What is ReFS? Why Is It Better?

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The Resilient File System (ReFS) is Microsoft’s latest file system designed to optimize data availability, effectively manage the scalability of large amounts of data and ensure data integrity through resiliency against file corruption. ReFS has been developed to meet new data growth scenarios and serve as a basis for future innovations.

How does ReFS work?

Microsoft used part of the NTFS code base to create ReFS, and added support for Win32 APIs to ensure compatibility with existing APIs, and supported ReFS for a number of functions, such as access control lists and file IDs.

In NTFS, there are several reasons for file metadata corruption, such as a sudden system shutdown in the event of a power failure or when the system writes only part of a block. ReFS uses Allocations-on-Write, which writes and reads files in a single command to prevent data corruption. Allocate-on-write allows the use of light provision clones from source databases to reduce the risk of corruption.

ReFS uses a B+ tree structure to manage data through metadata indexing. The tree consists of the root, internal nodes and leaves. A B+ tree stores data according to a connection model, each node of the tree having an ordered list of keys and pointers to child nodes or leaves. The records are stored at the sheet level, which allows for greater branching. This process reduces disk I/O and improves performance.

Why is it Better?

  • ReFS supports long file names and paths – A file name in ReFS can have up to 32,768 Unicode characters! The full path size limitation has also been updated by 255 characters for the total path size to 32K (32,768). Other changes have also increased capacity, although it is unlikely that the maximum size of a single volume will affect a real person. NTFS already had a maximum volume size of 16 exabytes. The ReFS format allows a maximum disk size of 262,144 exabytes.

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  • ReFS is much better at managing power outages – ReFS does not update metadata locally. Instead, a new copy of the metadata is created, and it is only when the new copy of the metadata is intact and all writings have taken place that the file is updated with the new metadata. This new way of updating metadata allows you to recover reliably and consistently after a power failure without damaging your hard disk.
  • ReFS works with disk space to better detect and solve problems – ReFS has improved functionality when used in conjunction with disk space. ReFS uses checksums for metadata to ensure that the data has not been corrupted. When Storage Spaces finds inappropriate data between two or more copies of the same file, it can rely on the integrated metadata checksums that are a feature of ReFS. Once the checksums are validated, the correct data is copied to the other physical disks and the corrupted data is deleted.
  • ReFS volumes can remain active even if they show irreparable corruption – only damaged parts are removed from the volume, and the volume itself remains active through salvage. Salvage can also delete a single corrupted file. Once the corrupted data is deleted, the volume is recovered. This transforms what is normally an indirectly recovered server for disk analysis utilities that take a long time to find and repair entries into a volume that is repaired in addition to corrupted data files and recovered online in less than a second.

How to Use ReFS

On Windows servers, you can format some volumes into ReFS using normal disk management tools, which can be especially useful if you are using virtual machines on these disks. However, you cannot format your boot disk into ReFS, and you will lose access to some NTFS functions.

You can only use ReFS with the Space function. Be sure to format your locations in ReFS and not NTFS when you see the File System option. You will automatically benefit from the data integrity features in the ReFS file system when you select it.


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