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Large Scale System Administration of Windows NT Workshop, 1997

Effective Use of Individual User Profiles with Software Distribution

Mark Murray and Troy Roberts
Interprovincial Pipe Line Inc.


Many system administrators have found themselves supporting user communities who are either quite mobile and use many different workstations or share one workstation among multiple users. Within Windows NT networks, these users can still maintain unique personal settings for the software packages they each use through the use of individual profiles. Individual user profiles have, however, introduced a problem in the typical software distribution process.

During software installations, whether software distribution tools are used or not, there is usually a portion of the "package" that requires updates in each users personal profile or configuration storage area (often their home directory). These updates include default, and often required, user customizable settings and can only be performed for the user that is logged in at the time the package is distributed to each workstation.

Problems occur when a user who was not logged in during the distribution of a particular package attempts to use that package. This user will not have the required registry entries or configuration files and the software package will not work properly, if at all. Some software packages work around this by creating a default configuration on the fly, but they are not in the majority, and this does not allow organizations to customize the default settings that a user will receive.

At Interprovincial Pipe Line Inc. we have implemented a combination of commercial and home-grown utilities that provide a flexible and complete software distribution mechanism to a network of Windows NT 4.0 client workstations. These utilities specifically address the issue of applying individual user defaults and customizations after an application has been installed.

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