Plan for multiple platforms

Why are user profiles on multiple platforms such a challenge?

It is common for users to access multiple computing devices. The challenge with any type of roaming profile results from the differences between systems on these devices. For example, if I create a shortcut on my desktop to a local file that does not exist when I move to a different device, I have a broken shortcut on my desktop.

A similar issue exists when roaming between a desktop operating system (OS) and a server OS. Some settings may not be applicable on the server (such as power settings or video settings). Furthermore, if applications are not installed similarly on each device, when I roam other issues may emerge.

Some personalization settings (such as My Documents, Favorites, and other files that function independently of OS or application version) are much easier to manage than others. But even these settings may be difficult to roam when a document type is only supported on one system. For example, a user has Microsoft Project installed on one system, but on another device that file type is not recognized. This situation is exacerbated if the same application is present on two systems but on one different add-ons are installed and expected by a document.

How does changing the way an application is installed cause issues?

Even though platforms are identically installed, if an application is configured differently on each, errors may occur when the application starts. For example, a macro or add-on might activate in Excel on one platform but not another.

The Start menu

The Start menu contains links (LNK and LNK2 files). The user-specific part of the menu is stored in the profile and can be modified by users. Adding custom links (to executables or documents) is common. In addition, links that are language-specific result in multiple Start menu entries for the same application. Furthermore, links pointing to documents might be invalid on other computers. The reason is that the path to the document is relative to another system, or it is a network path that is inaccessible.

By default, the content of the Start menu folder is not saved by Profile Management because links pointing to executables are often computer-dependent. However, in situations where the systems are very similar, including the Start menu in your Profile Management configuration improves the consistency when users roam from desktop to desktop. Alternatively, you can process the Start menu with folder redirection.

Note: Unpredictable side effects can often result from what appears to be the most innocuous of changes. For example, see the article Citrix User Profile Manager (UPM) and the Broken Rootdrive on the Sepago blog.

Always test and verify the behavior of the Start menu across platforms.

The Quick Launch toolbar

The Quick Launch toolbar contains links and is configurable by users. By default, the Quick Launch toolbar is saved by Profile Management. In some environments, this might not be desirable because the links may be computer-dependent.

To exclude the toolbar from profiles, add the following entry to the folder exclusion list: AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\Quick Launch.

What types of profiles should I create?

Important: Because of the difference in their structure, Citrix recommends creating separate Version 1 and Version 2 profiles for each user in any environment that contains multiple platforms. Differences between the Windows Vista and Windows 7 profile namespace make it difficult to share profiles across these platforms. And failures can also occur between Windows XP and Windows Server 2003. For more information on Version 1 and Version 2 profiles, see About profiles.

The definition of multiple platforms here includes not just multiple operating systems (including ones of different bitness) but also multiple application versions running on the same operating system. The following examples illustrate the reasons for this recommendation:

  • 32-bit systems may contain registry keys that instruct the operating system to start applications in locations specific to 32-bit operating systems. If the keys are used by a Citrix user profile on a 64-bit system, the location might not exist on that system and the application fails to start.
  • Microsoft Office 2003, Office 2007, and Office 2010 store some Word settings in different registry keys. Even if these applications run on the same operating system, you must create separate profiles for the three different versions of the Word application.

Citrix recommends using Microsoft folder redirection with Citrix user profiles to help ensure profile interoperability. Within an environment where Windows Vista or Windows 7 must co-exist with Windows XP, it is even more important.

Tip: Depending on your organization’s data management policy, it is good practice to delete profiles from the user store and the cross-platform settings store for user accounts that have been removed from Active Directory.