How profile redirection in Windows Vista affects Outlook data files

You may know where certain data files reside in Windows XP, but do you know where they are in Vista? This tip from Exchange Server expert Brien Posey uncovers the locations of Microsoft Outlook data files in Windows Vista compared to Windows XP, how profile redirection works and how it affects Outlook data files.

There are a few potential discrepancies regarding where various Microsoft Outlook data files are located in Windows Vista compared to where they were housed in Windows XP. In this tip, Microsoft Exchange expert Brien Posey explains these inconsistencies. He will also advise how user profile redirection works in Windows Vista and how it affects Outlook data files.

Most of Microsoft Outlook's customization files are located in the user's profile directory. Figure 1 shows the most familiar files.

familiar Outlook files
Figure 1. Files in the \Users\user name\Application Data\Microsoft\Outlook folder.

The user profile directory also contains several other types of Outlook data files. Where they reside in Windows Vista, however, may surprise you.

More information on both Windows Vista and Outlook data files
Customizing Microsoft Outlook email security settings for end users 

Troubleshooting a corrupt Microsoft Outlook profile after a Windows Vista upgrade 

The user profile directory is located in a different location in Vista than it was in Windows XP. In Windows XP, for example, it could be found in: \Documents and Settings\user name\Application Data\Microsoft\Outlook.

Microsoft restructured the file system's user profile section when it released Windows Vista and retained some legacy folders for backward compatibility. Windows Vista stores all user profile folders beneath a folder named Users, instead of beneath the Documents and Settings folder. While the Documents and Settings folder still exists, it isn't technically a folder. Instead, it's actually a shortcut to the Users folder.

Previously, some Microsoft Outlook data files were stored in the \Users\user name\Application Data\Microsoft\Outlook folder. Figure 2 shows the Application Data folder, which isn't really a folder at all. It's a shortcut to the AppData folder -- Vista's version of the Application Data folder. This folder is hidden by default.

 The hidden AppData folder
Figure 2: The Application Data folder isn't really a folder at all, but rather a shortcut to the hidden AppData folder.

Everything within the Application Data folder is redirected, including the Microsoft\Outlook folder. The \Users\user name\Application Data\Microsoft\Outlook folder actually maps to the \Users\user name\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Outlook folder. If you look at Figure 3, you can see that both of these "folders" have the same content.

Mapping to \Users\user name\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Outlook
Figure 3: The \Users\user name\Application Data\Microsoft\Outlook folder actually maps to \Users\user name\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Outlook.

Tthe AppData folder contains three sub folders: Local, LocalLow and Roaming.

All Microsoft Outlook data files that we've discussed so far reside in the Roaming folder. This is also true if the roaming profiles are not being used. Microsoft does this to inform Windows which parts of the application data should be included in a roaming profile (if roaming profiles were to be used), and which parts of the application data must remain with the local machine.

The \Local folder contains its own \Microsoft\Outlook sub folders. This is where the remaining Outlook data files are stored.

About the author: Brien M. Posey, MCSE, is a five-time recipient of Microsoft's Most Valuable Professional (MVP) award for his work with Exchange Server, Windows Server, Internet Information Services (IIS), and File Systems and Storage. Brien has served as CIO for a nationwide chain of hospitals and was once responsible for the Department of Information Management at Fort Knox. As a freelance technical writer, Brien has written for Microsoft, TechTarget, CNET, ZDNet, MSD2D, Relevant Technologies and other technology companies. You can visit Brien's personal website at www.brienposey.com.

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This was first published in February 2009
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