Recently a user came to me with a problem with his Windows explorer. Whenever he tries to select some files in Windows explorer in 2 particular folders, the explorer window would freeze for a moment, sometimes this can be quite a while (like up to 1 minute) before it unfreeze and the file shows as selected. The files are all MS Excel (XLS) files.
Of course, the first few things I would do is to list down all possible reasons for this to happen:
– Too many XLS files were opened
– Other huge XLS files were opened
– Anti-virus is slowing this down
– C: drive is getting full
– Too many Explorer windows are opened
– Too many applications are opened
– Performance issue with my file server
– User is too impatient (now this is something you cannot dismiss, sometimes)
The user was even asked to reboot the workstation just do nothing but open Windows explorer to that particular location… and its still slow.
I decided to check it out myself. Indeed, the particular folder he was talking about, when I selected a 5 MB XLS file, the explorer froze for about 1-2 mins before coming back alive showing the select 5 MB file. One thing I noticed is that there are between 500 to 1,000 odd XLS files within the folder and I wonder if this could have caused the problem, since other 5 or even 10 MB files in other folders don’t suffer from such performance when selected.
Now my first clue came from the MSKB titled, Slow network performance occurs when you select a file on a share that uses NTFS.
Basically it says:
This issue occurs because Microsoft Windows Explorer tries to open NTFS streams on the volume to get extended information about the file, for example, title, subject, comments, and source author. All of this information for the file is stored on the volume
It believable, but all our workstations are already on Windows 2000 SP4, whereas this KB is meant for those below SP4. So I should believe that this should be fixed. Actually, when I reread it, it meant to say that the hotfix does not fix the problem, rather we still need to change some setting to improve performance. Hence, this really does look like the culprit and so I tried the workaround suggested in the KB.
2. On the Tools menu in Windows Explorer, click Folder Options.
3. In the Folder Options window, click the View tab, and then make sure that the Show pop-up description for folder and desktop items check box is not selected.
4. Click the General tab, and then click the Use Windows Classic Folders check box.
5. Click OK to close the Folder Options window.
Immediately the Windows explorer came to live and the issue was resolved!
However, I still don’t think that I actually knew what happened, as in why the performance would actually be so slow and why a large number of files in the same folder would cause this degradation, where as a small number of files may not. Does it have to be all XLS files? What if I have a mix of different types of files like text, jpg and office documents of different sizes? Will the same issue occur?
Now being an adminstrator in the Windows server team, I find that the quality of helpdesk personals is not as good as when I used to be in helpdesk some 10 years ago. I could resolve more of the issues at the desktop level (and this is a desktop issue, really) by myself. I got this issue escalated to me from my helpdesk simply because they felt that this issue must be caused by either network performance or our file server. But they forgot that our file server are impartial to any particular folders, that is, it will not say: “I don’t like this folder, so I will slow it down”. If there is a performance issues, other folders or users would have seen this also!
I find that helpdesk and 1st level staff tend to give up too easily on problems nowsadays, simply because they can always escalate their issues to the 2nd line people.