Suggestions for improving network access speed, XP prof. Workgroup

Hi all,

This is a very small network of 4 PCs. XP professional is installed on all of them. Using Windows File sharing via Workgroup access.

All PCs are connected by an 8-Port D-Link switch. One of them is acting as a server. All of the PCs have 10/100 mbps Nics except for the Server which has a 1Gbps NIC. All Data is kept on the server. There is an old 16-bit Foxpro DOS Application which is maintaining the data structures.

Now all the PCs seem to connect and interact with the Server very slowly (say a wait period of 15-20 seconds at times). Part of this is due to an excessive number of Small files which are generated as Temporary Index files by the Application. They need to be cleaned up on exit or regularly after 10-15 days manually.

I have set all the NICs to maximum speed of 100 mbps full duplex in the NIC properties of Device Manager and so far not seeing any improvement.

Is it the limitation of the 16-bit DOS application or should I upgrade the other 3 PCs with 1 Gbps NICs?

Going for a software upgrade is not a feasible option as the software is highly customised for our work process.

Any other ideas?

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Ravi AgrawalAsked:
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No, the files are created and deleted by windows so they are done via the 32-bit operating system.... putting 1 gig nics in all the machines will help but the problem is that XP was never designed to act as a server... When you are performing operations like this you are performing a lot of file locks.... A server is built around this and the power of the CPU goes toward these backend operations whereas Windows XP is saving the CPU for frontend applications...  If you find it becomes a serious problem I would consider moving yourself to SBS (Small Business Server) 2008 or Windows Home Server...
Ravi AgrawalAuthor Commented:
I have no problem with purchasing SBS 2008 or Windows Home Server. Just wanted to know if it was the right way to go as I too thought of this.

It means I have exhausted all of my current options and an upgrade to SBS will be the best thing for now. Will it really improve the access speed of files over the network as per my question. Just had a doubt in mind. Please clarify further, I know you cleared most of the doubts in your first comment itself.

I would rather get Windows 7 on the machines and join them in a Homegroup.
Homegroup in W7 is just like server active directory  so you will all benefit.
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Ravi AgrawalAuthor Commented:
Just one more thing,

I would want to use Foxpro 16-Bit Dos on the SBS as it is the basic requirement of our work process. Does it support that? Sorry for the question in a question!

Brian PiercePhotographerCommented:
It may be worth checking that the machine you are using as a server is set to optimise background tasks as detailed at in particular
 - Click Start, click Run, type sysdm.cpl in the Open box, and then press ENTER.
 - Click the Advanced tab, and then under Performance click Settings.
 - Click the Advanced tab, and then under Memory usage use one of the following methods:
 - Click Programs if you use your computer primarily as a workstation instead of as a server. This option allocates more memory to your programs.
 - Click System cache if your computer is used primarily as a server or if you use programs that use a large system cache.
 - Click OK to save preferences and close the dialog box.

I doubt that upgrading the NICs is going to make a lott of difference, I would doubt that this is the cause to the bottleneck.
You can try to setup static IPs on all 4 machines this will reduce the server load !

Another thing you could try is to install a second hard drive in your server pc  and share the files from there or in case you don't want to share the files from the second HDD just store your pagefile there and your spool folder !

How to set static IP:

Change pagefile :

Change spool folder :
Brian PiercePhotographerCommented:
I can't see how static IPs Will help dhcp is not done by xp anyway
Ravi AgrawalAuthor Commented:
 I am not at the workplace now. Will be getting to you tomorrow.
 I agree with you about the homegroup thing but all these machines (other than the server) are quite old running P4 and AMD athlon with 512MB Rams. To support Windows 7, I would have to go in for a major hardware upgrade for all the 3 machines which I am currently not willing to do. Thank you for the input.
 The machines are already using Static IPs. Adding a Second Hard disk seems appealing. The Server does not handle printing so spool folder is no issue here. If I am missing something about Spool, please clarify. About the Pagefile I somewhat disagree, I have never been in favor of putting off the Pagefile even if I had 4 Gb Ram.
 Thank you all, will be posting back tomorrow.
First off, foxpro doesn't have a server component, so all you need is a windows compatible file share.  

The second thing I would look at is making sure you have a solid 1GB switch (you didn't mention whether the Dlink is gigabit) that has a fast enough backplane to work at wirespeed.  

And finally, the third thing I would look at is name resolution.  Do you notice a difference when you use IP addresses for making the file shares instead of computer names?  

(i.e. \\\foxpro_share instead of \\computername\foxpro_share)

Without a server in the mix(or tweaking the registry to rig the master Browser elections) , there is a good chance your are having Local Master Browser elections were the machines are fighting over who gets to be the Master Browser that stores computer name to IP address mappings.

Why not just avoid the cost and headache and purchase a Network Appliance (NAS - Network Attached Storage)?  With that many employees dedicating a whole computer to just sharing files and a printer is overkill and adds many more points of failure.

Several vendors (Netgear, Maxtor, Thecus, Buffalo, Iomega, etc.) make NAS boxes with 1TB of storage space for under $500 and no licensing.  Spend a little more and you can even get RAID level 1 (mirroring 2 hard drives for redundancy).   They are so low cost compared to a server you could purchase 2 and leave one in the box as a cold spare.

They are compatible with a windows workgroup and usually have a web page for management that is extremely easy to understand and use, plus extra whistles and bells out of the box (Streaming Media Server, FTP Server, built-in USB print server, etc.).  

Backup is as simple as purchasing and external 1TB USB drive that you can plug into the USB port of the NAS for daily full backups and configuring the backup schedule via the NAS web interface.

Windows Desktop OS are limited to 10 simultaneous connections to force you to buy the Server OS.  The appliances are usually based on Linux and performance would be better than running a server on a desktop with no limitations in the number of clients.

Simplicity is the best principal in Small Business IT.  It costs way less over time and allows you to handle many problems intuitively that you would need a consultant for using a windows OS.  Lower stress level, and more confidence are just a bonus.

I would look at some performance reviews to make sure you are getting the most bang for the buck.  

Note: With static IPs and Windows OS, Make sure that you uncheck "register this connections address in dns" in TCP/IP settings under Advanced > DNS to avoid problems that can cause DNS issues and in some cases connectivity problems.

Even if you decide you would rather have a server, having a place to create backup images of whole systems via the network and make recovering from a disaster quick and painless.  You can use disk imaging like Acronis True Image or Ghost on the commercial side or PING or Clonezilla.

Just my $.02...

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Ravi AgrawalAuthor Commented:
Thank you all, I think NAS or SBS is the way to go for me. Sorry there were too many good ideas & too little points to distribute, So I guess I made my judgement accordingly. Forgive me if you think I gave you a less share of the points you deserved.

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