Windows 2000: Basic disk management

As with other Windows variants, it pays to figure out how to manage Windows 2000 Professional disk storage. You need to manage space effectively and to keep the file system in good shape by defragmenting it (yes, even NTFS volumes).

First, you might have wondered how to run the Disk Defragmenter unattended and automatically. Unfortunately, Microsoft has made it very tricky to schedule Disk Defragmenter (or any task run from a Management Console).

One kludgy way to do it is to use a Windows Scripting Host script to run Disk Defragmenter, and have it literally press the buttons in the user interface for you:

WHAT THE SCRIPT DOES

1. Create the Windows Shell object so you can access native system functions;2. Start the Disk Defragmenter Management Console;3. Check that the Disk Defragmenter is running;4. Bring Disk Defragmenter to the foreground so that you can use the interface;5. Send three tabs and a space to start the defragmentation - you can also do this by pulling down the Action menu with %A (-A) and send a D to start the defragmentation but, for some reason, this doesn't work for additional partitions;6. Carry on until the Defragmentation Complete dialogue appears, and then close it with a tab and a spacebar keystroke;7. Make sure Disk Defragmenter is in the foreground, defragment the second partition, then close everything.

This will defragment a system with two partitions; if you have a single partition system, snip the code between the single quote marks. If you have more than two partitions, just copy the code between the single quote marks, pasting it after the second partition code, and add a down-arrow keystroke {DOWN} to make the script select the following partition.

Save the code in a file with a .vbs extension, and schedule it with the "at" command, or from the Control Panel-Scheduled Tasks Wizard.

The script is fairly lame and no doubt be can improved. Furthermore, the version of Disk Defragmenter that Microsoft licenses from Executive Software is very basic indeed, and works rather slowly. A more advanced third-party utility such as Symantec Norton Speed Disk is a worthwhile purchase, and bypasses the hassle of using a script to schedule it.

When you look at the Disk Defragmentation report, you might see that some files weren't defragmented. Disk Defragmenter doesn't touch files used by the operating system, such as the swap/paging file. It also seems to have problems defragging MP3 and other audio files as well. A workaround for this is to move the affected files to another partition, and re-run Disk Defragmenter on the partitions. Note that Disk Defragmenter doesn't work effectively if the hard disk is very full; aim to have around 20 per cent of the total disk space free for best results.

UPGRADE TO NTFS

In the next column, I'll go through more advanced disk management concepts such as Basic and Dynamic volumes. For this, NTFS formatted volumes are required. If you have upgraded an existing Windows 9x computer to Windows 2000 Professional, chances are that the file system is still plain old FAT32, and you might wish to upgrade it to NTFS to take advantage of the many features it brings, as well as improved security and fault tolerance. The drawback is slightly lowered performance due to added overhead and, of course, lack of backwards compatibility with Windows 9x in dual-boot systems.

Converting to NTFS is easy enough to do - after you have backed up your data, of course. The quickest way to do it is to run "convert [C: or another volume] /fs:ntfs" in a cmd box, and reboot. The caveat is that if you do it this way, you'll get slightly lower performance than if you repartition and reformat your disk, and install Windows 2000 Professional from scratch. Microsoft says that doing a straight conversion from FAT32 to NTFS results in fragmented system files, which can be hard to defrag, as seen above.

You should also bear in mind that there's no going back to FAT32 from NTFS. The only way to do that is to undertake a full reformat.

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