10 May 2012

Tired of being stuck on those chkdsk screens on process 3 of 6 for what feels like an eternity?  Well, Microsoft is proclaiming that with Windows 8 they have revamped the process of checking the disk for errors and it is faster and less disruptive than ever before. 

Most of the improvements in Windows 8 surround the ChkDsk utility, that inspects the hard disk and checks for errors and issues.  In the past users would run the utility and would have to stop using the machine while the tool ran and had to endure long check times.

NTFS Tweaked

Along with a tweak of the chkdsk utility comes the tweaking of the NTFS file system.  In the past the NTFS "health model" saw the machine's hard disk as a single unit that was either in good shape or damaged.  In order to fix the file system it would be taken offline to repair.

Microsoft outlined three requirements for the file system health that customers wanted:

  • Downtime caused by file system corruptions must be zero in continuously available configurations and nearly zero in all other configurations
  • A user or administrator must be made aware of the file system health at all times
  • A user or administrator should be able to easily fix their file system when a corruption occurs in a scheduled manner.

"Downtime was directly proportional to the number of files in the volume," according to a post by Kiran Bangalore, senior program manager of the Windows Core Storage and File Systems.

With Windows 8, the NTFS system scans for problems in the background while the system is online and initial attempts to fix the issue are done on-the-fly.

If the issue can't be fixed while the file system is online, NTFS logs the details of the issue and the fix that is needed so the time needed to fix the system when offline will be shorter. These improvements also can be found in Windows Server 2012.

Spotfix to the rescue

Microsoft is calling the downtime from this operation of fixing the system "Spotfix" and it takes only seconds, while on Windows Server 2012 with cluster shared volumes they eliminated the downtime completely.  Under the new system, the chkdsk offline run time is proportional to the number of corruptions rather than to the number of files as in the past.

The basic process to determine if a SpotFix is needed are based on the system health states:

  1. Online and healthy
  2. Online spot verification needed
  3. Online scan needed
  4. Spot fix needed

 1.  Online and Healthy (no detected file system corruptions and no action to be done):

 

2.  Online Spot verification needed (the system stays in this transient state for a few seconds after the system finds a corruption that can't self-heal, staying in this state till the spot verification service verifies the corruption)

3.  Online scan needed (this is seen in the Action Center, where you can manually run the scan before the next maintenance window, or let it run at the next window;  the scan is run in the background and all verified issues and fixes are logged for later repair)

4.  Spot fix is needed (after the online scan is done the system puts the volume in this state; you can restart the PC to fix all the issues logged in step 3, the restart only adds a few seconds, with Server 2012 no restart needed)

The more advanced users that want to avoid restarting the their system to fix a non-system volume corruption can open the properties dialog and on the Tools tab run the Check as in the past.  If the files aren't in use it can be checked without a restart.

Source:  Building Windows 8


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