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Server Disk maintenance options w/ RAID?

Posted on 2014-02-25
Medium Priority
Last Modified: 2016-12-08
What kind of options do i have when it comes to Windows Server 2003/2008/2012 hard drive maintenance.

Just searching Google i see alot of conflicting advice regarding using chkdsk /r and defragmenting a server with a hardware RAID. The raid i am working with is typically either only RAID 1 or RAID 10 on server 2003/2008- if that makes a difference.

Can anyone provide some good solid advice ( and possibly a direct link to proper documentation ) on this topic as we have some old servers out there that need cleaned up - Just as normal PCs do after years of use. If you have any free software suggestions i would appreciate those as well for windows server cleanup/disk maintenance.

Thank You!!
Question by:OTS_Tech
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LVL 88

Assisted Solution

rindi earned 440 total points
ID: 39885603
chkdsk should be done whether you are using an array or not. It checks the file-system (NTFS), and not the disks underneath. A healthy file-system is important. But of course if you have huge partitions it can take ages, especially if there are many corruptions to repair.

Defrag isn't very important in my point of view, whether you are on a server OS or not.
LVL 10

Assisted Solution

convergint earned 440 total points
ID: 39885699
Here's an official whitepaper for CHKDSK directly from Microsoft: http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=14243

Defragging a server can be extremely important if you are running a virtualized environment: http://downloads.diskeeper.com/pdf/The_Importance_of_Defragmentation_in_Virtualized_Enviroments.pdf.  

For non highly virtualized environments, there can be small performance gains but it is one of those things that should never hurt a system unless you happen to have solid state drives in which case you should never do it.  There still is relevant cost savings and performance improvements that have been proven: http://www.netcomsoft.com.au/_literature_55099/The_ROI_of_Defragmenting_the_Enterprise (it's an old article but still pretty relevant).

Accepted Solution

jpgobert earned 680 total points
ID: 39885770
To give you a good answer we'll have to look at a few different situations.  First, there are some differences between how 2003 and 2008 handle things.  One big difference is in partition alignment which is just as valid a concern with RAID disks as it is with single disks.  On Server 2003 and earlier systems any partitions you create using the standard disk management tools will not be aligned which will negatively affect performance.  Server 2008 and higher defaults to an alignment of 1024KB.  Paragon has a partition alignment tool that is pretty inexpensive and will run a non-destructive realignment of your OS partition on 2003 servers.

Another difference between 2003 and 2008 is how defragging is handled by default (and how effective it is when enabled).  I've always found that the built in Windows defrag did a pretty poor job until 2008.  Using the built in tool is better than using nothing but if you're really wanting to optimize your file systems then I'd suggest looking to third party software.  I've been using the free app UltraDefrag for years now and like it a lot.  Rather than write a review of it here I'd suggest you Google it and give it a shot.  Keeping your file system optimized is never a bad thing no matter what... is it a magic bullet for increasing performance?  No... but it can and will help you prevent performance degradation over time due to fragmentation (especially in pre-2008 systems).

FYI... keeping your file system optimized isn't just important on non-RAID volumes... you specifically mentioned RAID-1 and -10.  RAID-1 as you know is just mirroring for redundancy... a redundant copy of a fragmented file system still equals a fragmented file system.  Running a good defrag operation on a mirrored volume will usually take longer because of the write penalty on RAID-1 but if it is maintained consistently then you should never run into a situation where you're having to spend hours cleaning up the file system.  The same goes for RAID-10 volumes.  The whole point of defragmenting, at minimum, is to keep as many of your files in contiguous sectors so that you get the maximum sequential read benefit from your disks.  Lots of fragmentation generates lots of head movement which reduces the throughput from the drives.  Even when you're striping a file over multiple disks you're still writing the data blocks onto hard drives.  Once you need to read the file back each drive has to do its part... in a heavily fragmented situation the drives will still operate slower but you'll notice it less because you're sharing the I/O load across multiple spindles.

To make any recommendations beyond the basics of partition alignment, routine health checks with chkdsk and using a good defrag utility to keep your file system somewhat organized I'd need to know what's being hosted on the volumes.  What you're using the volumes for and how they're being used can play a big part in what types of additional tuning and maintenance might need to be considered.  The RAID configuration and hardware types can also play info the decision making.

Does this help at all?
LVL 56

Assisted Solution

andyalder earned 440 total points
ID: 39885918
Neither chkdsk nor defrag should be run on a degraded array, but it's fine to run them on one that's optimal.

As far as defragmentation is concerned be very careful about running it if there is any thin provisioning on the storage subsystem since it's pretty easy for it to use all that free space it thinks it has and so convert the thin provisioned disk into a fat one.

Author Closing Comment

ID: 39986100
Thank you all for your assistance and advice! This will greatly help our operations.

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