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To be clear, I'm not asking can it be set or how to set it, I'm asking is it already set at all on a new copy of Windows. The ideal way to find this out would be to install a fresh copy of Windows on a VM and check, since most of everybody who can answer this question will already have it set ;-)

I need to know if I can depend on it always being there. (I understand that these can be unset, but if you know how to do that you know you're asking for trouble.)

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up vote 11 down vote accepted

No, it is not. The closest equivalents in Windows NT are %UserProfile% and %HomeDrive%%HomePath% (note that they may point to different locations – the profile is always local, while the home can point to a network share).

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The equivalent environment variables that are set are HOMEDRIVE and HOMEPATH.

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There's also %LOCALAPPDATA% (never roaming) and %APPDATA% (can roam). You're not supposed to write to %UserProfile% directly, and you can't predict the relative path from %LOCALAPPDATA% to %APPDATA% (could be localized).

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%LocalAppData% seems to be added in Vista; older versions have the directory but it can be only found using the shell API, not envvars. – grawity Jun 14 '13 at 12:14

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