Windows 10 is everywhere
Like most IT consulting firms who work on End User Computing projects, at Peninsula IT we are seeing loads of migrations from earlier operating systems to Windows 10 or Windows Server 2016. We think its by far the best Windows operating system yet, and judging by the mass migration that’s underway, so does everyone else.
Windows 10 Profile Bloat
In nearly every deployment of Windows 10 or Server 2016 where some kind of roaming profile solution is used to back up and restore user settings, we have seen that profile bloat becomes a problem, fast. There are a few apps that often cause profile bloat that are customer specific – for example, customers who use Firefox need to work out a way to deal with Firefox cache. However, within the new Windows operating system itself, bloat comes quickly in the form of the Windows “Webcache” file called WebCacheV01.dat. Take a look in your own profile, its located here:
It starts off at 32MB, and then it just grows and grows to 150MB and beyond. Here is a screenshot of the file size on my machine.
This file is notorious for slowing down logon and logoff times for Windows 10 and Windows Server 2016 users. The WebCacheV01.dat file is a database of windows history and settings. It includes Internet Explorer and Edge history, cookies, data from Windows store “Universal Apps” , and even data from browsing network files. Microsoft introduced WebCache to improve the performance of applications that rely on this data (more info here). However until now it’s been really hard to manage, often slowed down user logins, and generated loads of roaming profile data.
A big contributor to profile bloat are cookies held within the temporary internet files folder, and the pointer records for each cookie held within the WebCacheV01.dat file. They just keep accumulating and there is no real way within the operating system to control how they accumulate, or limit the space they take up, or in a perfect world, there is no way to retain cookies for certain sites that are a priority for users, and drop all the others at logoff. Some profile solutions like Citrix Profile Management do try a containment model, which provide settings for cookies to be mirrored during profile roaming, preventing cookie duplication from multiple browser sessions (thus preventing accumulation of stale cookies). However, this doesn’t really address the core problem that even without duplication, cookies in user profiles can still become a bloated mess. On top of that, cookies are often unwanted, unneeded or even malicious files that are stored in the user profile and copied around the network at logon and logoff.
The only way stop the WebCache bloat
Until now, there has been no realistic way of controlling the behaviour of the WebCacheV01.dat file or reducing the size of this file in the user profile, and a quick Google search will show many threads of people complaining about the file and its impact on their users. But with the release of Avanite’s WebData Control, our customers IT teams can now closely control the behavior and compress the size of the WebCache file, but retain a consistent browsing and Windows app experience for their users. Here is a screenshot the impact of the Avanite WebData Control on my Windows 10 machine. Its calculated using the “Impact tool” on the Avanite Website here.
That’s a 67% reduction! This makes my logins so much faster, not to mention the profile data savings on the file server.
Setting up WebData Control
As field consultants, reliability and effectiveness of the tools we use and recommend is key to our business. We like Avanite WebData Control for two main reasons:
- It works
- Its simple to set up and manage
There are two main components to Avanite WebData Control. The configuration is managed by a Group Policy ADM template, which can also be imported and executed within AppSense (now Ivanti) Environment Manager. Administrators can set up selective retention policies for each component of the Webcache file database, as well as compaction settings for the file.
The second component is the WebData Control executable, which must be called at logoff before the roaming profile copy starts – a logoff script is the ideal place to call the executable.
Avanite have posted a couple of videos that demonstrate the configuration and results when using a couple of different profile management tools.
- Avanite WebData Control with Citrix UPM: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G6vjl9ebKNo
- Avanite WebData Control with Appsense: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ORiUzmtR-ds
Containing cookie bloat
WebData Control allows for true cookie management – when we set it up for our customers, we apply pretty aggressive policies to restrict cookie bloat.
But at the same time, we assign exclusions to make sure that the cookies that the users really need are retained – here are some screenshots of a typical exclusion policy that we would deploy.
As well as the data retention policy above, WebData Control also provides a blacklisting configuration, with settings for the Key Site Removal of cookie, history, temporary internet data and DOM data for explicitly defined sites regardless of other configuration options.
Cache bloat is a common problem with Google Chrome as well, often contributing to profile bloat and slow logins. Like the Windows webcache file, managing Chrome cache is also difficult, and often we find administrators just turn off the cache with administrative settings to keep Chrome’s contribution to profile size down. Avanite WebData Control provides management of Cookies and History for Google Chrome as well, retaining only the required data. The “Key Site Data Retention” and “Site Data Removal” policies applied by GPO are honoured across both IE and Chrome browsers.
Avanite WebData Control is really reducing the size and number of entries within the WebCacheV01.dat files in our internal user profiles, and thus improving logon times and saving storage. This is due to the granular way WebCache history is managed by the tool, and also the clever compaction applied by the tool. The screenshot below shows how the number of entries within the Cache file is now vastly reduced after the application of the WebData Control and the subsequent reduction in size from 98MB to 32MB.
- Check the Impact Tool on the Avanite website to see how WebData Control can benefit your Windows profile solution very quickly.
- Contact us at Peninsula IT to discuss how you can test Avanite WebData Control in your environment and start speeding up those user login times soon.