Boswell's Q&A

File Sync Malady

Windows 2000 continually updates offline file folders by design—Group Policy plays no part.

Bill: We run Windows 2000 Professional on a 1,500-user network using roaming profiles. The Group Policy settings force a synchronization of the user's offline files at logout. We have several "shared" machines (e.g. in the receptionists' office) where up to 10 staffers log in during the course of the week.

On the "shared" PC's, when a user logs off not only are the current user's files synchronized but so are the files of everyone who has been logged onto that machine in the past (even if those user are currently logged in at another location). Can I modify any settings so that only the current users' files are synchronized?
—Name withheld by request

Offline folder synchronization can get a little complex, so let's simplify matters at the start by focusing on just one file. I'm assuming that the kiosk machine is connected to the network and the users log into a Windows 2000 domain.

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Suppose avguser logs on at the kiosk machine and goes into the folder that has offline files. Just for the sake of discussion, it's the My Documents folder that you've redirected to a central server.

Avguser creates a text file called File1.txt, adds a little content and saves the file. As soon as Avguser presses Ctrl+S to save the file, two things happen: The locally cached copy gets updated and so does the network copy on the server hosting the redirected My Documents folder. This does not wait for synchronization at the end of the logon session. The network copy stays fresh continually throughout the session as the user saves the content.

Avguser stays logged onto the kiosk machine and walks over to his own machine and logs on. He opens the My Documents folder. He sees the new file and, when he opens it, he sees the content he saved at the first machine.

He adds a few lines, saves the file, then goes back to the kiosk machine and opens the file. He should see that the contents have changed with the additions he made at the second machine. He can walk back to his own machine, close the file, then open it and see the new content.

This behavior is "by design." Changing the Group Policy properties that manage the Synchronization Manager won't change the behavior. Using an application that puts an opportunistic lock on the file (like Word) would affect this experiment only by forcing you to close the file between tests.

But your question implies that you've seen an additional phenomenon where Avguser's files would get synchronized at some later time in the day when another user at the kiosk machine logs off. I'm betting that you're seeing the updates made to the server copies of the files.

If users are seeing their files change back to a previously saved version throughout the day as users log in and out of the kiosk machine, then write me and walk me through a sample transaction.

In the meantime, hope this helps.

About the Author

Contributing Editor Bill Boswell, MCSE, is the principal of Bill Boswell Consulting, Inc. He's the author of Inside Windows Server 2003 and Learning Exchange Server 2003 both from Addison Wesley. Bill is also Redmond magazine's "Windows Insider" columnist and a speaker at MCP Magazine's TechMentor Conferences.

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