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Preventing slow logons when using AppSense Personalization Server

by on February 24, 2014

A common complaint I’ve heard from customer’s who’ve implemented AppSense Personalization Server has been that their logons seem to be slowing down over time. In almost all the cases, the issue was related to Session Data slowing things down.

What is Session Data?

Session data is personal data users generate during their session, and is usually generated outside of specific applications; for example, printers, MRU lists, Outlook profiles, drive mappings, icon positions, etc. The problem with session data is that, while most applications can be captured with Personalization Server by adding their exe into personalization, since explorer.exe is responsible for session data, adding it to a Personalization Server isn’t possible. That being the case, AppSense introduced a Session Data feature back when Personalization Server was first released.

The Session Data feature works by importing and exporting the user’s session keys during logon and logoff. This, as it turns out, is an extremely long process. The reason for that is because Personalization Server is using file-based registry (FBR) files to import the registry information. And so, during the import process, it must go through that file line-by-line to import each registry key. This is a time-consuming process which can increase the logon time drastically. And the more data the user accumulates over time, the slower the logon will become.

Solving the problem

Unfortunately, to solve this problem, we have to resort to hiving, an antiquated technique which has been supported by AppSense since the days before Personalization Server.

What is Hiving?

Hiving is a process whereby registry keys are exported and imported to a file on a specified location, and is a feature which can be found in Environment Manager. Hiving is a much faster process than using the Session Data feature, because unlike Session Data, it doesn’t rely on FBR files. Instead, it uses a process similar to regedit, which can merge large amounts of registry keys in bulk.

The hiving process

For hiving to work properly, it needs to be set up under the logon and the logoff nodes. Below is an example of a hiving configuration under the logon section. The import option should be selected for hiving during the logon process and the export option during the logoff process.

Chaims blog

Though hiving will speed up your logon times, it doesn’t come without any consequence. Consider the following pros and cons before switching to hiving.


Using hiving instead of Session Data will speed up your logon.


One of the appealing features of Personalization Server is that it keeps all the data in a database and admins no longer have to rely on network shares to save the users profiles. When turning on hiving though, an admin will still need to rely on network shares to store the hiving files.

Also, Personalization Server’s archive feature will archive the last five revisions of session data (along with other personalization data) making it easier for an administrator or a user to restore an old copy if necessary. With hiving, an administrator will need to rely on traditional backup for restores.

Common Session Data Keys

Below is a list of common session keys one should consider preserving.

Outlook profile

HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Windows Messaging Subsystem

Windows Explorer preferences





HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Classes\Local Settings\Software\Microsoft\Windows


HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Devices

Drive Mappings


Active Setup Keys

HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Active Setup\Installed Components

HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Wow6432Node\Microsoft\Active Setup\Installed Components

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