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Coming back to DP - what drive format is recommended now? REFS or still NTFS?



I am an old drive pool / scanner user.  Used it since MS Home server (both versions), migrated up to Server 12 - and had been using that for years.  But when I started to look at Server 19 and seeing how MS was getting away from the home market ended up deciding to go to Unraid instead.

In general its good - been running that for awhile now, but it has its share of issues.  (Removing a drive is an awful process, and SMB performance even with plugins / tunning not great)  Thought about ZFS, but I have a mix of drives and that's still not there for shucker folks who don't keep drive consistency and not sure when that will every arrive.   

Got one of those cheap intel Arc's so want to try that out with Jellyfin - and figured since I am going to be doing some major server changes I might as well get off of Unraid.  

So going to be migrating back to Windows Server - 2022 with essentials addon.   But not sure now on the drives if I should be using REFS or NTFS with DP.   Any folks with similar setups?  Planning to also check out how well does Primocache work to help address performance issues,  (Have 2 2tb SSD's I can use for that)

My setup:

X570 with AMD3700X 

  • 3x18tb
  • 2x16tb
  • 1x14tb
  • 1x10tb
  • 3x8tb  

Now to the question - what are folks thoughts about DP and the format options?   Posts I have found seem to be a few years old, and looking for some current feedback. Appreciate any thougts.

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I highly recommend against ReFS.  NTFS works fine, is well supported, and doesn't suffer for some of the issues that ReFS does. 

For instance, ReFS may not work at all on external drives. And by "external", I mean any drive that Windows things is external, which can include internal controller cards.  This is something I found out last year, when my server's boot disk decided to become unbootable, and upgraded the OS. 

Additionally, integrity checking on ReFS is only enabled for the file system objects by default.  It is not enabled for all of the files, normally. Additionally, if something goes wrong, there is no easy way to recover from file system errors. 

So, most of the advantages that ReFS has are outweighed by the issues it has.  To the point that I have converted my entire pool from ReFS to NTFS.  Just ... no desire to deal with those issues, again. 

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I respectfully disagree with Christopher's opinion. In fact, NTFS is an outdated file system that was not designed for modern usage, for the following reasons:

1) NTFS is over 30 years old and was never intended for large volumes such as those used today. Consequently, NTFS is considered a "hacky" file system.

2) In contrast, ReFS is a modern COW (copy on write) file system that is much more robust than NTFS. ReFS doesn´t need journaling like NTFS. Furthermore, ReFS is not prone to file fragmentation, which can slow down file access and reduce performance on NTFS-formatted drives over time. ReFS has been available and developed for a decade and by now is a well-established file system. Personally, I have been using it since 2013 on all my single drives without any issue.

3) Microsoft is retiring NTFS in favor of ReFS and will use ReFS for new Windows 11 installations soon. As evidence, see https://pureinfotech.com/windows-11-refs-support/. For instance, with a hack, Windows Server 2022 can already boot from ReFS. I am currently using it for my boot drive as well, and I no longer have a single NTFS-formatted drive in my system.

4) Numerous recovery tools are now available for worst-case scenarios that support ReFS, and more and more recovery software is supporting the file system. Verify this by googling "refs recovery software."

5) FileIntegrity checks are indeed not enabled by default since they can cause a slight performance hit (less than 2% with the latest ReFS version that comes with Windows Server 2022 in my case). However, they are well worth it since NTFS does not provide this functionality at all. It is easy to enable them afterward using PowerShell. For example, run

Set-FileIntegrity D: -Enable $True -Enforce $False

(replacing the drive letter with the desired one). Alternatively, one can enable FileIntegrity while formatting the drive by running

format D: /q /fs:refs /i:enable

(where "/i:enable" is the switch that enables FileIntegrity at the outset). With this feature enabled, "chkdsk" is no longer necessary since the ReFS driver fixes everything automatically on the fly. Therefore, there is no need to take a volume offline ever again.

6) The issue of internal drives being wrongly threaded as external drives has nothing to do with the file system and can be easily resolved by editing the registry. See https://ourcodeworld.com/articles/read/1300/how-to-fix-windows-10-issue-that-displays-internal-sata-connected-ssd-hdd-as-removable. Nonetheless, I have been using two external drives with ReFS for five years without any issue, and I do not force them to be recognized as internal by Windows using the registry hack.

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