Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008 introduce a number of new user profile paths and environment variables that differ from earlier versions of Windows and these changes may have an impact on scripts such as logon scripts and application install scripts. Most scripts should work correctly - VBScript scripts that use system functions to find folder paths should work as expected, however batch scripts that use environment variables or hard codes scripts will require modifications. Here’s a short run down of the changes.

The following table lists the old profile path and the corresponding new path under Windows Vista/Windows Server 2008:

Old Path New Path
Documents and Settings Users
Documents and Settings\Default User Users\Default
Documents and Settings\All Users\Application Data ProgramData
Documents and Settings\All Users\Start Menu ProgramData\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu
Documents and Settings\All Users\Templates ProgramData\Microsoft\Windows\Templates
Documents and Settings{username}\Local Settings\Application Data Users{username}\AppData\Local
N/A Users{username}\AppData\LocalLow
Documents and Settings{username}\Application Data Users{username}\AppData\Roaming
Documents and Settings{username}\Cookies Users{username}\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Windows\Cookies
Documents and Settings{username}\NetHood Users{username}\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Windows\Network Shortcuts
Documents and Settings{username}\PrintHood Users{username}\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Windows\Printer Shortcuts
Documents and Settings{username}\Recent Users{username}\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Windows\Recent
Documents and Settings{username}\SendTo Users{username}\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Windows\SendTo
Documents and Settings{username}\Start Menu Users{username}\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu
Documents and Settings{username}\Templates Users{username}\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Windows\Templates
N/A Users{username}\Contacts
Documents and Settings{username}\Desktop Users{username}\Desktop
Documents and Settings{username}\My Documents Users{username}\Documents
N/A Users{username}\Downloads
Documents and Settings{username}\Favorites Users{username}\Favorites
N/A Users{username}\Links
Documents and Settings{username}\My Documents\My Music Users{username}\Music
Documents and Settings{username}\My Documents\My Pictures Users{username}\Pictures
N/A Users{username}\Saved Games
N/A Users{username}\Searches
Documents and Settings{username}\My Documents\My Videos Users{username}\Videos
Documents and Settings\All Users Users\Public
Documents and Settings\All Users\Desktop Users\Public\Desktop
Documents and Settings\All Users\Documents Users\Public\Documents
Documents and Settings\All Users\Favorites Users\Public\Favorites
Documents and Settings\All Users\Documents\My Music Users\Public\Music
Documents and Settings\All Users\Documents\My Pictures Users\Public\Pictures
Documents and Settings\All Users\Documents\My Videos Users\Public\Videos

Folders to take note of here are the folders in the All Users path. Many older applications that use out of date methods to resolve system folders, will resolve paths under \ProgramData when looking for common locations. For example the common desktop may be resolved as \ProgramData\Desktop, however this is actually a junction point for \Users\Public\Desktop. A DIR /A:H listing in \ProgramData folder reveals the following junction points:

Path Points To
ProgramData\Application Data ProgramData
ProgramData\Desktop Users\Public\Desktop
ProgramData\Documents Users\Public\Documents
ProgramData\Favorites Users\Public\Favorites
ProgramData\Start Menu ProgramData\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu
ProgramData\Templates ProgramData\Microsoft\Windows\Templates

These junction points should offer backward compatibility for older applications, however I have found that some of my installation scripts are not cleaning up shortcuts from the public desktop as expected.

There are also differences in environment variables between the new version of Windows and the older versions. Windows Server 2003 and below define the following variables relating to profiles:

ALLUSERSPROFILE=C:\Documents and Settings\All Users
APPDATA=C:\Documents and Settings\aaron\Application Data
HOMEPATH=\Documents and Settings\aaron
USERPROFILE=C:\Documents and Settings\aaron

Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008 define the same variables while adding a couple more.


In practice, I’ve found that scripts that reference locations such as %ALLUSERSPROFILE%\Desktop, are not performing actions as intended and will have to be updated to use %PUBLIC% instead. Certainly something that requires more investigation.

UPDATE: Microsoft have an excellent reference document that details the profile changes in Windows Vista and how roaming profiles should managed in a Windows Vista environment. Check it out for more information that what I’ve listed here:

Managing Roaming User Data Deployment Guide