Performance Tuning your Windows Server (Part 3)

This is the 3rd part of a series of posts I’ll be describing several settings and parameters that can be tuned to optimize your server performance. I hope you’ll find them useful and help you improve your servers performance.

Note: As with all changes, you should implement the following suggestions one at a time and verify that there was a performance improvement. If system performance decreases after making a change, you should reverse the change.

Registry optimizations

Note that several of the memory specific tuning parameters listed here hold relevance only for the 32-bit (x86) versions of the Windows Server 2003 operating system. They are no longer valid for the 64-bit (x64) editions given the greatly expanded memory architecture.


registry As with all changes, ensure you have a working and tested backup of the registry and entire server before making the change. Changes should be made and tested only one at a time. If system performance is negatively affected by making such a change, it should be reversed immediately.

Memory registry optimizations:



At system startup, Windows creates several server threads that operate as part of the System process. These are called system worker threads. They exist with the sole purpose of performing work on the behalf of other threads generated by the kernel, system device drivers, the system executive and other components. When one of these components puts a work item in a queue, a thread is assigned to process it.

The number of system worker threads should ideally be high enough to accept work tasks as soon as they become assigned. The trade off, of course, is that worker threads sitting idle consume system resources unnecessarily.

The AdditionalDelayedWorkerThreads value increases the number of delayed worker threads created for the specified work queue. Delayed worker threads process work items that are not considered time-critical and can have their memory stack paged out while waiting for work items. An insufficient number of threads will reduce the rate at which work items are serviced; a value that is too high will consume system resources unnecessarily.

Key: HKLM\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\SessionManager\Executive
Value: AdditionalDelayedWorkerThreads
Recommended value: 0x10 (16)



The AdditionalCriticalWorkerThreads value increases the number of critical worker threads created for a specified work queue. Critical worker threads process time-critical work items and have their stack present in physical memory at all times. An insufficient number of threads will reduce the rate at which time-critical work items are serviced; a value that is too high will consume system resources unnecessarily.

Key: HKLM\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\SessionManager\Executive
Value: AdditionalCriticalWorkerThreads
Recommended value: 0x10 (16)



Windows allocates memory in pools for the operating system and its components, which processes access through the use of kernel mode. Two pools of kernel mode memory exist: The paged pool (which can be paged to the pagefile) and the non-paged pool (which can never be paged).

Performance and system stability can be seriously impacted if Windows experiences memory resource constraints and is unable to assign memory to these pools. The amount of physical memory assigned to these two pools is assigned dynamically at system boot time.

Some applications and workloads can demand more pooled memory than the system has been allocated by default. Setting the PagedPoolSize registry value as listed below can assist in ensuring sufficient pooled memory is available.

Key: HKLM\System\CurrentControlSet\Control\Session Manager\MemoryManagement
Value: PagedPoolSize
Recommended value: 0xFFFFFFFF

With this value, Windows will calculate the maximum paged pool allowed for the system. For 32-bit systems, this is 491 MB. This setting is typically used for servers that are attempting to cache a very large number of frequently used small files, some number of very large size files, or both. In these cases, the file cache that relies on the paged pool to manage its caching it able to cache more files (and for longer periods of time) if more paged pool is available.

Caution: The 0xFFFFFFFF PagedPoolSize setting is not recommended for use on 32-bit Windows Server 2003-based computers that have 64GB of RAM. This will potentially bring the Free System PTE entry down and can cause continuous reboot of the computer.



By default, the Memory Manager tries to trim allocated paged pool memory when the system reaches 80 percent of the total paged pool. By tuning the Memory Manager to start the trimming process earlier, it would be possible to keep up with the paged pool demand during sudden peak usage, and avoid running out of paged pool memory.

Key: HKLM\System\CurrentControlSet\Control\Session Manager\MemoryManagement
Value: PoolUsageMaximum
Recommended value: 0x3C (60)

Setting the value at 60 informs the Memory Manager to start the trimming process at 60 percent of PagedPoolMax rather than the default setting of 80 percent. If a threshold of 60 percent is not enough to handle spikes in activity, reduce this setting to 50 percent or 40 percent.


SystemPages defines the number of system page table entries (PTEs) that are reserved for mapping I/O buffers and other information into the system address space. Each system page table entry maps one page.

Key: HKLM\System\CurrentControlSet\Control\Session Manager\MemoryManagement
Value: SystemPages
Recommended value: 0x0

Setting the value at 0 informs the Memory Manager to calculate an optimal number of page table entries based on the platform type and the amount of memory available to the system. The system adjusts this value if the amount of memory changes.


The driver verifier at random intervals verifies drivers for debugging randomly. Disabling this functionality might improve system performance.

Key: HKLM\System\CurrentControlSet\Control\Session Manager\MemoryManagement
Value: DontVerifyRandomDrivers
Recommended value: 0x1



File system registry optimizations


Add the NtfsMftZoneReservation entry to the registry to allow the master file table (MFT) to grow optimally. When you add this entry to the registry, the system reserves space on the volume for the master file table. If your NTFS volumes contain relatively few large files, set the value of this registry entry to 1 (the default). Typically you can set this entry to a value of 2 or 3 for volumes that contain a moderate numbers of files, and use a value of 4 (the maximum) if your volumes tend to contain a relatively large number of files.

Key: HKLM\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\FileSystem
Value: NtfsMftZoneReservation
Recommended value: 1 if volumes typically store fewer files.

2 or 3 if volumes typically store a moderate number of files.

4 if volumes typically store a large number of files.

Important: Test any settings greater than 2, because setting this entry to a value greater than 2 will cause the system to reserve a much larger portion of the disk for the master file table.

MaxWorkItems, MaxMpxCt, MaxCmds

The maximum number of concurrent outstanding network requests between a Windows Server Message Block (SMB) client and server is determined when a session between the client and server is negotiated. The maximum value negotiated is determined by registry settings on both the client and server. If these values are set too low on the server, they can restrict the number of client sessions that can be established with the server.

The values that can be adjusted to improve system performance for work items exist in the LanmanServer and LanmanWorkstation registry keys and are MaxWorkItems, MaxMpxCt and MaxCmds

The MaxWorkItems value specifies the maximum number of receive buffers, or work items, the Server service is permitted to allocate at one time. If this limit is reached, then the transport must initiate flow control, which can significantly reduce performance.

Key: HKLM\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Services\LanmanServer\Parameters
Value: MaxWorkItems
Recommended value: 8192

Note: The MaxWorkItems value must be at least four times as large as the MaxMpxCt value

The MaxMpxCt value enforces the maximum number of simultaneous outstanding requests from a particular client to a server. During negotiation of a Server Message Block between the client and the server, this value is passed to the client’s redirector where the limit on outstanding requests is enforced. A higher value can increase server performance but requires more use of server work items (MaxWorkItems).

Key: HKLM\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Services\LanmanServer\Parameters
Value: MaxMpxCt
Recommended value: 2048

Note: The MaxWorkItems value must be at least four times as large as the MaxMpxCt value.

The MaxCmds value specifies the maximum number of network control blocks the redirector can reserve. The value of this entry coincides with the number of execution threads that can be outstanding simultaneously. Increasing this value will improve network throughput, especially if you are running applications that perform more than 15 operations simultaneously. This value is set on the SMB client computer.

Key: HKLM\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Services\LanmanWorkstation\Parameters
Value: MaxCmds
Recommended value: 2048

Note: Start with the default or recommended values for these registry keys, and increase the value in small increments as needed. The more outstanding connections that exist, the more memory resources will be used by the server. If you set the values too high, the server could run out of resources such as paged pool memory.


When a long file name is created using the Windows NTFS file system, the default behavior is to generate a corresponding short file name in the older 8.3 DOS file name convention for compatibility with older operating systems. This functionality can be disabled through a registry entry, offering a performance increase.

Key: HKLM\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\FileSystem
Value: NTFSDisable8dot3NameCreation
Recommended value: 1



Each file and folder on an NTFS volume includes an attribute called Last Access Time. This attribute shows when the file or folder was last accessed, such as when a user performs a folder listing, adds files to a folder, reads a file, or makes changes to a file. Maintaining this information creates performance overhead for the file system especially in environments where a large number of files and directories are accessed quickly and in a short period of time, for example when using the BizTalk File Adapter. Apart from in highly secure environments, retaining this information might add a burden to a server that can be avoided by updating the following registry key:

Key: HKLM\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\FileSystem
Value: NTFSDisableLastAccessUpdate
Recommended value: 1


Maximize data throughput for network applications

If Windows Server is configured to optimize data throughput for network applications, the working set applications will have a priority over the working set of the file system cache. This setting is normally the best setting to use for all servers except dedicated file servers or with applications exhibiting file server-like characteristics.

To optimize data throughput for network applications set the following registry entries:

Key: HKLM\System\CurrentControlSet\Services\LanmanServer\Parameters
Value: Size
Recommended value: 3
Key: HKLM\System\CurrentControlSet\Control\Session Manager\MemoryManagement
Value: LargeSystemCache
Recommended value: 0

Related reading: