A standard configuration I see is organisations redirecting users “My Documents” to their “Home Drive”. When I ask them why I’m usually told that they don’t know why, because they’ve always done it or because they believe users “need” to see a drive letter in My Computer. Of course, you don’t HAVE to have a home drive to redirect the My Documents folder as the My Documents folder can be redirected to an UNC path (typically \servershare%username%) but you may still want to redirect them to a home drive as explained below. So, what is a home drive and why would you want to use one ?
Well, a home drive, or more correctly a home directory, is a special type of mapped drive that contains a users folders and can contain application data. It allows programmatic access to the home drive by assigning values to the variables:
For example, these three environment variables could contain the following:
HOMESHARE=\<server name><share name>
The home drive can then be accessed in a standard logon script. Below are some parameters that can be used and their meanings.
|%HOMEDRIVE%||The user’s local workstation drive letter connected to the user’s home directory|
|%HOMEPATH%||The full path of the user’s home directory|
|%HOMESHARE%||The share name containing the user’s home directory|
So, we can assign a home drive rather than a standard “mapped” drive to enable us to reference the drive in scripts. But, is that all that using a home drive gives us ? The answer is “no”. If you have not assigned a home drive to a user in their Active Directory object then Windows (on clients) uses a default location, the users profile in Documents and Settings / Users directory for files and for user-specific application files such as .ini files it uses the users Windows directory which, be default, is the Windows directory on the client. Therefore one thing extra that using a home drive gives us (over a standard mapped drive) is a place to store user-specific application settings which will follow the user from machine to machine – note that this is distinct from roaming user profiles as these files are not stored in the users profile by default. Also, as the default home location is the users My Documents folder in their profile if we map a home directory we change the home location. This doesn’t mean that the users My Documents location is changed but it does mean that the default location for Open, Save As and command prompt start points is the users Home Directory.
From the above you can see that if we set a users home directory (Home Drive) to be H: then when they try to save a file in Microsoft Word, for example, it will offer to save the file to H: by default. It is for this reason that you often see My Documents redirected to the home drive location….. so that users will save to their My Documents location by default.
As you can see from the above a Home Drive is not just another mapped drive but has a real affect on the end user experience and where files are saved.