Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Defragmenting Hard Drives

Recently we've noticed some unusual problems with server performance and data backup with several servers. The solution turned out to be an unexpected blast from the past. Years ago in the NT 4.0 days, defragmenting hard drives was a task that had to be performed on a regular basis or else the PC or server would cease to function; they wouldn't even boot up. Microsoft fixed the excessive fragmentation problem with a new version of NTFS (NT File System). NTFS controls how files are written to a hard drive. Between the new version of NTFS and the common installation of RAID disks in servers the need to defragment hard drives vanished. It became a task that just wasn't needed anymore and it dropped off my to-do list about 6 years ago. What a surprise it was when a little tingling started to happen in some dark recess of my brain and said you know I wonder if the files on these drives are highly fragmented? Fortunately the same old utility, not updated since NT 4.0 days still exists on todays servers and sure enough it showed the drives as being highly fragmented.

I don't know yet what has changed in the way that files are being handled by the current version of NTFS but something certainly has. Because of this we'll be adding defragmenting the server hard drives and the Exchange database (if you have one) to back to our to-do list. Diana will be in charge of scheduling time to accomplish this. Ideally, you might not even know that it is happening. Except that the Exchange database has to be shut down during the defragement process. She'll do this after hours to minimize any disruption to your businss. The plan is to add this to our regularily scheduled service quarterly for larger or more active companies and semi-annually for the smaller or less active companies. Prior to doing this she'll run a check and see if the drives do indeed require defragmentation and she'll only run this process if necessary.

I'm anxious to find out what has caused this change to occur. If you're curious, let me know and when I figure it out, I'll let you know.

Amy Babinchak
Harbor Computer Services


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