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Outlook.pst on network drive not locked? No files locked?

Posted on 2009-05-06
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I have recently set up a freeNAS server (brilliant!) and put all my data on it, including outlook.pst.

In the past when outlook.pst was on my XP machine, I had to use a freebie program called "unlocker" to unlock outlook.pst before backing it up.

However, I have noticed that now it's on a network drive, it never seems to be locked, at least as reported by Unlocker.

In fact, any file on the freeNAS server opened by a Windows app never seems to be locked, according to Unlocker.

I have read somewhere that MS does not support outlook.pst on a network drive - is this the case? I have not had any problems (yet!).

Are there other locking-related things I need to be concerned about when using freeNAS? Why is no file ever found to be locked, even if it's in use by a Windows app?


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Question by:johniathome
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11 Comments
 
LVL 9

Expert Comment

by:Jeff Brown
ID: 24313811
in order to lock the files it needs control over the file system.  NAS's typically use some form of linux which has different locking mechanisms.  The pst should be fine on the network as long as the network link does not go down often.  YOU MAKE SURE nothing else is editing the pst while outlook has it open.  The drives file structure stays stable.

--wild
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LVL 62

Expert Comment

by:gheist
ID: 24314268
Unlocker does not support networked files at all.
Try to rename file from other session to see if it is locked.
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Author Comment

by:johniathome
ID: 24314703
gheist:

I dare not try your suggestion with outlook.pst - I have seen too many cases of corruption.

However, I did the following test using a spreadsheet on my freeNAS server:

Open the spreadsheet using Excel on one PC.
Try to open it with Excel on another PC, and it says its locked.

Open the spreadsheet using OpenOffice on one PC.
Try to open it with Excel on another PC, and it allows full edit access, with no mention of locking.

If this test is repeated using notepad and a txt file, there are no locking issues at all.

So, file locking appears to be handled entirely by the app, and not by the OS!
This is not very satisfactory, to put it mildly. Surely it is the OS's responsibility to control multiple consurrent accesses to a file, and make sure it's kept clean and safe?
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Expert Comment

by:gheist
ID: 24315396
Dsiable offline files in Windows and try again.
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Author Comment

by:johniathome
ID: 24316055
gheist:
Offline files have been disabled for some time - I have enabled Fast User Switching, which prohibits offline files, for some reason.

Isn't the problem more to do with freeNAS? I believe it is a stripped down version of BSD, about which I know nothing. freeNAS must be aware of when a file is open, and when another user is trying to access it?
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Accepted Solution

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gheist earned 1500 total points
ID: 24318837
It is samba which is serving files to you, it is running on BSD, but that does not change much. By default it locks full files. But may be customized to lock positions
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Author Comment

by:johniathome
ID: 24324166
gheist:

Thanks for your comments.

I have done some poking around in Samba, and find there is  something called "opportunistic locking" (oplocks). This is turned ON in my freeNAS version, in smb.conf, as it is by default in WIndows.

The problem with oplocks is that it allows the Windows client to cache it's writes locally(!) for a long time, to improve performance. But this leaves the door open to a Windows crash, with a loss of all the pending writes. This looks like a horror show to me, in relation to outlook.pst files, which are notoriously prone to corruption anyway. I don't mind this for "normal" Word and Excel files, but outlook.pst is more like a database.

By mucking around with Samba config and Windows reg entries, it is possible to force the Windows app to wait until Samba has committed each write before proceeding. This is total safety, but also totally rubbish performance.

I now know enough about Samba config files and the Windows registry to muck around with oplocks and other things, but I don't know nearly enough to stay out of trouble!

I think the solution for outlook.pst is to keep it on my local Windows PC for the time being to reduce the chances of corruption, and back it up to the NAS server when it's quiet.
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LVL 62

Expert Comment

by:gheist
ID: 24324229
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Author Comment

by:johniathome
ID: 24325130
gheist:

Thanks for the link. It comfirms my other researches.
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LVL 62

Expert Comment

by:gheist
ID: 24329261
Watch in what year it is issued ;) Actually problem is mostly forgotten since people do not use shared files databases, but database servers.
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Author Closing Comment

by:johniathome
ID: 31578404
Thanks gheist, you pointed me in the right direction on this one.
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