Winddows Home Server 2011 : Optimizing the Hard Disk

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Windows Home Server uses the hard disk to fetch application data and documents as well as to temporarily store data in the paging file. Therefore, optimizing your hard disk can greatly improve Windows Home Server’s overall performance, as described in the next few sections.

Examining Hard Drive Performance Specifications

If you’re looking to add another drive to your system, your starting point should be the drive itself: specifically, its theoretical performance specifications. Compare the drive’s average seek time with other drives. (The lower the value, the better.) Also, pay attention to the rate at which the drive spins the disk’s platters. A 7,200 RPM (or higher) drive has noticeably faster performance than, say, a 5,400 RPM drive. Most drives today spin at 7,200 RPM, although you can find faster if you’re willing to pay a premium. (Beware of so-called “green” hard drives, which are designed to save power but do so at the cost of performance because most of them spin at a measly 5,400 RPM.)

Finally, the drive type can make a big speed difference. For example, USB 2.0 has a theoretical data transfer rate of up to 480Mbps, whereas the data transfer rates for FireWire 400 and FireWire 800 are about 400Mbps and 800Mbps, respectively. However, compare these speeds with the theoretical data transfer rate of USB 3.0 drives, which can sling data at up to 5Gbps, and eSATA (external SATA) drives, which can achieve up to 2.4Gbps. (Of course, you can only use an eSATA drive if your Windows Home Server computer’s motherboard supplies an eSATA connector or if you add a controller card that offers one or more eSATA ports.)

Performing Hard Drive Maintenance

For an existing drive, optimization is the same as maintenance. For a hard disk, this means doing the following:

  • Keeping an eye on the disk’s free space to make sure that it doesn’t get too low

  • Periodically cleaning out any unnecessary files on the disk

  • Uninstalling any programs or devices you no longer use

  • Frequently checking all partitions for errors

  • Regularly defragmenting partitions

Disabling Compression and Encryption

Windows Home Server’s partitions use the NTFS file system, which means they support compressing files to save space, as well as encrypting files for security. From a performance point of view, however, you shouldn’t use compression and encryption on a partition. Both technologies slow down disk accesses because of the overhead involved in the compression/decompression and encryption/decryption processes.

Turning Off Windows Search

Windows Search is a service that indexes the contents of the Windows Home Server shared folders as well as the contents of %SystemDrive%\Documents and Settings. Windows Search indexes these locations on-the-fly as you add or delete data. This greatly speeds up content-based file searches because Windows Home Server knows the contents of each file. However, if you frequently transfer data to Windows Home Server, you may find that the indexer (it’s the searchindexer.exe process in Task Manager) uses a great deal of resources. If you never use the Windows Search service, or if you never use the Search box that appears in the Shared Folders tab of the Remote Access website, you should consider turning off the Windows Search service. To do this, follow these steps:

Select Start, Administrative Tools, Services to open the Services snap-in.

Double-click the Windows Search service.

Click Stop.

In the Startup Type list, select Disabled.

Click OK.

Enabling Write Caching

You should also make sure that your hard disk has write caching enabled. Write caching means that Windows Home Server doesn’t flush changed data to the disk until the system is idle, which improves performance. The downside is that a power outage or system crash means the data never gets written, so the changes are lost. The chances of this happening are minimal because changed data is flushed to the hard drive quite frequently, so I recommend leaving write caching enabled, which is the Windows Home Server default.

You can get even more of a performance boost if your system uses a serial ATA (SATA) hard drive, because SATA drives include extra cache features. This hard drive performance improvement is theoretical because on most systems Windows doesn’t activate write caching. However, because the advanced SATA drive write caching is more aggressive, losing data is a distinct possibility unless your system is protected by an uninterruptible power supply (UPS) or a battery backup.

To make sure the write caching setting is activated for a hard drive and to turn on a SATA drive’s advanced caching features, follow these steps:

Select Start, type device, and then click Device Manager in the search results. Windows Home Server displays the Device Manager window.

Open the Disk Drives branch and double-click the hard disk you want to work with to display its property sheet.

In the Policies tab, make sure that the Enable Write Caching on the Device check box is activated.

For maximum performance with a SATA drive, activate the Turn Off Windows Write-Cache Buffer Flushing on the Device check box.

Click OK.


Let me reiterate here that activating the Turn Off Windows Write-Cache Buffer Flushing on the Device option tells Windows Home Server to use an even more aggressive write-caching algorithm. However, an unscheduled power shutdown means you will almost certainly lose some data. Activate this option only if your system is running off a UPS or has a battery backup.

  •  Windows Home Server 2011 : Monitoring Performance (part 5) - Monitoring Performance with Performance Monitor
  •  Windows Home Server 2011 : Monitoring Performance (part 4) - Monitoring Performance with Resource Monitor
  •  Windows Home Server 2011 : Monitoring Performance (part 3) - Monitoring Performance with Task Manager - Monitoring Network Performance
  •  Windows Home Server 2011 : Monitoring Performance (part 2) - Monitoring Performance with Task Manager - Monitoring System Performance
  •  Windows Home Server 2011 : Monitoring Performance (part 1) - Monitoring Performance with Task Manager - Monitoring Processes
  •  Windows 8 : Managing User Access and Security - Managing Remote Access to Workstations (part 2)
  •  Windows 8 : Managing User Access and Security - Managing Remote Access to Workstations (part 1) - Configuring Remote Assistance
  •  Windows 8 : Managing User Access and Security - Managing Local User Accounts and Groups (part 3)
  •  Windows 8 : Managing User Access and Security - Managing Local User Accounts and Groups (part 2) - Creating Local Groups for Workstations
  •  Windows 8 : Managing User Access and Security - Managing Local User Accounts and Groups (part 1) - Creating Local User Accounts
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