15 '12 at 5:12

The solution to the problem in the question is actually under User Configuration/Administrative Templates/Start Menu and Taskbar, in the policy Remove common program groups in Start Menu and Taskbar.

This will hide the All Users Desktop/Start Menu icons if Enabled, and show them if disabled/not configured.

However, I have accepted Bret's answer to this question as it provides a better solution to the problem we're trying to solve anyway.

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