The setup:

  • A Microsoft Active Directory network
  • Network clients are a mix of Windows 7 and 8.1
  • Offline files enabled and configured via group policy
    • Background sync configured
    • No administratively assigned offline files/folders
    • User customization of offline files prohibited
    • Transparent caching enabled
  • Profile folder redirected to a network share via group policy
    • Default behavior of Windows makes redirected profile folders available offline (assuming offline files is enabled)
    • Path of redirected folders includes FQDN (not short name)
    • Target share is standard windows share on a Windows 2008 R2 folder (not DFS)

The scenario:

  • A fresh install of Windows 7 on a laptop
  • A new user without any administrative rights
  • Initial offline files include:
    • \\serverFQDN\profiles\user.name\Documents
    • \\serverFQDN\profiles\user.name\Pictures
    • ... (other redirected profile folders) ...
  • A couple of weeks pass
  • Offline files now includes:
    • \\serverFQDN\profiles\user.name\Documents
    • \\serverFQDN\profiles\user.name\Pictures
    • ... (other redirected profile folders) ...
    • \\server\some share\path\path\somefile.docx

The questions:

  • How did the extraneous file, \\server\some share\path\path\somefile.docx add itself as an offline file?
  • How do I prevent extraneous files like this from being made available offline?

Observations and notes:

  • We've been using profile folder redirection with offline files for almost a year. This issue is was first reported about a week ago.
  • Since being reported, this behavior has been observed on just about every Windows 7 and 8.1 - both laptops and desktops - system we've checked. Laptops used by workaholics seem to have the largest amount of extraneous offline files, but this is unconfirmed
  • All network shares have the default cache setting: Only the files and program that users specify are available offline. I have not changed this setting because it doesn't "answer" both of my questions. (Added as clarification after Greg Askew's post)
  • The issue was originally reported because affected users were seeing only the cached offline version of the extraneous files while working remotely (in some cases, even while working on fast stable connections in the office)
    • For example, \\server\some share will be in offline mode and appear empty except for \\server\some share\path\path\somefile.docx
    • Shares without files in the offline cache will be online and accessible without issue
  • One particularly troubled Windows 8.1 Surface will switching between online and offline states every minute or so.
    • The users Surface is docked and has a stable physical connection to the network
    • Switching between online and offline states occurs for any user that logs on to the system
  • Although somewhat beyond the scope of my question, the last two points are noted because they're most likely related and may provide useful information

On the \server\some share\ properties > Advanced Sharing > Caching, you need to specify "Only the files and programs that users specify are available offline".

Instead of "All files and programs that users open from the shared folder are automatically available offline".

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  • Thanks for your reply Greg. Unfortunately, this is the first thing I checked. All shares have the default setting - "Only the files and program that users specify are available offline". Further, not all of the files accessed by the user become available offline. While a user may access hundreds of files - only one, two, or none of them become available offline. – Matthew Johnson Aug 21 '15 at 14:49

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