Customizing the Default User Profile in Windows 7 (Part 6)

by [Published on 10 March 2011 / Last Updated on 10 March 2011]

This article provides some tips on customizing the default user profile in Windows 7 and points readers to additional resources on the subject.

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

In the previous article of this series we discussed some issues with customizing the default user profile in Windows 7 and described some possible  workarounds. The article also discussed the frequently-asked question whether there there a definitive list of all customizations of the default profile in Windows 7 that are NOT applied to new user accounts created on the computer, and unfortunately the answer to this is No.

This final (for now) article in this series continues the Q&A begun in the previous article and includes some tips and links to additional resources that can help you master the thorny problem of customizing the default user profile in Windows 7. But if you have a question about customizing the default user profile in Windows 7 that is not answered in this series of articles, feel free to email me your questions and I'll try to answer them in a future article on this subject. You can also follow me on Twitter and/or friend me on Facebook for further tips on this and other deployment-related topics.

Question #4: You said in your previous article that customizing some desktop shell settings by using a script to directly modify the HKCU registry hive won't always work. Why not?

Certain first logon operations performed when a user logs on to a Windows 7 computer for the first time will automatically overwrite any HKCU customizations you might have made previously to the default user profile on the user's computer. Unfortunately, there seems to be no definitive list of what these first logon operations are or which HKCU registry entries they overwrite.

Question #5: Can I create a new user account on my reference computer, add it to the local Administrators group, log on using this account, customize the shell, and use the procedure you've outlined in this series? Or do I have to always customize the desktop environment of built-in Administrator account as you've done in these articles?

You must use the built-in Administrator account for default user profile customization, and you must not create any other user accounts on your reference computer. See this link for more details.

Question #6: But unfortunately I need some additional local user accounts on my reference computer as they are needed by certain applications I'm deploying, so I can't delete them as you advised in the previous article. Does this mean the method you've described in this series for customizing the default user profile won't work?

It might, or it might not. There's no way of guaranteeing which account (the local Administrator account or any other local account on the system) will be used by the CopyProfile process, so all I can say is Good luck!

Question #7: We have a Windows Server 2003 Terminal Services and we're planning on migrating to Windows Server 2008 R2 Remote Desktop Services. We are using mandatory user profiles with our existing TS server farm, and we'll need to create new mandatory profiles for our new RDS farm. Can we use the Copy To functionality as before? Or do we have to use Sysprep like you've shown in these articles?

Copy To is gone in Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2, sorry.

Question #8: That sucks. That means every time we want to make a change to the mandatory user profile for our RDS farm users, we'll have to go through this whole process and run Sysprep and so on, right?

Read over the first three articles again in this series. Except for the manual customizations performed in article 2, everything else can be automated with MDT 2010 and you can do the whole think in a Hyper-V environment on one box. If your mandatory profile needs special customizations that can't be done with an answer file, you can try creating some custom scripts to directly modify the HKCU registry hive on your reference computer at the end of the reference build process, and you can automate the running of these scripts by modifying the task sequence that builds your reference computer. So while actual process of recreating your mandatory profile will take longer than before, the whole thing can mostly be automated in this way. The only hard part may be figuring out which HKCU registry entries you need to modify. Or you can try using Group Policy Preferences to apply certain customizations the first time a user logs on, and in many cases this can be a simpler, safer and more reliable approach than writing scripts to directly modify the registry.

Question #9: Are there any other good resources out there I can read to learn more about this subject?

What, you don't like my writing?? <grin> For sure, you can check out the following blog posts which have some terrific content on the subject:

Also be sure to check out this Knowledge Base article on TechNet:

There are probably some other great resources out there on this subject—if you find any please email me and I'll try and include them in a follow up article to this series.


As I indicated near the beginning of this article, I'll extend this FAQ by adding another article to this series once enough readers have sent me questions I can answer on this subject. But for now, let me end this series with a helpful suggestion from an astute reader who granted me permission to include the text of his email along with his name. Thanks Marc!

Dear Mr. Tulloch,

I’ve read your article on customizing the default user profile and I noticed that you created two task sequences to accomplish this. There is a way to simplify this by using the LTISuspend.wsf script with MDT 2010. This script can be added as a custom tasks in the task sequence. To create the image you run the task sequence as you would normally do without customization, choosing to sysprep and capture the image from the menu.

When the suspend task runs, the task sequence is suspended and a shortcut is placed on the desktop to resume. You can now do whatever customization (even reboot if needed) and when ready hit the shortcut to resume, the task sequence will continue to run all tasks, sysprep will run and the image will be captured.

Best regards,
Marc Van der Sypt

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

The Author — Mitch Tulloch

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Mitch Tulloch is a widely recognized expert on Windows administration, networking, and security. He has been repeatedly awarded Most Valuable Professional (MVP) status by Microsoft for his outstanding contributions in supporting users who deploy and use Microsoft platforms, products and solutions.

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