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How Microsoft UE-V syncs physical and virtual desktop settings

Users expect the same experience whether they're on a virtual desktop at home or their work PC in the office. Microsoft UE-V syncs users' settings, so they're up to date in all their Windows sessions.

As organizations implement desktop virtualization, one of the objectives they often struggle with is providing...

a consistent user experience. The Microsoft User Experience Virtualization tool allows IT admins to maintain users' settings across different desktop PCs, laptops and virtual desktops.

A big roadblock to VDI is that many users still want to access resources other than those on their virtual desktops. For example, an employee might use a physical PC while working in the office and a virtual desktop when traveling or working from home. IT admins need to ensure that users encounter the same experience, regardless of which environment they access.

A number of elements make up what's referred to as the user experience (UX), but think of it as the look and feel of a user session. The UX might include the desktop wallpaper, the way icons are arranged on the desktop, the browser history or even the items that appear on the Microsoft Office recently opened documents list.

Most of the items that make up the UX are part of the user's Windows profile. For decades, Microsoft has provided the ability to roam profiles, using file sharing to allow an employee to download his profile to different computers on the company network. When the user signs out, an updated version of the user profile merges back with the server version. Many users store a lot of data on their profile, though, so roaming between physical desktops, virtual desktops and other environments -- such as Remote Desktop Services applications -- is often time-consuming and takes up a decent amount of resources. Microsoft's solution to this problem is a tool called User Experience Virtualization (UE-V).

How the Microsoft U-EV components work

Microsoft UE-V roams the end-user experience, regardless of the type of session -- virtual desktop, physical PC or remote app. The tool also includes a synchronization component, so if a user makes a change to his Windows session -- such as changing the Windows wallpaper -- UE-V communicates that change to a back-end server, so it will appear in future sessions.

Microsoft's UE-V technology is made up of four components: the UE-V Agent, settings storage, settings location template and the UE-V Generator for creating custom templates.

UE-V Agent. IT shops must install the UE-V agent on each physical and virtual desktop they want to sync. The agent has two useful functions: It monitors Windows and certain applications looking for any user-initiated changes to the settings, and then it synchronizes any detected settings changes to the settings store.

Settings storage. The settings store is nothing more than a share on a file server. There are a few different ways to configure settings storage, but many organizations find that they don't actually need to do anything at all. If an organization has configured Active Directory to create a home directory for each user on a file server, then Microsoft UE-V will use that home directory as the settings store.

Users can retain their own personal settings, regardless of how they log in.

Settings location template. The settings location template is an XML file, which defines the files and the registry locations Microsoft UE-V needs to perform its monitoring and synchronization tasks. Microsoft has designed the template to monitor and synchronize settings for Windows 7, 8 and 10, Microsoft Office and Internet Explorer.

The template does not work with every version of Microsoft Office and Internet Explorer, so admins should check whether Microsoft supports their version. Organizations using an unsupported version of Office or Explorer can create a custom template for that version. Custom templates are also useful for non-Windows applications.

UE-V Generator. This component allows admins to create, edit or verify a custom settings location template. For example, an admin could launch the UE-V Generator, select the Create a Settings Location Template option and create a template for a line-of-business application. From there, the software would launch a wizard and prompt the admin to start the application for which he wants to build a custom template. The software then tracks the storage locations of the settings and builds a template.

Microsoft UE-V is a useful way to help users transition between physical and virtual desktops more seamlessly by roaming operating system and application settings across sessions. By doing so, users can retain their own personal settings, regardless of how they log in.

Next Steps

Microsoft UE-V leaves roaming profiles in the dust

Learn about Microsoft's app virtualization tool App-V

Taking stock of whether you still need App-V

This was last published in October 2015

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