Customizing the Default User Profile in Windows 7 (Part 3)

by [Published on 6 Jan. 2011 / Last Updated on 6 Jan. 2011]

This article concludes demonstrating the steps involved in customizing the default user profile in Windows 7.

If you would like to read the other parts in this article series please go to:

In the previous article of this series we began the process of customizing the default user profile in Windows 7. So far we've completed the following steps:

  1. Create a Task Sequence for Deploying your Reference Build
  2. Create a Task Sequence for Sysprepping and Capturing your Reference Build
  3. Customize the Reference Build using Unattend.xml
  4. Deploy and Verify the Partially Customized Reference Build
  5. Further Customize the Reference Build Manually
  6. Sysprep and Capture the Fully Customized Reference Build

We will now conclude the process of customizing the default user profile by performing the following seventh and final step:

  1. Verify All Customizations Made to the Default User Profile

To perform this final step, we need to do the following five things:

  1. Import our captured image into the Deployment Workbench
  2. Create a new task sequence for deploying the imported captured image. This new task sequence will be based on the Standard Client Task Sequence template
  3. Modify the Unattend.xml file for this new task sequence so that the CopyProfile setting has the value True
  4. Deploy the captured image to a target system using this new task sequence
  5. Create a new local user account on the target system and then check whether the ten customizations we've made have been successfully applied to the default user profile from which new local user accounts are generated

Import the captured image into the Deployment Workbench

We'll begin by importing our captured, sysprepped and customized Windows 7 operating system image into the MDT 2010 Deployment Workbench. To keep our imported images logically separated from other OS images, I've created a subfolder called Customized_Images beneath the Operating Systems folder of my deployment share. Then I right-click on Customized_Images and select Import Operating System:


Figure 1: Step 1 of importing the captured, sysprepped and customized image into the Deployment Workbench.

On the OS Type page of the Import Operating System Wizard, select the Custom Image file option:


Figure 2: Step 2 of importing the captured, sysprepped and customized image into the Deployment Workbench.

Browse to select the captured, sysprepped and customized Windows 7 image, which should be in the Captures folder of your deployment share:


Figure 3: Step 3 of importing the captured, sysprepped and customized image into the Deployment Workbench.

Leave the first option selected on the Setup page:


Figure 4: Step 4 of importing the captured, sysprepped and customized image into the Deployment Workbench.

We'll accept the name the wizard proposes for the destination directory that will be created for storing this image:


Figure 5: Step 5 of importing the captured, sysprepped and customized image into the Deployment Workbench.

Clicking Next begins the image import process:


Figure 6: Step 6 of importing the captured, sysprepped and customized image into the Deployment Workbench.

Once the import process is finished, you should see the imported image in the Customized_Images folder as shown here:


Figure 7: The captured, sysprepped and customized image of Windows 7 has been imported.

Before we can deploy the imported image to a target system for verification, we need to create a new task sequence for performing the deployment. We will do this next. 

Create a task sequence for deploying the captured image

To create a new task sequence we can use to deploy the imported, captured, sysprepped and customized Windows 7 image, we begin by right-clicking on the Task Sequences folder in our deployment share and selecting New Task Sequence. This launches the New Task Sequence Wizard, and on the General Settings we need to specify a name and ID for our new task sequence:


Figure 8: Step 1 of creating a task sequence for deploying the captured, customized image.

Choose the Standard Client Task Sequence as the template for your new task sequence:


Figure 9: Step 2 of creating a task sequence for deploying the captured, customized image.

On the Select OS wizard page, select the imported image, which is found in the Customized_Images folder:


Figure 10: Step 3 of creating a task sequence for deploying the captured, customized image.

Continue through the remaining steps of the wizard until your new task sequence has been created.

Set CopyProfile to True in the Unattend.xml file

In MDT, each task sequence has an answer file (unattend.xml) associated with it. To ensure that the customizations we made to the default user profile of our imported, captured, sysprepped and customized image are properly deployed to the default user profile of a target system, we need to edit the unattend.xml file of our task sequence and make sure that the CopyProfile setting is set to True. The reason for this is given in the Unattend.chm help file included in the Windows AIK 2.0 and is described as follows: "The CopyProfile setting enables you to customize a user profile and use it as the default user profile. Windows uses the default user profile as a template to assign a profile to each new user."

To do this, right-click on your new task sequence in Deployment Workbench and select Properties to open the properties sheet of the task sequence:


Figure 11: Opening the properties of the task sequence.

The first time you do this, MDT needs to generate a catalog for the imported image. To do this, MDT first mounts the image and this may take a few minutes:


Figure 12: Opening the properties of the task sequence can take a few minutes.

Once the task sequence properties are open, select the OS Info tab:


Figure 13: The OS Info tab of the task sequence properties.

Now click the Edit Unattend.xml button on the OS Info tab. This opens the answer file for this task sequence in Windows System Image Manager (Windows SIM). Expand the specialize pass section of the answer file and select the Microsoft-Windows-Shell-Setup component, then in the Properties task pane change the CopyProfile setting to True as shown here:


Figure 14: Set the CopyProfile setting to True.

Click the Save button on the toolbar of Windows SIM, then close Windows SIM, and close the task sequence properties.

Use the task sequence to deploy the captured image to a target system

Now we're going to use our task sequence to deploy our imported, captured, sysprepped and customized Windows 7 image to a target computer. To do this, boot a bare-metal target system (or a new virtual machine) using the Lite Touch .iso file (the file LiteTouchPE_x64.iso found in the Boot folder of your deployment share). When the Windows Deployment Wizard appears, walk through its pages, being sure to select the task sequence you created above:


Figure 15: Deploying the customized image to a target system using LTI. 

When MDT finishes deploying the customized image to the target system, you will be automatically logged on to the system using the default local Administrator account:


Figure 16: MDT automatically logs you on as local Administrator after a LTI deployment.

Tip: See my article Deploying Windows 7 - Part 6: Lite Touch using MDT 2010 and the other articles in my Deploying Windows 7 series here on WindowsNetworking.com if you need to learn more about performing Lite Touch Installation (LTI) deployments using MDT 2010.

Create a new local user on the target system and verify the default profile customizations

We have now customized the default user profile of a Windows 7 using two methods: by specifying answer file (unattend.xml) settings and by performing some manual customizations of our master installation. From the first article in this series, here again is the list of customizations we performed using an answer file:

  1. Disable the Internet Explorer First Run Wizard.
  2. Specify a home page for Internet Explorer.
  3. Configure Windows Error Reporting (WER) so that collected data is automatically uploaded to Microsoft with no user interaction required.
  4. Enable the Games built-in feature.
  5. Prevent the XPS Viewer application from being installed.

And from the second article in this series, here again is a list of customization we performed manually:

  1. Pin a shortcut for Windows Remote Assistance to the Start menu.
  2. Pin a shortcut for Remote Desktop Connection to the Taskbar.
  3. Change the default view of the Documents library from Details to Content.
  4. Change the Control Panel default view from Category to Small Icons.
  5. Change the Desktop Background from the default picture to solid light green.

We then sysprepped our customized master installation, captured an image of it, uploaded the image to our deployment share, and used MDT 2010 to deploy the customized image to a target computer. Let's now see if all our customizations worked.

If everything went as planned, the ten customizations we made on our master image should now have been applied to the default user profile on our target computer. In Windows 7, the default user profile is stored in a hidden folder named Default found under C:\Users. This default profile is never loaded and is copied as a template when creating a new local user account on the computer.

Tip: For more information about user profiles in Windows 7, see Chapter 15 of the Windows 7 Resource Kit from Microsoft Press. And for updates to this Resource Kit, see the Unofficial Support Site for the Windows 7 Resource Kit which is maintained by me.

So let's create a new local user account on our newly deployed target computer and see which of our ten customizations were applied. To create a new local user account, begin by typing new user in the Start menu search box:


Figure 17: Step 1 of creating a new local user account based on the customized default user profile.

In the search resources, click Create Standard User Account, and then type a name for the new account and select Standard User:


Figure 18: Step 2 of creating a new local user account based on the customized default user profile.

After you click Create Account, you will see a tile for the new local user account you just created:


Figure 19: The new local user account named Bob has been created.

Clicking the Start button shows that a shortcut for Windows Remote Assistance has been pinned to the Start menu (customization #6 above). Note however that there is no shortcut for Remote Desktop Connection pinned to the taskbar, so customization #7 didn't carry through our default profile customization process:


Figure 20: Customization #6 worked but not customization #7.

Clicking the Internet Explorer tile on the taskbar opens IE without launching the Internet Explorer First Run Wizard (customization #1) but instead of the expected home page of www.mtit.com we just get a blank page instead (customization #2):


Figure 21: Customization #1 worked but not customization #2.

Next, open the Action Center, click Change Action Center Settings, and then click Problem Reporting Settings. The result is shown below and confirms that customization #3 worked as expected:


Figure 22: Customization #3 worked

Next, click Start, then Programs, and then Games. As you can see below, games were installed, so customization #4 worked too:


Figure 23: Customization #4 worked

Next, type turn in the Start menu search box and then in the search results click Turn Windows Features On or Off. At this point a UAC prompt is displayed because Bob is a standard user, not an admin:


Figure 24: A UAC prompt is displayed when Bob tries to turn Windows features on or off.

After providing Bob with the credentials of the local Administrator account on the computer, the Windows Features dialog is displayed and shows that the XPS Viewer has not been installed (customization #5):


Figure 25: Customization #5 worked

Next, open the Documents library and click the More Options control on the toolbar. As you can see below, the default view for this folder is Content, which tells us that customization #8 worked:


Figure 26: Customization #8 worked

As you have probably noticed by now, the desktop background is green, so customization #10 was applied as well. Finally, opening Control Panel shows that the default view is Small Icons, so customization #9 worked as well:


Figure 27: Customization #9 worked

So it looks like all the customizations we made to our default user profile were applied, except these two:

  • Specify a home page for Internet Explorer (we tried using the answer file to do this)
  • Pin a shortcut for Remote Desktop Connection to the Taskbar (we tried doing this one manually)

Conclusion

This article and the previous two articles have demonstrated how to customize the default user profile in Windows 7 using two methods: by configuring answer file settings and by manually customizing the master image. Unfortunately, not all of the customizations we performed were carried through when we tried using MDT 2010 to deploy our sysprepped and captured master image. We'll explore this issue and other default user profile customization issues in the next article of this series.

If you would like to read the other parts in this article series please go to:

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