Is your organization ready for Windows 8.1? Part 15, Roaming Profile incompatibilities

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In extensively managed networking environments, devices are generally domain-joined and employees gain mobility across these devices through folder redirection, offline files and roaming profiles. VPN access is mostly available, but when looking closely you might distinguish the occasional DirectAccess implementation.

In these environments, mobility over several devices, for instance a desktop and a laptop, often, offers challenges in terms of applications, settings and access to data.

While the above solutions offer a functioning environment when all devices run the same Operating System, it’s a different story when one device runs another or previous Operating System version.

In the past…

In the past, Roaming Profile incompatibilities have resulted in version 2 profiles. This distinction made sure colleagues with Windows XP and Windows Vista/7 devices could continue working effectively on both platforms, enjoying the same data, but not necessarily the same settings.

You probably remember the Username.V2 Roaming Profile folder names, if, at some point in the past, you’ve implemented Roaming Profiles on devices running Windows Vista, and beyond, in a Windows 2000 Professional / Windows XP Professional-based networking environment.

In the Windows 8.x era

To make matters more complicated, but more robust towards the people using devices with different Windows versions, Microsoft has updated the profile format in Windows 8. According to Microsoft KnowledgeBase article 2887239, the updated profile format, causes profiles to be incompatible between Windows 7 (and Windows Vista) on one side and Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 on the other side of the equation.

This means, that when a colleague switches from a Windows 7-based device with Roaming Profiles configured to a Windows 8-based device with the same Roaming Profiles configuration, the user profile is updated to the new Windows 8 format and the user profile is no longer compatible with the Windows 7-based device. But, both profiles are version 2 profiles.

Now, when you’re migrating your organization to Windows 8.1 from Windows 7 (and prior)and you’re not able to migrate all PCs for a specific colleague at one moment in time, this will cause problems when the colleague switches back and forth.


Introducing Version 3/4 profiles

Luckily, you can configure Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 to create a different Roaming Profile. This Roaming Profile, then gets a dot, a ‘v’ and a version number appended to the folder name.

The version number corresponds with the version of Windows that is used on the device on which you want a different Roaming Profile:

  • Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 add the string .v2 to the folder name.
  • Windows 8 and Windows Server 2012 add the string .v3 to the folder name
  • Windows 8.1 and Windows Server 2012 R2 add the string .v4 to the folder name.

Thus, on Windows 8.1, Roaming Profiles become designated as version 4 profiles.

Implementing version 4 profiles

This is achieved by making a change in the Windows registry and rebooting.

According to Microsoft KnowledgeBase article 2890783, the update that adds this functionality to Windows 8.1 is included in November 2013 update rollup. Make sure you have this update installed on devices where you want to use version 4 profiles.

The update is also available in Windows 8.1 Update 1.

To perform the specific registry change, follow these steps:

  1. Swipe in from the right edge of the screen, and then tap Search. Or, if you are using a mouse, point to the lower-right corner of the screen, and then click Search. In the search box, type regedit, and then tap or click regedit.     When you are prompted for an administrator password, type the password. If
    you are prompted for confirmation, provide confirmation.
  2. Locate and then tap or click the following registry subkey:HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\System\CurrentControlset\Services\ProfSvc\Parameters
  3. On the Edit menu, point to New, and then tap or click DWORD (32-bit) Value.
  4. Type UseProfilePathExtensionVersion.
  5. Press and hold or right-click UseProfilePathExtensionVersion, and then tap or click Modify.
  6. In the Value data box, type 1, and then tap or click OK.It should look like this:UseProfilePathExtensionVersion in Windows Registry (click for original screenshot)
  7. Exit Registry Editor.

After you configure the UseProfilePathExtensionVersion registry entry, you have to restart the computer.

After the reboot, Windows 8.1 creates a new Roaming Profile and appends the suffix ".v4" to the profile folder name to differentiate it from earlier Roaming Profile versions.

Of course, you can also use a Group Policy Preference (GPP) setting to add the registry key to Windows installations. You can target Windows 8.1-based devices specifically by either placing them in separate Organizational Units (OUs) within Active Directory Domain Services, or (when all devices reside in the same Organizational Unit) through WMI filters.



If you need new Roaming Profiles for colleagues that experience Roaming Profile incompatibilities between Windows 8.1 and previous versions of Windows, implement version 4 Roaming Profiles with the registry change above.

Together with Folder Redirection, these colleagues should only experience different settings between two devices, but still have access to the files, folders and applications they need to perform their jobs.

Related KnowledgeBase Articles

2890783 Incompatibility between Windows 8.1 roaming user profiles and those in earlier versions of Windows
2887239 Incompatibility between Windows 8 roaming user profiles and roaming profiles in other versions of Windows


Thanks to JSchlackman for pointing out some errors in a previous version of this blogpost.

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