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Windows 7 – NTFS reparse points

When I started deploying Windows 7 around the office, speed and specially extra memory where at the top of the pros list. Getting to use more than 3GB of RAM under a 64-bit OS was out there before but it was never wrapped in such a good package. Since my users started running Windows 7 I learned how good and stable it runs and that is why I was surprised when one of them came to me complaining about his slow, very slow computer.

We’re talking about an HP xw4600 workstation that run Windows 7 64-bit with 4GB RAM. You cannot ask for anything other than speedy start-up and great work experience. After less than 6 month something changed and as the user described, the start-up process took 3 minutes and anything you tried took forever while the processes under task manager show that nothing utilize the processor…

When the log files gave no clue I restarted and allowed the consistency check to run

One thing catches my eye in this output:

What is this reparse record? Though it is not a new Windows 7 feature, it is a good opportunity to check it out.

While reparse points feature is new to NTFS v5 (introduced with Windows 2000), the concept has been used in other operating systems long before (UNIX has a similar feature called symbolic link). The basic idea in simple words is to allow the operating system to seamlessly link folders and drives together. As NTFS file system objects, reparse points can contain user-configured data that gets stored in the system-administered reparse attribute.

If you never heard of reparse records or reparse points, you might have heard of junction points. One of the great uses of a junction point is bypassing the 26 letter drive name limit, mounting is the commonly used term.

Read about reparse point tags, reparse point operations and reparse points and file operations to dive deeper.

Back to my user, consistency check completed but the problem did not resolve. Since I have few complicated financial applications on this desktop I wanted to avoid reloading the OS. I tried running the System Recovery Options->System Restore but while this option is cool and easy to use, it did not resolve my problem (which at this point screamed “hardware, hardware”) and I had to re-install the OS. As any of the other Windows 7 installations I’ve done before, it was easy and speedy and so far it looks like the fresh OS is working as you’d expect.

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