Get Mobile With Windows Server 2012 R2 Using Work Folders #WhyWin2012R2

This post is part of a series “Windows Server 2012 R2 Launch Blog Series” Index at

Work Folders is a feature built into Windows Server 2012 R2 that offers hosted sync shares for user files. The shares being used for Work Folders must be on an NTFS formatted volume.  With Work Folders users can store and access work files on personal computers and devices, often referred to as bring-your-own device (BYOD), in addition to corporate PCs. Users gain a convenient location to store work files, and they can access them from anywhere. Organizations maintain control over corporate data by storing the files on centrally managed file servers, and optionally specifying user device policies such as encryption and lock-screen passwords.

Work Folders can be deployed with existing deployments of Folder Redirection, Offline Files, and home folders. Work Folders stores user files in a folder on the server called a sync share. You can specify a folder that already contains user data, which enables you to adopt Work Folders without migrating servers and data or immediately phasing out your existing solution.

Administrators can use Work Folders to provide users with access to their work files while keeping centralized storage and control over the organization’s data. Some specific applications for Work Folders include:

  • Provide a single point of access to work files from a user’s work and personal computers and devices
  • Access work files while offline, and then sync with the central file server when the PC or device next has Internet or intranet connectivity
  • Deploy with existing deployments of Folder Redirection, Offline Files, and home folders
  • Use existing file server management technologies, such as file classification and folder quotas, to manage user data
  • Specify security policies to instruct user’s PCs and devices to encrypt Work Folders and use a lock screen password
  • Use Failover Clustering with Work Folders to provide a high-availability solution


Work Folders includes the following functionality

Functionality Availability Description

Work Folders role service in Server Manager

Windows Server 2012 R2

File and Storage Services provides a way to set up sync shares (folders that store user’s work files), monitors Work Folders, and manages sync shares and user access

Work Folders cmdlets

Windows Server 2012 R2

A Windows PowerShell module that contains comprehensive cmdlets for managing Work Folders servers

Work Folders integration with Windows 8.1

Windows 8.1, Windows RT 8.1

Work Folders provides the following functionality in Windows computers:

  • A Control Panel item that sets up and monitors Work Folders
  • File Explorer integration that enables easy access to files in Work Folders
  • A sync engine that transfers files to and from a central file server while maximizing battery life and system performance

Work Folders app for devices

Not yet announced

An app that allows popular devices to access files in Work Folders


How Does Work Folders Stack Up?

Work Folders Offline Files SkyDrive Pro SkyDrive

Technology summary

Syncs files that are stored on a file server with PCs and devices

Syncs files that are stored on a file server with PCs that have access to the corporate network (can be replaced by Work Files)

Syncs files that are stored in Office 365 or in SharePoint with PCs and devices inside or outside a corporate network, and provides document collaboration functionality

Syncs personal files that are stored in SkyDrive with PCs, Mac computers, and devices

Intended to provide user access to work files





Cloud service



Office 365

Microsoft SkyDrive

Internal network servers

File servers running Windows Server 2012 R2

File servers

SharePoint server (optional)


Supported clients

PCs and devices* inside or outside a corporate network

PCs in a corporate network or connected through DirectAccess, VPNs, or other remote access technologies

PCs, iOS, Windows Phone

PCs, Mac computers, Windows Phone, iOS, Android

*Work Folders apps not yet announced.

Because you control the infrastructure you can use other available technologies to enhance the capabilities of Work Folders. In addition to the sync technologies listed in the previous table, Microsoft offers other replication technologies, including DFS Replication, which is designed for server-to-server replication, and BranchCache, which is designed as a branch office WAN acceleration technology. For more information, see DFS Namespaces and DFS Replication Overview and BranchCache Overview


Enabling Work Folders on the Server – Step-By-Step

You enable the feature from Server Manager – Dashboard.  Click Add Roles and Features; select Role-based or feature-based installation click Next; – Select Server click Next  on Server Roles: Expand File and Storage Servcies, then Expand File and iSCSI Services, click to turn on Work Folders, In the Add Roles and Features Wizard Popup, click Add Features; on Server Roles click Next ,  on Features Click Next,  Click Next on Web Server Role (IIS), on Role Services click Next, on Confirmation click Install. 


After Installing Work Folders you will see it:

  • Adds the Work Folders page to File and Storage Services in Server Manager
  • Installs the Windows Sync Shares service, which is used by Windows Server to host sync shares
  • Installs the SyncShare Windows PowerShell module to manage Work Folders on the server

For more information on deploying Work Folders see

Client Access to Work Folders

To enable users to sync across the Internet, there are additional requirements:

  • A server certificate for each file server that will host Work Folders (plus a server certificate for your reverse proxy server). These certificates should be from a certification authority (CA) that is trusted by your users—ideally a public CA
  • The ability to make a server accessible from the Internet by creating publishing rules in your organization’s reverse proxy or network gateway
  • A publicly registered domain name and the ability to create additional public DNS records for the domain
  • (Optional) An Active Directory Domain Services forest with schema extensions in Windows Server 2012 R2 to support automatically referring PCs and devices to the correct file server when using multiple file servers
  • (Optional) Active Directory Federation Services (AD FS) infrastructure when using AD FS authentication
  • Computers must be running Windows 8.1 or Windows RT 8.1
  • Enough free space on a local, NTFS-formatted drive to store all the user’s files in Work Folders, plus an additional 6 GB of free space if Work Folders is located on the system drive, as it is by default. Work Folders uses the following location by default: %USERPROFILE%Work Folders
    However, users can change the location during setup (microSD cards and USB drives formatted with the NTFS file system are supported locations, though sync will stop if the drives are removed).
    The maximum size for individual files is 10 GB by default. There is no per-user storage limit, although administrators can use the quotas functionality of File Server Resource Manager to implement quotas.
  • Work Folders doesn’t support rolling back the virtual machine state of client virtual machines. Instead perform backup and restore operations from inside the client virtual machine by using System Image Backup or another backup app.

For detailed Step-By-Step for setting up the clients and security see



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