Trouble with Computer Lab PCs

have2p

Limp Gawd
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Aug 15, 2005
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As part of my job I manage and maintain a small computer lab of 4 computers. They were all set up by a previous admin who no longer works here. They are setup to login automatically to a limited account.

Users are able to temporarily save files to the hard drive, but they are wiped clean when the computer automatically restarts each night. Users can not install any software.

Recently I installed Internet Explorer 8 on the systems (as Administrator) and although they are working fine, Internet Explorer goes through its first-time-startup routine every day. This is quite involved, asking about Phishing filters and default search engines and what-not. Its very annoying to have to click through everyday.

On the administrator account, I only had to go through this once. So I tried to make the default user account an Administrator account temporarily, hoping that would resolve the issue. It didn't.

Whatever changes IE is making to its file system to indicate that the first-time-startup has been run are being lost each day. Any idea how I can make these settings stick and rid my users of the annoying first-time-startup process?
 

leSLIe

Fisting is Too Mainstream for Me
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how are the PCs wiping clean automatically after restarts each night?
are they using some program like DeepFreeze? if so, then you just have to disable it, reconfigure windows and the when everything is in place, re-enable it
 

have2p

Limp Gawd
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There is no program running, I believe its just a windows feature. Thought it might be some sort of group policy setting, but I can't seem to find a relevant setting that has been enabled.
 

SJConsultant

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There is no program running, I believe its just a windows feature. Thought it might be some sort of group policy setting, but I can't seem to find a relevant setting that has been enabled.

It may not be a program. it could be an internal dongle attached to the hard drive. Otherwise the admin could have used Microsoft's SteadyState
 

Langford

[H]ard|Gawd
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So the user profile is being deleted each night on shutdown?
You could try to overwrite the default profile to a state after initialization, it might remedy the issue.
 

have2p

Limp Gawd
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So the user profile is being deleted each night on shutdown?
You could try to overwrite the default profile to a state after initialization, it might remedy the issue.

I guess so? I'm not really sure how IE keeps tracks of user profiles. Where are they stored?
 

Langford

[H]ard|Gawd
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There should be a default user in the Documents and Settings directory off the root of your c: drive. Anything you change in the default will be reflected in newly created accounts.

1. Backup the default user folder.
2. Create a temporary account.
3. Log in to temporary account.
4. Set temporary account to ideal settings.
5. Log in to administrator account. (do NOT make temporary account an admin)
6. Replace contents of default user folder with contents of temporary user folder.
7. Remove temporary user account.
 

PWMK2

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Pretty much every single correctly-designed program's settings are stored in the user profile, and temporary profiles copying themselves from the default user profile (C:\Documents and Settings\Default User in XP and C:\Users\Default in Vista/7).

Benefits of having a customized default user profile are endless. Otherwise, you're always going to be copying from the default profile that shipped with the OS, which is pretty much something that an end user should never see in a lab environment ("see what's new in XP/Vista!"). Whenever you install new programs, you're always going to want to make a new default user profile after setting them up correctly.

There should be a default user in the Documents and Settings directory off the root of your c: drive. Anything you change in the default will be reflected in newly created accounts.

1. Backup the default user folder.
2. Create a temporary account.
3. Log in to temporary account.
4. Set temporary account to ideal settings.
5. Log in to administrator account. (do NOT make temporary account an admin)
6. Replace contents of default user folder with contents of temporary user folder.
7. Remove temporary user account.

Yup, this guy is on the right track, although there is an easier way to copy user profiles.

1. Go to system properties (right-click My Computer and click properties in XP or right-click Computer, click properties and navigate to advanced settings in Vista).
2. Go to the advanced tab.
3. Click the 'settings' button under 'user profiles.'
3. Click 'copy to' with the correct profile selected (as in, everyone looks when logged in as this user) and copy to the default profile.

This works great, and you can even copy from an admin account to a non-admin account with no sweat (this is what we do with our labs at work when setting up a default profile). However, you will need to make a separate admin account just for copying the user profile over from the correct profile to the default one, as you cannot copy the logged in user's profile.

You might also need to restart the computer before copying over the user profile based on how gp is setup on the workstations. If 'copy to' is grayed out and you aren't logged in as that user's profile, then restart the machine and you should be good to go.
 

bigdogchris

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There is no program running, I believe its just a windows feature. Thought it might be some sort of group policy setting, but I can't seem to find a relevant setting that has been enabled.
I really this this system has something like Steadystate installed and set to reimage that user profile data every boot. Look at add/remove programs and see if it's present. IE8 settings are stored in the user folder so that would explain why it's being reset.

A good way to test this is to turn the machine on, log in as that user, set up IE8, then reboot. If you have to do it all over again, it's really a given. I work with Limited Users and group policy and know no way of resetting the user account each day besides using a disk state type product.

As for setting up user accounts like you guys are suggesting, that's a good idea but some software requires the user to be the owner of the folder in order to properly access/write to it. I just end up creating the user, leaving them as admin and installing all software as that user, then just locking it down to limited. I have just one user account per machine (plus a admin account) so there's no need to modify the default user. I do however make changes as "all-users" whenever possible, in the event that there is a corruption and I have to delete and re-create the user account if I don't feel like imaging that machine again.
 
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PWMK2

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I really this this system has something like Steadystate installed and set to reimage that user profile data every boot. Look at add/remove programs and see if it's present. IE8 settings are stored in the user folder so that would explain why it's being reset.

A good way to test this is to turn the machine on, log in as that user, set up IE8, then reboot. If you have to do it all over again, it's really a given. I work with Limited Users and group policy and know no way of resetting the user account each day besides using a disk state type product.

As for setting up user accounts like you guys are suggesting, that's a good idea but some software requires the user to be the owner of the folder in order to properly access/write to it. I just end up creating the user, leaving them as admin and installing all software as that user, then just locking it down to limited. I have just one user account per machine (plus a admin account) so there's no need to modify the default user. I do however make changes as "all-users" whenever possible, in the event that there is a corruption and I have to delete and re-create the user account if I don't feel like imaging that machine again.

No, you don't need any such software program to set up temporary profiles. If you have local profiles disabled and are on a domain but without roaming profiles, then Windows will set up a temporary profile by default. In Vista and 7 it will also throw up an error message about not being able to find your profile. It will create the temporary profile by copying from Default User / Default and creating a new profile called TEMP. Windows will delete this profile at logoff. If you really want to see this in action, delete your local profile and then try logging back on... :cool: Heck, that's what the original administrator for the OP's lab could have done; create a user, then delete that profile. Windows will create a temporary profile on each login as that user in that case. I don't think there's a need to emphasize how ghetto this is, though. :(

And software that requires the user to be a specific user in order to run is badly designed software, although I'm sure hacks exist in such cases. I ran into this behavior with Google Earth before Google released Google Pack (BTW - thank god they did this) and had to hack the registry to get it to put its temporary files into a different place. In any case, I don't think single account workstations are really a solution if you're maintaining machines on a domain, although it doesn't sound like that's what the OP is doing either.
 

bigdogchris

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No, you don't need any such software program to set up temporary profiles. If you have local profiles disabled and are on a domain but without roaming profiles, then Windows will set up a temporary profile by default. In Vista and 7 it will also throw up an error message about not being able to find your profile. It will create the temporary profile by copying from Default User / Default and creating a new profile called TEMP. Windows will delete this profile at logoff. If you really want to see this in action, delete your local profile and then try logging back on... :cool:
Who said I, or the OP of this thread, were on a domain?
 

have2p

Limp Gawd
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Thanks for the help guys. These computer are on the university domain and I'm realizing now that the limited account is a roaming profile of type "ReadOnly." I think this is the source of the problems. I'm not sure what a roaming profile is... suggestions?
 

Electrofreak

[H]ard|Gawd
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Thanks for the help guys. These computer are on the university domain and I'm realizing now that the limited account is a roaming profile of type "ReadOnly." I think this is the source of the problems. I'm not sure what a roaming profile is... suggestions?

A roaming profile is a profile stored on a server so that the profile can be accessed via any computer on the server's network.

Offices sometimes call it "hot desking", so that anyone can sit at any computer and log in with their own profile.
 

PWMK2

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Who said I, or the OP of this thread, were on a domain?

I wasn't. I was simply saying that deleting your profile or disabling local profiles if you aren't using roaming profiles (which obviously require a domain) will probably result in the same behavior that the OP was initially describing, since Windows will create a temporary profile when it can't find the actual one. Although this has now turned out not to be what the OP is wrestling with since he is indeed using roaming profiles.

Anyhow, OP: you can either make the roaming profile writeable (which probably requires calling up the IT dept) or disable roaming profiles by editing local group policy (run gpedit.msc). To do this...

1. Run gpedit.msc as a local administrator.
2. Navigate to Computer Configuration > Administrative Templates > System > User Profiles (this is where it's located in Vista and Win 7, but I don't have an XP computer at home to verify it's the same with XP).
3. Change the value of "only allow local user profiles" to enabled.

From now on, all changes that are made to the profile should be kept. Personally, I would just disable roaming profiles on the computers because in my experience they are more trouble than they are worth. Loading a profile that is 20-80 MB in some cases from a server at each login just feels icky to me. But I know a lot of people do use them, and some have success using them. It doesn't sound like something you need for your lab, however.

Also, it might be good to check if "prevent roaming profile changes from propogating to the server" (it's located in the same folder as only allow local user profiles in the local group policy editor) is enabled. If it is enabled, then your roaming profile isn't read-only at all; the computer is simply not sending changes to the server. In which case you could just disable this and still have roaming profiles.
 
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