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
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
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.
Don Jones is a multiple-year recipient of Microsoft’s MVP Award, and is Curriculum Director for IT Pro Content 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.