Dec 142014
 

Regardless of whether you are running Windows Server 2012 on virtual server or physical server, the success of your business depends on having the server run at optimal capacity. To ensure the server delivers uninterrupted service, you have be aware of potential performance issues before they arise.\r\n\r\nOne of the best methods to analyze the performance of Windows Server 2012 is with Performance Monitor and a User Defined Data Collector. With this tool the identification and analysis of potential performance issues has never been easier. Upon completion, a detailed summary report will be generated providing immediate insight into key aspects of the server’s performance such as Disk IO, CPU, and RAM as well as network utilization. Reading the report summary is simplified further with the use of green, red and yellow icons that call your attention to any irregularities. Additional in depth metrics are contained in collapsible sections of the report below the Summary.\r\n

Creating a New Data Collector

\r\nTo create a new User Defined Data Collector simply open Performance Monitor, right click on User Defined, select Data Collector Set. A wizard will launch to guide you through creating a new Data Collector. Once created the Data Collector will be available to run as frequently as needed. Each time it runs a new report will be created.\r\n\r\nimage\r\n\r\n \r\n\r\nThe first step will be to enter the name of your report. I usually specify “Performance” somewhere in the name since that is the type of Data Collector I am planning on running. Choosing the default option of Create from the template is recommended. Click on Next to continue.\r\n\r\nimage\r\n\r\n \r\n\r\nThe next step will be to choose the Data Collector Template that you want to use. I am going to choose System Performance. Click on Next to continue.\r\n\r\nimage\r\n\r\n \r\n\r\nNext you will be prompted to choose a path to store the report data. Depending on how long your report runs and how frequently you run it the reports can consume a lot of space. In the event that your server has multiple disk drives, it would be better to select the larger drive for storing the reports.  Click Next to Continue.\r\n\r\nimage\r\n\r\n \r\n\r\nLeave <Default> for the Run as: user context. You can change that later if needed. We need to configure some additional settings before running so select Open properties for this data collector set and then click Finish.\r\n\r\nimage\r\n

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Additional Data Collector Properties

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Setting the Stop Condition

\r\nWith the properties open, click on the Stop Condition tab so that you can enter a specific period of time for the Data Collector to run. It is important to set a Stop Condition before running otherwise it will continue to run indefinitely until you manually stop it. As I noted earlier not only can the logs can take up disk space but also running a Data Collector for an extended period of time can impact server performance so specifying a Stop Condition is a good idea. For short tests I typically set 20-30 minutes. For longer tests I’ll set 2-3 hours.\r\n\r\nimage\r\n\r\n \r\n

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Setting a Recurring Schedule

\r\nChances are you may already be aware of a performance problem on your server and need to isolate the analysis window to a specific day or time period. Clicking on the Schedule tab will enable to specify multiple dates and times to run the Data Collector. This could be especially helpful if your server gets busy with after-hours utilization and you’re not available to start the data collector manually.\r\n\r\n \r\n\r\nimage\r\n\r\n \r\n\r\nYou can even select a date range to run the data collector on specific days of the week during that period of time.\r\n\r\nimage\r\n\r\n \r\n\r\nOnce you’ve finished setting the properties of the data collector just right-click on the name to run it manually or wait for the schedule to start it automatically.\r\n\r\n \r\n

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Viewing the Summary Report

\r\nYou will be able to view and analyze the report generated by the Data Collector once it has completed running. If you try to view the report before it has completed you will be notified that the Data Collector is still running. The report is located under the User Defined Reports section of Performance Monitor.\r\n\r\nimage\r\n\r\n \r\n\r\nThe overall performance of the server is displayed at the top of the report in the Summary. Anything requiring your immediate attention is noted in the Diagnostic Results section. In the picture below we can see that the server clearly needs additional RAM to alleviate the disk paging that is occurring.  The Resource Overview offers an easy to read chart of the server’s core resources of CPU, Network, Disk, and Memory. The status of each of these is indicated with Green, Yellow, or Red icons.\r\n\r\nimage\r\n\r\n \r\n\r\nBelow the Summary are collapsible sections that offer more detailed insight into the server’s CPU, Network, Disk, and Memory utilization. Here are two examples of the additional data that is available:\r\n

CPU Utilization

\r\nIn the picture below we can see that one IIS worker process was consuming nearly 80% of the server’s CPU utilization. Performing additional analysis with Log Parser on the web site’s web logs would help identify the problems this particular web site is experiencing.\r\n\r\nimage\r\n\r\n \r\n

Disk IO

\r\nSome cloud server providers will charge overage fees for excessive disk IO so it’s important to know what’s happening there. In the Disk summary there a helpful report that shows exactly what files on your server are consuming the most IO. This report is aptly named Files Causing Most Disk IOs. In the picture below we can see that pagefile.sys is causing a lot of disk IO. This is a good indication that the server could benefit from additional RAM thereby reducing the amount of disk paging that is occurring.\r\n\r\nimage\r\n

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Viewing the Data Counters

\r\nIn addition to reading the data collector report you also have the ability to view the raw counter data. From this view you can select all the counters that were collecting data or only a few and play back the utilization as it occurred.\r\n\r\nimage\r\n\r\n \r\n

In Summary

\r\nWindows Server 2012 offers several tools for analyzing your server’s performance. The Performance Monitor Data Collector offers comprehensive insight into resource utilization and makes it easy to quickly identify performance bottlenecks. Thanks for reading.

Peter Viola

Creative, customer focused, results oriented, Senior Web Systems Engineer who enjoys providing the highest level of customer service supporting complex Windows hosting solutions. MCITP, MCSA, MCTS

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Nov 292014
 

When your Windows server is low on space or runs out of space entirely you need to quickly identify where the disk space is being utilized and free up space. Low disk space or worse yet no disk space can have a negative impact on your server’s performance.  Knowing the paths to a few folders that typically eat up space such as web logs isn’t enough when you need to free up space ‘now’. In this situation you need a graphical tool that can quickly analyze an entire disk drive or even multiple drives and show you how the server’s space is being utilized. Fortunately for Windows server admins JDiskReport and WinDirStat are two such tools and better still they are both free.\r\n\r\n \r\n

Using JDiskReport

\r\nJDiskReport is a free graphical disk space tool from jgoodies.com. Unlike some of those other free tools companies provide that require you to register your product before it works or that you have to pay to unlock features, JDisk is ready to use as soon as it’s installed and it’s feature complete. Installation of JDisk is straight forward and quite simple.\r\n\r\nBefore you install JDisk you should know that it requires the Java Runtime to run. If the Java Runtime is missing and you install JDisk, it prompt you to locate the path to the Java Runtime. Once you’ve downloaded Jdisk to your server just launch the installation wizard. The only additional step of the wizard will be to specify the path where you want it to be installed.\r\n\r\nimage\r\n\r\n \r\n\r\nOnce installation has completed you will be presented with the default starting screen. Any previous paths that you’ve analyzed will be displayed for added convenience. You can select the entire disk drive or a specific folder on the server.\r\n\r\nimage\r\n\r\n \r\n\r\nUnless I have a specific folder in mind I typically pick the entire disk drive. Within a few minutes, after initiating a directory scan, you will see a detailed analysis of the server’s disk space utilization. This report is more than just a pretty picture. Not only can you can click on any folder of the navigation tree to drill down more but you can also click on any part of the pie chart to see subdirectories.\r\n\r\nimage\r\n\r\n \r\n\r\nIn the picture above we can see that the Windows folder is using the most space but that is to be expected on a C: drive. Looking more closely I can see that on this server C:\temp is using over 9 GB and that’s unusual so there’s probably some files in there I can delete which will free up valuable space. In addition to the colorful chart you can also get a detailed file list and sort that according to size. In the picture below we can see a more detailed look at C:\temp.\r\n\r\nimage\r\n\r\nWithin minutes of running the scan, JDisk has helped me find several large files which can be deleted.\r\n\r\n \r\n

Using WinDirStat

\r\nWinDirStat can be downloaded from windirstat.info and is available in 12 different languages. It offers some interesting features such as an option to delete files and a color coded treemap  as well as disk space utilization based on file type. Installing WinDirStat is just as simple as installing Jdisk. Upon launching the wizard you’ll be prompted to accept the GNU GPL. After that you just need to choose the features and then pick the installation path.\r\n\r\nimage\r\n\r\n \r\n\r\nWhen the program first opens, it will display all of the disk drives available for analysis. If your server happens to have any network drives mapped, they will also be displayed. Here you have the option to scan all the drives on the server, just one drive, or a specific folder.\r\n\r\nimage\r\n\r\n \r\n\r\nScanning the disk drive completes quickly however it’s hard to say whether WinDirStat is faster or slower than JDisk. The speed of both programs will ultimately depend on how much data is being analyzed and the server hardware configuration  such as processor speed and disk drive speed. Once it completes you are presented with a detailed analysis of the disk space utilization. Clicking on any folder in the tree view enables you to drill down in the directory tree.\r\n\r\nimage\r\n\r\n \r\n\r\nFrom the application menu you can toggle showing the utilization by file type and see the treemap. Although the treemap and file type analysis are helpful, I prefer to just use the directory list because when I’m working on a server that’s running out of disk space, I need to get it resolved quickly.\r\n\r\nimage\r\n\r\n \r\n

In Summary

\r\nHaving enough free disk space is a necessity for Windows servers to perform optimally.  Graphical tools like JDiskReport and WinDirStat make it easy to identify where your server’s disk space is being consumed. Both are capable programs and work quickly to analyze disk space utilization. If I had to choose only one, I could pick WinDirStat because it doesn’t require any additional software to operate. Thanks for reading.

Peter Viola

Creative, customer focused, results oriented, Senior Web Systems Engineer who enjoys providing the highest level of customer service supporting complex Windows hosting solutions. MCITP, MCSA, MCTS

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Nov 072014
 

When it comes to improving Windows server performance, most sysadmins focus on hardware such as adding CPUs or RAM. However, low disk space can also impact performance sometimes even causing critical processes such as backups to fail. Fortunately there are quite a few places to check on a Windows server to free up additional disk space.  Some paces to check are obvious such as cleaning up log files while other paces are not as obvious such as finding system temp files.

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How to See System Files

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Before searching for additional space you need to ensure that you Windows Explorer will display hidden system files and file extensions. To confirm you can see these open Windows Explorer and go to Folder & Search Options.

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Click on the View tab and select Show hidden files, folders, and drives. Uncheck Hide protected operating system files and Hide extensions for known file types.  Making these changes will allow you to see all the files on the server including system files and folders which could be taking up unnecessary space. Click OK to close the window.

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Before deleting anything always double check that you really don’t need the files any more and it’s safe to delete. Here are the top places that I check when I need to free up disk space on a Windows server.

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1. Empty Recycle Bin

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Cleaning up the recycle bin is most likely the easiest way to purge files unnecessarily taking up space. When you need to quickly clean up space this is the first place to check. It is surprising how much space can accumulate over time. Every disk volume on the server has a $recycle.bin folder. As mentioned above you won’t be able to see it until you enable viewing system folders. In the picture below you can see there’s plenty of deleted files waiting to be purged. Just select all the folders and right-click to delete them.

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2. Compress IIS Log Files

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The next thing I do when I need to free up disk space is to compress the IIS site log files. The default path to these files is %SystemDrive%\inetpub\logs\LogFiles. However, I prefer to redirect that path to something easier to find at the root of the disk drive such as C:\wwwlogs. If the server has multiple drives I will store them on the largest drive. Unless you disable your site logs they will automatically grow until the disk drive has filled up or they are removed or they are deleted. Enabling Windows file compression on the IIS logs directory tree will save a considerable amount of disk space.

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To enable Windows file compression, just right-click on logs folder and select Properties. Click the Advanced button and as shown in the picture above and select Compress contents to save disk space. Click OK to close the window. Depending on how much content you have in the directory tree it may take several minutes to complete.

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The picture above is from an IIS logs folder where I enabled compression and as you can see it saved 62% of the space being utilized by the log files. You can squeeze even more free space from your IIS log files by zipping them with an archiving program. In a recent walkthrough of mine I show how to manage IIS logs with GZipStream.

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3. Compress SQL Server Backups

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The SQL Server backup folder is another great place to check when you need to free up some disk space. You can use the steps above to apply Windows file compression and as well zipping the files to free up additional disk space. In the photo below the SQL Server backup folder is using 1.8 GB of space without any compression.

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After applying compression to this folder I was able to save approximately 60% of the disk space used by the backups. By zipping the files as well can you save can even more space. Depending on your particular business needs, you can also save additional disk space by limiting number of backups SQL Server stores on the server. This can be configured with a SQL Server Maintenance Plan.

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4. Cleanup Performance Monitor Reports

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Windows Performance Monitor is an invaluable tool to analyze performance on a Widows server. Within minutes, one can easily configure a Data Collector to get deep insights on CPU, RAM, Network IO, and Disk IO. However, this convenience can also lead to disk space being needlessly consumed when you have forgotten about the reports days or weeks after the analysis has completed. This will be even more apparent if someone forgets to set a Stop Condition on the Data Collector and leaves it running for days.

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The default path for the logs is usually C:\PerfLogs. The report path is also clearly shown in the Data Collector properties. Once your analysis has completed and you’ve reviewed the reports you can delete them. Applying Windows file compression to the reports folder as shown above will also help save disk space.

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5. Cleanup Windows Error Reports

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Windows Error Reporting is an exceptional tool for identifying issues on your server. Unless you delete the logs or disable the feature they will accumulate over time. The default path to WER reports is C:\ProgramData\Microsoft\Windows\WER and there are two sub-directories below it. You can delete the files in the folders but you should leave the 2 folders in place. This is another great place to apply Windows file compression to save more space.

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6. Cleanup Windows Temp Files

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There are several paths on Windows server’s that are used temporarily when installing updates or new programs. In many cases Windows will automatically delete these files after the installation has completed. However sometimes you’ll need to manually delete them yourself. One such folder is C:\Windows\ServiceProfiles\NetworkService\AppData\Local\Temp. In the picture below I was able to free up nearly 1 GB by deleting Malware Protection updates that had not been properly removed after they were installed.

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Here are some other possible locations to look for temporary files that can be removed:

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  • C:\temp
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  • C:\Users\Default\AppData\Local\Temp
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  • %localappdata%\Microsoft\Windows\Temporary Internet Files
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  • %localappdata%\Microsoft\Windows\Explorer
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  • %windir%\ServiceProfiles\LocalService\AppData\Local\Temp
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7. Windows Disk Cleanup Tool

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Trying to remember all the paths to temporary files can be a daunting challenge for any sysadmin. Fortunately Microsoft recognized this as well. On Windows Server 2008 R2 and Windows Server 2012 or later,  you can get a Disk Cleanup tool like the one on the desktop versions of Windows. However, to take advantage of this you need to install the Desktop Experience feature which is available using the Server Manager’s Add Features Wizard. Just check the feature and then complete the wizard.

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After the server has been installed you can access the Disk Cleanup tool from the Control Panel. You will have a convenient way to clean up different types of temporary files including Windows Update files and Windows Error Reporting files.

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This tool is very helpful with cleaning up disk space. However, you should be aware that there will be some additional programs installed along with the Disk Cleanup tool which you may not want on your server such as Media Player. Here is a complete list of the programs that are installed with the Desktop Experience.

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8. Windows Server 2008

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All of the options listed above will also work on Windows Server 2008 systems however specifically on Windows Server 2008 SP2 servers you can make the service pack permanent and free up space by running the following command which should free up nearly 1GB of disk space on the server:

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  • compcln.exe /VERBOSE:C:\temp\compcln.txt
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9. Windows Server 2003

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Windows Server 2003 “end of life” is July 14, 2015. If you haven’t started migration plans for legacy systems on that platform then you need to start planning for it asap. A great place to clean up space on Windows Server 2003 is to delete the hotfix uninstall files. Imagine my surprise when I logged into the server below to work on a low disk space situation and I found over 1 GB of these legacy files going back to 2011. There are also files in the C:\windows\$hf_mig$ folder that can be cleaned up. However, It’s always a good idea to wait at least a week or two before deleting these files in case you need to rollback one of the hotfixes.

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One additional way to free up space would be to create a symbolic link from one directory to another on a larger disk drive. Mark Russinovich’s free Junction tool makes it very easy to do this however you have to be careful when doing this or you can inadvertently cause problems for yourself. Be sure to make a backup before using it the first time.

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In Summary

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Having your Windows server run out of space can cause serious performance issues as well as prevent important backup processes from running. I covered several great places to check on a Windows server when you need to free up space. Always confirm that files are safe to delete before you delete them. Thanks for reading.

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Peter Viola

Creative, customer focused, results oriented, Senior Web Systems Engineer who enjoys providing the highest level of customer service supporting complex Windows hosting solutions. MCITP, MCSA, MCTS

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