I built a SharePoint 2013 test intranet for a client with My Sites (personal sites). Without the setting up a UPS connection you get basic profile information for each user ( added as ad security group). I want to update the profile info for each user via PowerShell but I have been asked not sync via AD ;-(. I am happy with writing the script to import the thumbnails. What I am not sure about is how many times I will need to run the script to import the pics in the client's environment

  • Per instance of mysites ( so 1 x dev and 1 x live) or
  • per web app (so 1 x home dev x or 1 x live for each portal web app)
  • per farm as this what will be hosting the social db. ( so 1 x live farm and 1 x dev farm) My money is on this but I am not sure!

As aside, I am hoping that my search is not limited in anyway as ultimately it is crawling mysites for people searches so not caring about AD.


3 Answers 3


If I understand your question, you need to import for each User Profile Service Application instance and connected My Site Host. The photos are stored on the My Site Host in a library and the link is on the User Profile "record" in the UPA. (Generally a farm has only one so you are right.)

Once you upload the image and link it to a Profile through PowerShell, run the Update-SPProfilePhotoStore cmdlet to create the 3 copies of the photo per user.

Search crawls the Profiles through the sps3:// protocol on the Content Source. Ensure that this is configured and and that your content access account has access to the UPA and people search will work.

  • Hi thanks for the clarification. I think my confusion for me is around what is held user settings aka User Profile "record", at the Foundation level. Even without UPS, each user who 'touches' the def SC will have this basic record populated from AD (name, job title etc). I assume this must have come from AD ( as contractor I am not allowed AD/domain permissions ;-( ) If all 3 of the image sizes are created and held in MySites Host with SPProfilePhotoStore cmdlet then this must be at the Server and Enterprise level ( as in my case) and beyond the capabilities of SharePoint Foundation. Dec 13, 2013 at 9:55
  • The User Profile is only available in Server, not Foundation. In Foundation you have a UserInfo list in each site collection that is populated from AD. If you have a UPA, you are using Server and the UserInfo list is populated from the User Profile with any fields marked as replicable. The values are sync'd regularly from the user profile through a timer job as long as the user is active on the site collection. Dec 13, 2013 at 11:58
  • Matthew, thanks I have finally understood this. As an aside I working with a client who does not want AD to be the "truth" so no UPS . Instead they want any corrections to User Profile are to made by the users themselves and not to be written back to AD ...Hmmmmmmm. Dec 14, 2013 at 13:53
  • You don't have to use AD for the "truth" you can create a BCS connection to augment the User Profile records. Two way synchronization is also optional. The client needs a better understanding of how the UPA works. They are making it difficult by misunderstanding how the pieces fit together. Dec 14, 2013 at 15:17

You will need to run it once for each User Profile Service Application.

In practice this will usually equate to once for each farm, generally you will only have one User Profile Service Application per farm. However, in more advanced configurations you may have multiple UPSAs in each farm. For example, if you were importing users from a number of sources, each with different synchronisation rules, you might create a UPSA for each.

The data will be synchronised from the User Profile Service Application to your portal web applications as needed, and you can have any number of portal web applications running off a single User Profile Service Application, so they do not factor in to how many times you need to run your tool.

In your case, I suspect that you will have one User Profile Service Application per farm, so you will run your tool once for each.


This excellent post explains details about the profile pictures in SharePoint User profile: Photo Management in SharePoint 2010

The full URL of the medium thumbnail (/User Photos/Profile Pictures/__MThumb.jpg) is stored in the user profile database.

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