70-270 Windows XP TechNotes - Desktop Environment

- User Profiles
- Local Settings
- Multiple-Language and Location Support
- Windows Installer Packages


User Profiles

A User Profile is a collection of files and folders that stores setting related to the desktop environment as well as application settings and user data. A profile is created when the user logs on for the first time. By default, user profiles in Windows XP are stored in the \%systemdrive%\Documents and Settings folder. The Documents and Settings folder contains a folder per user. Examples of information stored in these user profiles are:

  • Desktop and Start Menu
  • My Documents folder
  • Network connections in My Network Places
  • Drive to UNC path mappings
  • Favorites and Cookies
  • Printer connections
  • Windows Applications settings
  • Other Applications settings
  • Local Settings

User Profiles can be changed on the User Profiles dialog box, which can be opened by clicking the User Profiles button on the Advanced tab of the System Properties.

When you click the Change Type button, you can change the profile to either a Local or Roaming profile. Local profiles are stored on the local hard disk. Roaming profiles are used to allow users to logon to different computers and still have the same desktop environment and settings. The profile must be stored on a network server before the Roaming type becomes available. When a users logs off, the profile on the local system as well as the profile stored on the server are both updated. If used correctly, roaming profiles allow administrators to easily replace a user's computer without having to reconfigure settings and restore data.

To create a roaming profile, use the Copy To button to copy the profile (i.e. c:\Documents and Settings\userX\) to a shared folder on the network (i.e. \\Server1\profiles\userX\). The Copy To dialog box also allows you to change the user or group that has permission to use this profile. For a user to use a roaming profile, you need to enter the UNC path to the profile in Profile Path on the Profile tab of the user account's properties.

Another type of profiles are Mandatory profiles. A mandatory profile cannot be changed by a regular user; every time the user logs on the same profile and its settings are applied. To create a mandatory profile, copy the user profile to the specified network location and change the file extension to .man (rename NTUser.dat to NTUser.man).

Local Settings

Local Settings refer to the part of the user profile that is local to the computer. The Local Settings folder and its subfolders do not roam with the user profile. The Local Settings folder is a hidden folder in the user profile (\%systemdrive%\Documents and Settings\userX\Local Setting\). This folder contains data such as:

  • Temporary Internet Files
  • History
  • Temp directory
  • A hidden folder Application Data, where profile-aware applications can store user personal data. For example, the Outlook Personal Folder.

Multiple-Language and Location Support

Windows XP supports multiple languages regardless of the language version. Languages are configured by using the Regional and Language Options control panel applet.

The Regional options tab allows you to configure specific number, time, date and currency formats per language. This tab also allows you to configure a location:

This location allows content providers to provide information specific to this region, for example in MSN or Internet Explorer.

If you want to add an additional language, click the Details button on the Languages tab, and click the Add button on the Settings tab.

By default, you can switch between languages by pressing the left Shift + left Alt key.

Windows XP clients can also be configured with specific dial-up settings for different locations. To configure a Windows XP computer for multiple locations, use the Phone and Modem Options control panel applet.

On the Dialing Rules tab you can either change or add new locations. Per location you can configure dialing settings such as prefix numbers, area codes, pulse/tone options, etc.

Windows Installer Packages

Windows Installer packages (.msi) have been introduced to make installing new applications more efficient and convenient. Applications installed by using an .msi file installs only files and folders that are minimally required to run the application. If additional options are required, the .msi file can be use to install it on demand. A typical example of this is MS Office. Another benefit of using Windows Installer packages is that the system 'rolls back' if an installation fails or is not completed. An .msi file contains a relational database that stores all the instructions and data required to install and uninstall the application.

Windows Installer is a service on the local computer. It is configured to start manually, but will automatically start when an .msi is run. The Installer service cooperates with MSIEXEC.EXE, which is the program that interprets the package, and performs the installation. MSIEXEC.EXE can also be run from the command-line to repair and install packages as well as control the installation process.
For detailed information about the command-line switches available for MSIEXEC.EXE, click the following link: The Command-Line Options for the Microsoft Windows Installer Tool Msiexec.exe

Information regarding failed installations of .msi files can be retrieved from the Application log in the Event Viewer.

Another type of package is a transform (.mst) file. A transform file can be created to modify the 'default' information in the .msi file for the initial installation.

In an Active Directory environment, Windows Installer packages can be pushed to clients. An administrator can use one of the following methods:

  • Publish packages to Users, this will make the application available for the user to install thru the Add or Remove Programs control panel applet or when a file associated with the application is opened.
  • Assign packages to Users, this will make the application available in the start menu on every computer the user logs on to and will be installed when the user starts it or when a file associated with the application is opened.
  • Assign packages to Computers, this will force the application to be installed on the computer, typically at startup, regardless of the user account.


Current related exam objectives for the 70-270 exam:

Configuring and Troubleshooting the Desktop Environment

Configure and manage user profiles and desktop settings.
Configure support for multiple languages or multiple locations.
- Enable multiple-language support.
- Configure multiple-language support for users.
- Configure local settings.
- Configure Windows XP Professional for multiple locations.
Manage applications by using Windows Installer packages.

Date: Saturday, December 11, 2003
Author: Johan Hiemstra
MCSE NT4 MCSA 2000/2003