Page files in Server Core

Every Windows Server has a page file and Windows Server 2008 Server Core installations are no exception. Neither should they be an exception when it comes to tuning the page file for optimal performance and reliability.

What the page file is
The page file is usually described as a file that allows to use disk storage for data that do not fit into physical RAM. Other names for the page file are the ‘swap file’ and the ‘paging file’. Most administrators wouldn’t mind their page file settings, since they stuffed the server with RAM. Windows will always use the page file however, regardless of the amount of physical RAM.

The page file is located on the boot partition (or volume) by default, represented with the C:\pagefile.sys file. After a clean install the initial size of the file varies with the amount of physical RAM in the server.

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SMB v2.0 in Windows Server 2008 & Windows Vista

Server Message Block (SMB), also known as CIFS (Common Internet File System) is the file sharing protocol used by default on Windows based computers. Windows includes an SMB client component (Client for Microsoft Windows) and an SMB server component (File and Printer Sharing for Microsoft Windows).

SMB in Windows Server 2008 and Windows Vista support the new SMB version 2.0 that has been redesigned for today’s networking environments (wireless, possible high loss, timeouts, high latency, …) and for the needs of the next generation of file servers (EFS over the wire, Offline Files and Folders enhancements, …).

Machines running Windows Server 2008 and Windows Vista support both SMB v1.0 and SMB v2.0. However SMB 2.0 can only be used if both client and server support it!! So, the SMB protocol revision to be used for file operations is decided during the negotiation phase.

A Vista client advertises to the server that it can understand the new SMB 2.0 protocol. If the server (Windows Server 2008 or otherwise) understands SMB 2.0, then SMB 2.0 is chosen for subsequent communication, otherwise they fall back to SMB 1.0.

This preserves “downwards” compatibility so that deploying Vista clients or Windows Server 2008 servers should be simple and straightforward. The following list below describes what protocol will be used when communicating between different types of client and servers.

# Vista client <> Vista client or Windows Server 2008 – SMB 2.0

# Non-Vista client <> Vista client or Windows Server 2008 – SMB 1.0

# Vista client <> Non-Vista client or Non-Windows Server 2008 – SMB 1.0

# Non-Vista client <> Non-Vista client or Non-Windows Server 2008 – SMB 1.0

For an overview of the impact on network throughput, have to look at the white paper of a third-party benchmark study done by The Tolly Group which compares network throughput and time-to-completion of several tasks when using Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows Server 2003 and Windows Server 2008 .