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Configuring Dynamic Volumes

By Curt Simmons

Chapter 10 from Windows 2000 Hardware and Disk Management, published by Prentice Hall

Once you upgrade your basic disk to a dynamic disk, you can then begin to configure volumes for the disk as desired. Remember that dynamic volumes replace partitions and extended partitions on basic disks. A volume, though a part of a physical hard disk, appears and acts as though it is an independent hard disk. This chapter shows you how to configure and manage dynamic volumes on your Windows 2000 computer.

On This Page

Creating a New Simple Volume
Mounting a Simple Volume to an Empty Folder
Extending a Volume
Creating Spanned Volumes
Creating Striped Volumes
Common Volume Tasks
Dynamic Volume States
Summary
Q&A

Creating a New Simple Volume

You are not limited to the amount of volumes you create on a dynamic disk. The goal, of course, is to configure volumes that meet your needs. Keep in mind that each volume acts as if it is an independent physical disk, and you can create volumes in order to store different kinds of information as needed. A simple volume is a single block of space and does not span multiple volumes or disks. Creating new volumes is easy in Windows 2000, and as with many components in Windows 2000, a wizard is provided to help you. To create a new volume on a dynamic disk, follow these steps:

  1. Open Computer Management from your Administrative Tools folder in Control Panel, then click on Disk Management in the left pane.

  2. Select the desired area of unallocated space on the desired disk, click the Action menu, point to All Tasks, then click Create Volume, shown in Figure 10-1. You can also right-click the unallocated space and click Create Volume.

    Bb727122.10-1(en-us,TechNet.10).gif

    Figure 10-1: Use the Action menu to create a new volume
  3. The Create Volume wizard appears. Click Next.

  4. On the Select Volume Type window, shown in Figure 10-2, click the Simple Volume radio button, then click Next.

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    Figure 10-2: Select Simple Volume and click Next
  5. On the Select Disks window, shown in Figure 10-3, the disk you selected appears in the right, window, but you can change this if desired (if you system has more than one disk) by using the Add, Remove, and Remove All buttons. You only select one disk to create a simple volume. The total volume size that is available (in megabytes) is displayed. Use the Size dialog box to make changes to the desired volume size as desired, then click Next.

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    Figure 10-3: Select your disk and volume size on this window
  6. On the Assign a Drive Letter or Path window, a drive letter for the volume is already selected for you, but you can change it by selecting a different one in from the drop-down box. You can also mount the volume to an empty folder, which you can learn more about in the next section. You can also choose to not assign a drive letter or path at this time. Make your selection, and click Next.

  7. On the Format Volume window, shown in Figure 10-4, you can choose to either format the volume or not. If you choose to format the volume at this time, use the drop-down menus to select the desired file system and allocation unit size. You can leave the allocation unit size setting to default. You can also enter a label for the volume in the provided dialog box. You can choose to perform a quick format and you can enable compression by clicking the check boxes. See Chapter 17 to learn more about compression. Make your selections and click Next.

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    Figure 10-4: Select formatting options and click Next

    Tech Check All file systems used by Windows 2000 organize hard disks based on allocation unit size. The allocation unit size is the smallest amount of disk space that can be allocated to hold a file. The disk makes the best use of storage space if the allocation size is small. This helps prevent wasted space and fragmentation. If you do not select an allocation unit size when you configure a volume, Windows picks one for you based on the size of the volume.

    A quick format removes existing files from the disk before formatting it, but it does not scan the disk for bad sectors. Unless the disk is new, it is best to not use the quick format option when creating the volume so that Windows can thoroughly check your disk.

  8. On the Completion window, click the Finish button. The new simple volume is created and now appears in the Disk Management console, shown in Figure 10-5.

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    Figure 10-5: New Volume now appears

Mounting a Simple Volume to an Empty Folder

Windows 2000 includes a new feature that allows you some interesting management options concerning drive letters. In the past, partitions or extended partitions on basic disks were always labeled C, D, E, F, and so on. This, of course, limits you to the 26 letters of the alphabet. Windows 2000 provides a workaround for this limit as well as a different way to label your volumes by mounting the volume to an empty NTFS folder. The new volume you are creating is mounted on a folder on another local NTFS volume, but the new volume can be formatted with any file system supported by Windows 2000. This is accomplished by a drive path instead of a drive letter. For example, let's say you have a volume you want to create called "Company Documents." You want to use the volume for storage purposes, but you want it to appear on your C drive instead of its own drive. You simply mount the volume to an empty folder called "Company Documents" on your C drive (must be NTFS), and the new volume appears as C:\Documents instead of its own volume. This feature is designed to give you more management flexibility, and as you can image, there are a number of possible options. You can even mount your CD-ROM drive to your C drive so it appears as C:\CD-ROM.

To create a mounted volume, first create an empty NTFS folder on the desired drive (such as C). Remember that the folder must exist on an NTFS volume, but the new volume you are creating can be formatted with any file system supported by Windows 2000.

When you create the new volume using the Create New Volume wizard in Disk Management, select the "mount this volume at an empty folder that supports drive paths" radio button instead of the drive letter option on the Assign Drive Letter or Path window, shown in Figure 10-6.

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Figure 10-6: Select the Mount option

Then, enter the path to the shared folder, or click the Browse button. If you click the Browse button, you can select the desired folder from the desired drive, or you can click the New Folder button to create the new folder if you did not do so before starting the wizard. Make your selection and click OK, shown in Figure 10-7, then click Next to continue to the New Volume wizard.

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Figure 10-7: Use the Browse option to select a folder or create a new one

Once you complete the wizard, you can open the volume where you mounted the new volume and see that it appears as a "drive within a drive," shown in Figure 10-8. As you work with the mounted volume option, you will see there are many possibilities that make information on your system more accessible.

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Figure 10-8: The mounted drive now appears in the desired location

Extending a Volume

Once you create a simple volume, you can also later extend the amount of available storage space on the simple volume, if additional free space is still available on the disk. You can easily extend the volume without damaging any of the data on the volume or having to reboot your computer. For example, in Figure 11-9, a simple volume (F) on dynamic Disk 1 contains 1 GB of storage space. 3.06 GB of unallocated space are still available on Disk 1. I would like to extend that 1GB on drive F to 2 GB. This can be easily accomplished using Disk Management.

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Figure 10-9: F Drive can be extended

To extend a drive, select it in Disk Management, click the Action menu, point to All Tasks, then Click Extend Volume. This action opens the Extend Volume wizard. Follow these steps to extend a volume:

  1. Click Next on the Extend Volume wizard welcome screen.

  2. On the Select Disks window, make certain the correct disk is selected, then enter the desired amount (in megabytes) for which you want to extend the volume in the Size dialog box. For example, in Figure 10-10, I want to extend the volume by 1 GB (1000 MB). Enter the desired amount and click Next.

    Bb727122.10-10(en-us,TechNet.10).gif

    Figure 10-10: Select the extension amount and click Next
  3. Click Finish to complete the wizard. The extension to the volume appears in Disk Management with the same drive letter, shown in Figure 10-11.

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    Figure 10-11: The extended volume is now displayed

Creating Spanned Volumes

Spanned volumes, formerly called volume sets in Windows NT allow you to combine areas of unformatted free space on several disks in order to create one logical drive. For example, let's say that you have three hard drives, each containing 1 GB of unallocated space. You can combine those three 1 GB areas of unformatted space on each disk to create one drive that is 3 GB in size. This solution allows you to make use of "left over" space, but it does not give you any fault tolerance. If one of your hard disks fails, all of the data on the spanned volume is lost. Also, you cannot delete a portion of the spanned volume without deleting the entire spanned volume. However, spanned volumes are an effective way to use small pieces of unallocated space on different disks. You can combine space on 2 dynamic disks up to 32 disks, and the space you use from each can vary. In order words, one disk may have 1GB of unallocated space while another only has 500 MB of free space – it doesn't matter, and after you combine these pieces of space, Windows 2000 handles the rest of the task and treats all of the pieces as one drive.

Once you create a spanned volume, you can later extend it by including another portion of available disk space, but again, you cannot delete any portion of the spanned volume without losing the entire volume. You cannot extend spanned volumes that are formatted with FAT.

Tech Check Windows 2000 offers fault tolerant solutions that protect your data against the failure of a single hard disk. These solutions are implemented using multiple hard disks installed on your system. Although a spanned volume uses two or more hard disks, a spanned volume is a storage solution and not a fault tolerant solution. Data on a spanned volume is not protected against a hard disk failure and all data on the spanned volume is lost if one disk fails.

To create a spanned volume, follow these steps:

  1. Select an area of unformatted free space on a desired disk, click the Action menu, point to All Tasks, then click Create Volume.

  2. Click Next on the Welcome screen.

  3. In the Select Volume Type window, click the Spanned volume radio button, then click Next.

  4. On the Select Disks window, select the desired disks you wish to include in the spanned volume, then click Add to move them into the selected window, shown in Figure 10-12. Use the Size dialog box to alter the size (in megabytes) of the free space you want to use for the spanned volume. Make your adjustments, then click Next.

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    Figure 10-12: Select desired disks and click the Add button
  5. In the Assign Drive Letter or Path, assign a drive letter or mount the spanned volume to an NTFS folder, then click Next.

  6. On the Format volume window, choose to either format the volume at this time or not. If you choose to format the volume, choose the desired file system, allocation unit size, and volume label. As with a simple volume, you can perform a quick format and your can enable compression if desired. Click Next.

  7. Click Finish to complete the wizard. The spanned volume is created and appears on each disk as one drive letter with a purple title bar, shown in Figure 10-12.

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    Figure 10-13: The spanned volume now appears in the Disk Management console

Creating Striped Volumes

Another storage solution that uses multiple hard disks, much like a spanned volume, is the striped volume, formerly called a stripe set in Windows NT. As in a spanned volume, a striped volume combines areas of free disk space on 2 to 32 physical hard disks and treats the pieces of space as one drive. However, in a striped volume, data is written in organized blocks across the stripe so that data is written to all physical disks at the same rate. Because of this, the free space on each disk must be the same size. The Add Volume wizard helps you configure this and will not allow you to stripe unequal amounts of free space. For example, let's say you have three hard disks. One disk you have 500 MB of free space and on the other two, you have 1000 MB each. The most space you can use on each disk is 500 MB, creating a striped set of 1.5 GB. You can, however, use a smaller amount of space if desired.

Like spanned volumes, striped volumes are storage solutions that do not offer any fault tolerance. If one disk in the stripe fails, all data on the stripe is lost. The advantage of using striped volumes over spanned volumes is performance. Striped volumes provide the best read and write performance of all disk management solutions in Windows 2000. Because of the way data is written to a striped volume, it cannot be extended.

To create a striped volume, follow these steps:

  1. Select an area of free space on a desired hard disk, click the Action menu, point to All Tasks, then click Create Volume.

  2. Click Next on the Create New Volume welcome screen.

  3. In the Select Volume Type window, click the Striped Volume radio button, then click Next.

  4. On the Select Disks window, select the desired hard disks to be included in the striped volume and move them into the Selected window using the Add button, shown in Figure 10-14. Adjust the amount of free space you want to use for the striped volume for each disk by selecting it and adjusting the Size entry as desired. Notice you can only use the maximum amount of free space that is available on the smallest unallocated area. Click Next.

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    Figure 10-14: Select the desired disks and click the Add button
  5. In the Assign Drive Letter or Path window, select a drive letter for the striped volume or assign a mounted path as desired. Click Next.

  6. On the Format Volume window, choose to either format the volume or not. If you choose to format the volume, select a file system, allocation unit size, and volume label. You can also choose to perform a quick format and use compression if desired. Click Next.

  7. Click Finish. The striped volume is created and now appears in the Disk Management window as one volume, shown in Figure 10-13.

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    Figure 10-15: The striped volume now appears as one drive

Common Volume Tasks

One of the great advantages of Windows 2000, both in the Professional and Server software, is that it tends to be very forgiving. For most major configurations you make, you can easily makes changes without causing too many problems. Volume configuration is no exception to this rule. Once you create volumes, whether they be simple, spanned, or striped, you can select the volume in the Disk Management console, click the Action menu, point to All Tasks, and perform several operations, explained in the following list:

  • Open – this option opens the volume and allows you to browse through your folders and files.

  • Explore – this option also opens the volume, but it presents it in an explorer window so you can easily navigate through your folder structure.

  • Extend Volume – For simple and spanned volumes, use this option to extend the volume with the help of the wizard (see the Extending a Volume section earlier in this chapter).

  • Change Drive Letter and Path – for volumes that already have a drive letter and path (or ones which you did not initially configure with a drive letter or path), you can access this option to change or create the drive letter, or mount the volume to an NTFS folder.

  • Format – if you created a volume that is not formatted, or if you want to reformat a volume, you can use this option which allows you to select the volume label, file system, allocation unit size and whether or not to perform a quick format or enable compression. Of course, if data is stored on the volume, it will be destroyed if you choose to reformat it.

  • Reactivate Volume – use the option to attempt to bring an offline volume back online (see Chapter 10).

  • Delete Volume – this action deletes the volume and all data contained on the volume

  • Properties – use this option to access the properties sheets for the volume, which are explored in a following section in this chapter.

Dynamic Volume States

As with online and offline hard disks, each volume can also be in a particular state. In the Disk Management console, you can view a volume list. In the top part of the right pane, the volume label is displayed with additional information about the disk: layout, type, file system, status, capacity, and free space. The status label gives you information about the disk and may displayed as follows, depending on the condition of the disk:

  • Healthy: The volume is accessible and has no known problems.

  • Healthy (At Risk): The volume is accessible, but I/O errors have been detected on the disk. In this case, all volumes on the disk are displayed as Healthy (At Risk). The underlying disk is displayed as Online (Errors). Normally, you can return the disk to Online status be reactivating the disk. This can be done by right-clicking on the disk and choosing Reactivate disk.

  • Initializing: The volume is being initialized and will be displayed as Healthy once the initialization is complete. This status does not require any action.

  • Resynching: The status indicator occurs on mirror volumes when resynchronization between the two disks is occurring. When the resynchronization is complete, the status returns to Healthy, and no action is required. See Chapter 12 to learn more about mirror volumes

  • Regenerating: In the case of RAID-5 volumes, this status indicator occurs when data is being regenerated from the parity bit. This status does not require any action. See Chapter 11 to learn more about RAID-5 volumes.

  • Failed Redundancy: This status indicator appears when the underlying disk is no longer online. In this case, the data is no longer fault tolerant in either the mirror volume or RAID-5 volume. In order to avoid potential data loss, the volume should be repaired (see the Fault Tolerance section later in this chapter). See Chapter 11 to learn more about RAID-5 volumes.

  • Failed Redundancy (At Risk): This status is the same as Failed Redundancy, but the underlying disk status is usually Online (Errors). To correct the At Risk problem, Reactivate the disk so that its status returns to Online. See Chapter 11 to learn more about RAID-5 volumes.

  • Failed: The volume cannot be automatically started and the volume needs to be repaired.

Configuring Volume Properties

You can access a volume's properties sheet by right clicking the volume in Disk Management and selecting properties. The properties sheets, shown in Figure 10-16, gives you several tabs where can configure various volume options. These are explained in the following list.

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Figure 10-16: Volume Properties sheets
  • General – The General tab gives you information about the volume, such as the amount of free and used space, the file system, and total capacity. You can change the volume label, launch the disk cleanup tool, and you can choose to compress the drive on this tab.

  • Tools – the Tools tab allows you to launch the error checking backup, and defragmentation tools, all of which you can learn more about in Chapter 13.

  • Hardware – The hardware tab gives you a list of hardware devices, such as hard disks, floppy drives, CD-ROM drives, and other removable media applicable to Disk Management and volumes. You can launch the Windows troubleshooter from this tab, or access the individual properties of each device.

  • Sharing / Security – The Sharing and Security tabs allows you share the volume and configure permissions and security for the volume.

  • Quota – the Quota tab allows you to configure disk quotas for the volume, which you can learn about in Chapter 17.

  • Web Sharing – the Web Sharing tab allows you to share the volume to a web site, such as an intranet site through which users on a network can access the volume on your computer.

Summary

Dynamic volumes in Windows 2000 offer you a number of solutions for disk management. You can configure any number of volumes per physical disk, and even assign those volumes to an NTFS folder instead of assigning a drive letter. You can format volumes with NTFS, FAT or FAT32, with NTFS being the preferred choice. Dynamic volumes also include the option to create spanned volumes and striped volumes on systems that have multiple hard disks for additional shortage management possibilities.

Q&A

Review these questions and answers to resolve problems or check your knowledge of this chapter's content.

Q: On a hard disk on my Windows 2000 computer, I cannot seem to create any volumes. Why?

A: Your disk has not been upgraded to a dynamic disk. Volumes are only available on dynamic disks, so perform the disk upgrade from basic to dynamic first, then you can create and manage dynamic volumes.

Q: What file systems are available for volumes?

A: Windows 2000 supports NTFS, FAT, and FAT32. Of course, your best choice is NTFS, so consider your reasons carefully before formatting a volume with FAT or FAT32.

Q: Should I use the quick format option when formatting a volume?

A: A quick format erases all of the data on a volume, but it does not scan the disk for bad sectors. Typically, you should not use the quick format option unless the disk is new. Although a normal format takes more time than a quick format, it is best to allow Windows to check the disk for bad sectors and repair while you are performing the format option.

Q: What is the purpose of mounting a volume to an empty folder

A: The option to mount a volume to an empty NTFS folder allows you to have disk volumes with names instead of drive letters. This feature removes the 26 alphabet letter limit for volume labels and enables you to configure a number of potentially helpful options that give –volumes and drives "real" names instead of drive letters.

Q: When creating a spanned volume, do you have to use free areas of space that are the same size?

A: No. When you create spanned volumes, you can use any pieces of free, unallocated space available on 2 to 32 disks. Spanned volumes are written to in order – in other words, the first disk is filled, then the second, and so on. Due to the way data is written, the sizes of the free, unallocated space do not matter. For striped volumes, the free, unallocated spaces on the disks must be the same size because data is written across the disk in a stripe fashion.

Q: Can you remove one disk from a spanned volume or striped volume without damaging the data?

A: No. If one disk is removed, or if it fails all of the data in the spanned volume or striped volume is lost.

About the Author

Curt Simmons has been working closely with Windows 2000 Server since Beta 1. An author and technical trainer specializing in Microsoft operating systems, BackOffice products, and Internet technologies, he has written nearly a dozen technical books and training manuals. Simmons is a Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE) and Microsoft Certified Trainer (MCT) based in Dallas, TX.

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