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Active Directory Planning and Installation : Verifying the Filesystem - Setting Up the NTFS Partition

11/29/2013 8:07:01 PM
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When planning your Active Directory deployment, the filesystem the operating system uses is an important concern for many reasons. First, the filesystem can provide the ultimate level of security for all of the information stored on the server itself. Second, it is responsible for managing and tracking all of this data. Furthermore, certain features are available only on certain filesystems. These features include encryption support, remote file access, remote storage, disk redundancy, and disk quotas.

The Windows Server 2008 platform supports two filesystems:

  • File Allocation Table 32 (FAT32) filesystem

  • Windows New Technology File System (NTFS)

The fundamental difference between FAT32 and NTFS partitions is that NTFS allows for filesystem-level security. Support for FAT32 is mainly included in Windows Server 2008 for backward compatibility and machines that need to dual-boot. For example, if you want to configure a single computer to boot into Windows 98 and Windows Server 2003, you need to have at least one FAT or FAT32 partition.

Windows Server 2008 uses Version 5 of NTFS. There are many other benefits to using NTFS, including support for the following:


Disk quotas

In order to restrict the amount of disk space used by users on the network, systems administrators can establish disk quotas. By default, Windows Server 2008 supports disk quota restrictions at the volume level. That is, you can restrict the amount of storage space a specific user uses on a single disk volume. Third-party solutions that allow more granular quota settings are also available.


Filesystem encryption

One of the fundamental problems with network operating systems (NOSs) is that systems administrators are often given full permission to view all files and data stored on hard disks, which can be a security and privacy concern. In some cases, this is necessary. For example, in order to perform backup, recovery, and disk management functions, at least one user must have all permissions. Windows Server 2008 and NTFS address these issues by allowing for filesystem encryption. Encryption essentially scrambles all of the data stored within files before they are written to the disk. When an authorized user requests the files, they are transparently decrypted and provided. By using encryption, you can prevent the data from being used in the case where it is stolen or intercepted by an unauthorized user, even a system administrator.


Dynamic volumes

Protecting against disk failures is an important concern for production servers. Although earlier versions of Windows NT supported various levels of Redundant Array of Independent Disks (RAID) technology, software-based solutions had some shortcomings. Perhaps the most significant was that administrators needed to perform server reboots to change RAID configurations. Also, you could not make some configuration changes without completely reinstalling the operating system. With Windows Server 2008's support for dynamic volumes, systems administrators can change RAID and other disk configuration settings without needing to reboot or reinstall the server. The end result is greater data protection, increased scalability, and increased uptime.


Mounted drives

By using mounted drives, systems administrators can map a local disk drive to an NTFS directory name. This helps them organize disk space on servers and increase manageability. By using mounted drives, you can mount the C:\Users directory to an actual physical disk. If that disk becomes full, you can copy all of the files to another, larger drive without changing the directory pathname or reconfiguring applications.


Remote storage

Systems administrators often notice that as soon as they add more space, they must plan the next upgrade. One way to recover disk space is to move infrequently used files to tape. However, backing up and restoring these files can be quite difficult and time consuming. Systems administrators can use the remote storage features supported by NTFS to automatically off-load seldom-used data to tape or other devices, but the files remain available to users. If a user requests an archived file, Windows Server 2008 can automatically restore the file from a remote storage device and make it available. Using remote storage like this frees up systems administrators' time and allows them to focus on tasks other than micromanaging disk space.


Self-Healing NTFS

In previous versions of the Windows Server operating system, if you had to fix a corrupted NTFS volume, you used a tool called Chkdsk.exe. The disadvantage of this tool is that the Windows Server's availability was disrupted. If this server was your domain controller, that could stop domain logon authentication.

To help protect the Windows Server 2008 NTFS filesystem, Microsoft now uses a feature called self-healing NTFS. Self-healing NTFS attempts to fix corrupted NTFS filesystems without taking them offline. Self-healing NTFS allows an NTFS filesystem to be corrected without running the Chkdsk.exe utility. New features added to the NTFS kernel code allow disk inconsistencies to be corrected without system downtime.

1. Setting Up the NTFS Partition

Although the features mentioned in the previous section probably compel most systems administrators to use NTFS, more reasons make using it mandatory. The most important reason is that the Active Directory data store must reside on an NTFS partition. Therefore, before you begin installing Active Directory, make sure you have at least one NTFS partition available. Also, be sure you have a reasonable amount of disk space available (at least 4GB). Because the size of the Active Directory data store will grow as you add objects to it, also be sure you have adequate space for the future.

Exercise 1 shows you how to use the administrative tools to view and modify disk configuration.

Before you make any disk configuration changes, be sure you completely understand their potential effects; then, perform the test in a lab environment and make sure you have good, verifiable backups handy. Changing partition sizes and adding and removing partitions can result in a total loss of all information on one or more partitions.


If you want to convert an existing partition from FAT or FAT32 to NTFS, you need to use the CONVERT command-line utility. For example, the following command converts the C: partition from FAT to NTFS:

CONVERT c: /fs:ntfs

Exercise 1: Viewing Disk Configuration

  1. Click Start => Administrative Tools => Computer Management.

  2. Under the Storage branch, click Disk Management.



    The Disk Management program shows you the logical and physical disks that are currently configured on your system. Note that information about the size of each partition is also displayed (in the Capacity column).

  3. Use the View menu to choose various depictions of the physical and logical drives in your system.

  4. To see the available options for modifying partition settings, right-click any of the disks or partitions. This step is optional.

    If the partition you are trying to convert contains any system files or the Windows Server 2008 virtual memory page file, a message informs you that the conversion will take place during the next machine reboot. After the partition is converted to NTFS, the computer automatically reboots again, and you will be able to continue using the system.


Windows Server 2008 allows you to convert existing FAT or FAT32 partitions to NTFS. However, this is a one-way process. You cannot convert an NTFS partition to any other filesystem without losing data. If you need to make such a conversion, the recommended process involves backing up all existing data, deleting and reformatting the partition, and then restoring the data.


Only the Windows NT, 2000, XP, Vista, 2003, and 2008 operating systems (all based on the original NT architecture) can read and write to and from NTFS partitions. Therefore, if you are using other operating systems on the same computer, be sure you fully understand the effects of converting the filesystem.

 
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