An easy way to customize the Default User Profile in Windows 7

Back in the days, systems administrators used a convenient method of deploying standardized user profiles on workstations by creating a dummy user account, customize the profile and then use the Copy To feature from the System Properties User Profiles settings snap-in to copy the created profile over the default user profile. This worked well on Windows 2000, XP and Vista; however, the same procedure won’t work on Windows 7. 

Standardization of desktop environments remains a critical requirement in large corporations and Microsoft has various options to work around this issue. For instance, one of the options is to use the Sysprep utility. This utility and others may at times require an extra effort in certain environments and administrators may be better off using a simple procedure to achieve the same results. Nonetheless, these tools are recommended for large deployments of Windows workstations and users profiles.

In this blog post, we will see how in few steps you can customize a user profile and save it as the default user profile so that when new users are created they will get the profile you have just configured.

  1. Using an administrator account create a dummy user account and log on using the newly created user account.
  2. Customize the desktop environment as per your requirements and log off.
  3. Log on using an administrator account and manually replace the %SystemDrive%\Users\Default folder content with the folder content of the user you have created. For example, if the dummy user name used is Test then replace the Default folder content with %SystemDrive%\Users\Test content
  4. Finally, make sure that you assign Read and Modify permissions of the ‘new’ Default folder to the group Users so that it may be read and modified.

Although, this is a fast way to copy user profiles it is always recommended to back up the Default folder content before replacing it with the new one, and test a new user account for both functionality and security (access rights)!