Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Windows 7: Default User vs All Users

A lot of confusion seems to occur with understanding the difference between the "Default User" profile, and the "All Users" profile on Windows 7.  This applies, conceptually, going back to Windows 2000, Windows XP and on up to Windows7 (as well as Windows Server 2000, 2003, 2008 and 2008 R2).  From what I've seen this shows up with software developers and software packagers, but also with script developers.
 

The "Default User" is basically a template for any new user logins for a given computer.  The net result however is that the template is applied "per user", rather than "per computer".  So, ultimately, if you make a change to the "Default User" profile, and there are already existing user profiles from previous logins, they will not receive the changes, only new user logins will receive them.
 

The "All Users" profile is a "per computer" feature that applies to all users, existing and new.
 

Default User (aka "%SysDrive%\Users\Default User"):

"C:\Users\Default User\Start Menu\Programs"
 

All Users (aka "%AllUsersProfile%"):

"C:\ProgramData\Start Menu\Programs"
 

As a test, try this out:

1.  Create a folder under "C:\Users\Default User\Start Menu\Programs" named "Default Users Folder"

2.  Create another folder under "C:\ProgramData\Start Menu\Programs" named "All Users Folder"

3.  Log off and log back on to the computer

4.  Click the Start Menu and click "All Programs".  Scroll down to view all folders on the Start Menu.  Which do you see?

5.  Log off and log on as a different user (a user that has NEVER logged onto this computer before).

6.  Click the Start Menu and click "All Programs".  Scroll down to view all folders on the Start Menu.  Which do you see now?
 

I hope this helps gain a little more insight into how these two user profile features behave.
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