Microsoft touts Win8's ability to detect, fix hard disk problems

The new operating system makes the process faster and less disruptive to the operation of the computer

Microsoft has revamped the way Windows 8 monitors hard disk operations and detects problems in an effort to make the diagnostic and repair process less intrusive and disruptive, even as disk capacity continues to balloon.

The improvements in Windows 8 center on the ChkDsk utility, which inspects the hard disk and checks for a variety of errors and problems. Until now, running ChkDsk has often been inconvenient because end users have to stop using the machine while the utility runs, and the scan can take a long time to complete.

Microsoft also tweaked NTFS, the Windows OS file system. Until now, the NTFS "health model" conceived the machine's hard disk as a single unit that was either well or damaged, and which thus was taken completely offline and made unavailable to the end user while ChkDsk ran, sometimes for hours.

"Downtime was directly proportional to the number of files in the volume," reads Microsoft's blog post late Wednesday authored by Kiran Bangalore , senior program manager of Windows Core Storage and File Systems.

In Windows 8, however, the NTFS scans for problems in the background while the system remains online, and an initial attempt to fix problems on-the-fly is done.

If the problem can't be fixed with the volume online, NTFS logs details of the issue and the fix that is needed so that the process to apply fixes while the volume is offline is much shorter. The improvements are also in Windows Server 8, which was recently rebaptized Windows Server 2012.

"The downtime from this operation, called 'Spotfix,' takes only seconds, and on Windows Server 8 systems with cluster shared volumes, we've eliminated this downtime completely. With this new model, chkdsk offline run time is now directly proportional to the number of corruptions, rather than being proportional to the number of files as in the old model," Bangalore wrote.

Juan Carlos Perez covers enterprise communication/collaboration suites, operating systems, browsers and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Juan on Twitter at @JuanCPerezIDG.

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