64-bit Has Two System Profile Folders Print E-mail
Written by Darwin Sanoy   
Friday, October 14, 2011 7:29am

64-bit Windows redirects the "System32" folder for 32-bit processes.  On Windows 7 the system account's profile folder lives in "..\System32\config\systemprofile".  It is also redirected when accessed from a 32-bit process.  This has a direct affect on packages that are run under the system account (many software distribution systems), but perform operations on the user profile.

Most corporate administrators have learned the hard way to ensure that installations (MSI or otherwise) are automated to place all profile resources in the %ALLUSERSPROFILE% folders.  In Windows Installer the unwavering use of ALLUSERS=1 ensures this.

However, when an installation is accidentally setup as an MSI per-user based install and runs under the system profile, diagnosis of the problem is hampered by the 32-bit redirection of this folder.

If the registry key for tracking profile locations (HKLM\Software\Micrsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\ProfileList\S-1-5-18) is examined on a 64-bit system, it shows the System Profile should be under system32.  On a default install of Windows this is: "C:\Windows\system32\config\systemprofile", but a 32-bit process will place resources targeted at this location at "C:\Windows\sysWOW64\config\systemprofile".

For compatibility and simplicity, software distribution systems generally run as 32-bit services on 64-bit Windows.  This causes their system profile folder access to be redirected to c:\Windows\SysWOW64\config\systemprofile.


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