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Windows XP > Windows XP, Installing and Setup > NTFS

Optimize NTFS Performance (Page 2)

By: Arie Slob

NTFS Compression

NTFS compression is the ability to selectively compress the contents of individual files, entire directories, or entire directory trees on an NTFS volume. It is recommended that you avoid placing user home folders and roaming profiles on compressed NTFS volumes because of the large number of read and write operations performed in these folders.

You can compress NTFS volumes, directories and files via the Properties dialog box in an Explorer window.

Compress contents


When fragmentation occurs the system requires additional head and platter movements to access a file. Fragmentation can adversely affect performance. Maintaining a low level of file fragmentation on an NTFS volume is the most important way to improve volume performance. You can accomplish this maintenance by regularly running a disk-defragmentation utility, which makes every file on the volume contiguous. Only with regular use of the defragmentation tool does NTFS gain the full benefit of file defragmentation.

Windows XPs Disk Defragmenter Tool gives you the opportunity to quickly Analyze a volume, and will advise you if defragmentation is recommended.

Disk Defragmenter

Disabling unnecessary NTFS behaviors

  • Disable creation of short names. NTFS generates - for compatability with MS-DOS and Windows 3.x clients - the style of file name that consists of eight characters, followed by a period and a three character extension. If you don't support these types of clients. Go to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE \ SYSTEM \ CurrentControlSet \ Control \ FileSystem. Change the value of NtfsDisable8dot3NameCreation from 0 to 1

  • Disable last access update. NTFS updates the date/time stamp of the last access on directories whenever it traverses the directory. This update process can slow performance on larger NTFS volumes. To disable this automatic updating, change the value of NtfsDisableLastAccessUpdate from 0 to 1, in the key HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE \ SYSTEM \ CurrentControlSet \ Control \ FileSystem. If the entry is not present, add it to the registry as a DWORD value.

  • Reserve appropriate space for the Master File Table. The MFT plays an important role in the composition of an NTFS volume and its performance. The MFT continually references files as the system locates, reads, and writes the data to the disk. So the performance of the MFT is essential to the performance of the entire volume. NTFS's developers addressed potential MFT fragmentation by creating a special buffer zone around the MFT, which the NTFS volume reserves for use by the MFT. By default, this buffer zone uses approximately 12.5 percent of the disk. Although this allocation usually minimizes MFT fragmentation, sometimes the buffer zone isn't adequate.

    To manipulate the MFT's zone reservation, go to the HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE \ SYSTEM \ CurrentControlSet \ Control \FileSystem registry key, and add a REG_DWORD value NtfsMftZoneReservation. The default value is 1, possible values are 1 to 4 (1 reserves 12.5 percent, 2 reserves 25 percent, 3 reserves 37.5 percent, and 4 reserves 50 percent of the NTFS volume for the MFT's buffer zone).

    After you increase the size of the MFT zone, NTFS does not immediately allocate space to accommodate the size of the new MFT zone. Instead, NTFS exhausts the original reserved space before increasing the size of the MFT zone. When the original space is exhausted, NTFS looks for the next contiguous space large enough to hold the additional MFT zone, which can cause the MFT to become fragmented. Therefore, the registry setting works best when used to set the zone size, reboot, and then create the volume.

As a note to the NtfsMftZoneReservation setting, you should realize that the default setting of 12.5 percent should be sufficient for most users. If you check the Analysis Report of my volume (below), you will note that the MFT has a size of 67 MB. This volume contains nearly 43,000 files, with an average file size of 303 KB. Since this volume is 15 GB, there will be around 1875 MB reserved for the MFT, more than enough for it to grow.

Master File Table fragmentation

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