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I have read some articles that claim that using the Active Directory user home directory attribute to automatically map the home drive is a legacy method, deprecated, or not recommended. The second article I linked gives some good reasons why this is not recommended.

However, I have searched high and low and have not been able to find any official Microsoft articles that give this recommendation. It seems like the official stance is still to either use the home directory attribute, or to use folder redirection. Here's an example article from 2013 where a Microsoft MVP still uses the home directory attribute practice, in an article endorsed by the "scripting guys".

Does anyone here know the history on this and can provide a link to a more "official" recommendation as to whether mapping the home drive via GPO is now the best practice, over using the home directory attribute? Or is this something that has just been adopted in practice but never officially endorsed? If the latter, is there any functionality that is lost by not using the home directory attribute?

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    Personally, I would consider most, if not all, profile related settings that can be configured in the properties of a user account to be "legacy" settings, but that's just my opinion. If the settings can be configured and managed with GP/GPP why would you want to manage them at the user object level? – joeqwerty Jan 31 '15 at 0:59
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    If I had time, I would try to answer your questions (since you did reference my blog post). Regarding lost functionality - I would say the HOMEDRIVE/PATH/USERPROFILE variables are not set so some applications write data locally. Personally, I don't think that's a bad side-effect. – Doug Luxem Jan 31 '15 at 1:54
  • Good point, Joe, and thanks for the additional info, Doug! – optic Feb 2 '15 at 19:49
  • Thanks everyone who has commented and answered so far. I think that many of us could still benefit from a comprehensive answer on the pros and cons of using the built-in home directory attributes in AD vs GPOs/GPPs, with some evidence behind it. – optic Nov 3 '17 at 15:07
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The HomeDrive attribute is not deprecated and will probably not ever be removed. The reason it's popular is because it was the first attribute that removed the requirement of using logon scripts to map a user's drive. Admins could now specify the home drive during user creation programmatically and not worry about maintaining a logon script. For small organizations with simple administration, this worked out well.

For larger organizations, business needs dictated that not all user accounts were equal and some needed to be separated from others. These organizations either continued to use or created large, complex, logon scripts usually checking the members group memberships to determine what drives to map where, to include their home drives.

These logon scripts execute during... wait for it... logon and if something went wrong, such as a network path was unreachable or access denied, they would hang. The default timeout for Group Policy processing is 10 minutes. This is where the whole 'login to your computer and go make yourself a cup of coffee while you wait' came from. So now you've got perceived performance problems and reliability problems because Group Policy errored out and didn't finish processing correctly. This of course generated support calls for Microsoft, a lot of calls spent troublshooting logon scripts for primarily mapped network drives.

And then magic, new Group Policy Preferences appeared with the Drive Map extension! The drive map extension also supports Item-Level Targeting for such thing as Group Membership. Now, all those support calls for drive mapping logon script errors could automatically be "resolved" by transitioning them to this extension. Since it's part of Group Policy, the extension is offically supported by Microsoft, while logon scripts were given a best effort.

Organizations now have a Microsoft Supported way to map network drives based upon group memberships, Microsoft reduced their support calls and time troubleshooting logon scripts, and admins could manage it all from Group Policy, wins all the way around. And, btw, you can use Drive Maps for mapping user's home drive, (use %logonuser%).

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  • I like the part of your answer where you say that the HomeDrive attribute is still useful to small organizations which may not have the skills or inclination to configure GPOs/GPPs. That makes sense and I agree, and I upvoted your answer because of it. However, I'm not entirely convinced by the part that GPPs would have reduced support calls, as I've personally experienced the dreaded 10-15 minute timeouts on drive-mapping GPPs. I didn't have to call Microsoft, but it took some work to troubleshoot. – optic Nov 3 '17 at 15:02

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