Offline Files in Windows XP and Vista/Windows 7, Misc Notes and How to Move the CSC Folders

2012-04-29 Updated

I researched this a while back before Windows 7 even came out, but it looks like Windows 7's offline files feature behaves pretty much the same way as in Vista.

On my Windows 7 Ultimate SP1 laptop, I see that the path to the offline files is C:\Windows\CSC\v2.0.6\namespace\server01 where "server01" is the file server name (CSC stands for Client Side Cache). In that folder is the entire hierarchy of the share on server01 that I have set up for offline use on my laptop. Most of the hierarchy is there, but only the files/folder that I made available offline are actually there. So if I only had \\ server01\data1\finance set up for offline use, the folder hierarchy for \\ server01\data1\finance would be in the CSC. What would not be there is any other folder under \\server01\data1 since I only selected the finance folder for offline use. There could be \\ server01\data1\accounting \\ server01\data1\sales, but I would not see those in the hierarchy unless I had something under them set for offline use.

By default, the CSC folder is locked down, so you must give yourself ownership of that folder and all subfolders.

Based on info from https://blogs.technet.com/filecab/archive/2006/07/11/441131.aspx:

By default, both XP and Vista create the offline file cache in %SystemRoot%\CSC (usually C:\Windows\CSC). You can use the CacheMov utility on 2000/XP to move the CSC folder to the root of another partition.

I noticed a few difference between XP and Vista/Windows 7.

• XP uses some kind of special binary format to store the files so you cannot directly access the offline files within the CSC folder. It creates several subfolders with several files with no extension in each folder.

• Vista stores the offline files in the same hierarchy as their source. You can go directly under the CSC folder and open up the offline files from there, though this is probably not a good idea since it might mess up the synchronization.

One thing I don't like about this change is that it is a security issue. Since the offline files are no longer in a special binary format, anyone who can access the CSC folder can easily view all your offline files. For example, anyone can boot to BartPE and easily view your offline files. This makes using disk encryption like BitLocker a good idea.

• I noticed an issue with XP where if you create a new folder on the computer where the source share is (the server), it will not sync on your mobile PC, even if you force a manual sync from the offline files icon in the system tray or Tools --> Synchronize. You need to force a sync from the context menu of the mapped drive in order for the new folders to sync up.

That issue does not happen if you create the new folder from your mobile PC. I didn't see this issue with Vista, but I did have an issue where an offline file showed up in Vista, but was not accessible offline until I forced a sync from the context menu of the mapped drive.

It looks like offline files in both XP and Vista work best when you use the mobile PC as your main PC. The issues I have with syncing are probably because I use my desktop PC primarily, and the laptop is configured to sync from the desktop (server). The ideal scenario would be for me to use the laptop as my primary PC. The issues I mentioned only occur when I create a new file or folder on the desktop (server). Afterwards it doesn't always sync correctly to the laptop.

• In Vista, even after you select not to make a share available offline, the share's folder structure is still visible offline, but there is a gray X over each file/folder, and if you try to open a file you'll get an error that you can't open it.

• Vista has a new command called mklink which allows you to create symbolic links for both files and folders (similar to shortcuts, but much more advanced). One posting shows you how to use mklink to redirect the CSC folder in Vista. Based on info from http://forums.microsoft.com/TechNet/ShowPost.aspx?PostID=949235&SiteID=17:

1.    Disable offline files
2.    Reboot Vista in safe mode command prompt only
3.    Delete the CSC folder in %SystemRoot% (usually C:\Windows\CSC)
4.    Create a symbolic directory link pointing to another location (e.g. mklink -d C:\Windows\CSC D:\NewLocation\CSC)
5.    Reboot
6.    Enable offline files

• This makes sense, but I want to mention it: The offline sync only happens when you log on with the specific account that has it setup. For example, JSmith shares a computer with RDoe. If JSmith has offline files setup, they will not sync unless JSmith is logged on. I verified this on Windows 7 Ultimate SP1.

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