Tips and Tricks

Turbocharge Terminal Services

Here are some tips for keeping disk consuption to a minimum and improving server performance.

If you’re using Windows 2000 Terminal Services to provide users with remote application access, you probably spend more than a little time trying to tweak performance. After all, hearty server hardware is expensive; squeezing just a few more users onto the hardware you have is always a good idea.

Disk space, especially on the system drive, is often one of the biggest performance challenges on a busy terminal server. One problem can result from maintenance: Service packs and hotfixes take up space, and if you didn’t plan for them in the beginning, it’s easy to run out of space. If necessary, buy a product like Partition Magic (www.partitionmagic.com) that’ll let you resize your system disks to accommodate the bloat that comes with regular updates.

Most companies running Terminal Services use roaming profiles, as they’re the only way to ensure a consistent user experience in a terminal server farm. Unfortunately, those profiles mean even more lost disk space, since every profile gets copied into the Documents and Settings folder of every terminal server a user signs on to. Profiles can be pretty large, and aren’t often smaller than 50MB by the time you account for My Documents and other space-hungry folders. Figure 200 users in your organization and that’s 10GB down the drain!

Disk space plays a core and often overlooked role in Terminal Services performance. Sure, processor and memory are important (and when isn’t “add RAM” the right answer?), but Terminal Services can run through disk space a lot faster than you might think, causing basic performance problems that can be hard to pinpoint.

Here are some tips for keeping the disk consumption to a minimum and improving terminal server performance:

 Keep the system drive reserved for the OS, and don’t store Documents and Settings there. Move Documents and Settings to its own partition, so that if it fills up, it won’t take the whole server with it. Microsoft Knowledge Base article 236621, “Cannot Move or Rename the Documents and Settings Folder,” describes in detail how to move the folder.

 Small profiles are a worthy goal anytime you’re using roaming profiles, and especially with Terminal Services. Use Group Policy to redirect My Documents and other profile folders to users’ home directories on a file server. That’ll markedly reduce the size of profiles, ensure that the files are always available to the users, and make logging on and off much quicker.

 Use Group Policy to remove the cached profiles that get created on terminal servers. Cached profiles can be useful on workstations when a domain controller might not be available to process a logon, but on a terminal server cached profiles just waste disk space.

 You may not realize it, but all those user profiles sailing to and from your terminal servers are creating a major disk fragmentation problem. This problem is worse when the profiles are on the system drive, which is their default location; but no matter where you have the profiles stored, you’ll want to schedule a regular defragmentation. Either use Windows’ built-in tool or a more robust third-party tool like Diskeeper (www.executivesoftware. com). I schedule a monthly defrag, and I find it keeps performance nice and smooth.

 Get the page file off of the system drive, if at all possible. Instead, create multiple page files spread across multiple physical disks, if you can, or put the page file onto a RAID-5 array. The more disks that you have to spread the page file across, the happier Terminal Services will be. Removing contention between the page file, user profiles, and the operating system will also improve performance. And while you’re messing with the page file, set its minimum and maximum size to be the same value, typically about 2.5 times the amount of physical RAM in the server. Setting these values to be the same prevents the operating system from spending time resizing the file.

About the Author

Don Jones is a multiple-year recipient of Microsoft’s MVP Award, and is an Author/Evangelist for video training company Pluralsight. Don is also a co-founder and President of PowerShell.org, a community dedicated to Microsoft’s Windows PowerShell technology. Don has more than two decades of experience in the IT industry, and specializes in the Microsoft business technology platform. He’s the author of more than 50 technology books, an accomplished IT journalist, and a sought-after speaker and instructor at conferences worldwide. Reach Don on Twitter at @concentratedDon, or on Facebook at Facebook.com/ConcentratedDon.

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