July 27, 2009
In my infrastructure, all of our non-developers have Windows XP machines. Because I'm not completely migrated over to network profiles even though I'm adding machines to the domain, I want to provide a consistent user experience for users logging into a machine for the first time.
As you've probably noticed, the "default" look is probably branded by your hardware vendor unless you've installed from scratch, in which case it's overly generic.
Before Service Pack 3, changing the default was straightforward. There was a "c:\Documents and Settings\Default User" folder that could be mangled appropriately. In the Post-SP3 world, it gets a little more complex...unless you google it, then it gets worlds more complex.
I couldn't find any straightforward method of changing the default login profile, so I asked Serverfault. My question only got two answers which were completely different.
The one with the highest votes pointed me to a Micrsoft Knowledgebase article that was completely unclear in regards to Windows XP SP3. It points to using sysprep to roll out new installs. But I don't want to roll out a new install. I have an install. I just want to change the damned default profile.
The second answer (and the one I marked as being the answer) was closer to the mark. He suggested that I configure an account to the specifications that I wanted the defaults to take, then log out, log in as another user with administrative access, then go into My Computer/properties, Advanced, Profiles, and copy the configured profile into "C:\Documents and Settings\Default".
So, so close.
All of his instructions were right except for the "Default" part. As it turns out, "Default User" is still there, but before you can overwrite it, you need to go in and run
attrib -S -H -R "Default User"
It then appears, and can be copied (and overwritten, via the method mentioned above). After it is overwritten as you'd like it, run
attrib +S +H +R "Default User"
to hide it again, then reboot the machine (which may or may not be necessary, but I don't feel the need to press my luck).
Log back in as an admin, create a new account, log out, log in as the new user, and enjoy your customized environment.