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I have a workgroup set up with Windows XP. My file "server" is running XP Pro and the clients are running XP home. I've turned simple file sharing off on the server because certain clients need access to certain folders and not to others, and I want to keep it that way. Therefore, I've used the granular sharing/security settings to enable certain clients access to certain folders. I'm using the net use command in a batch file on the clients to add the share when they logon so it's always available via a mapped drive or a shortcut. On some clients "My Documents" points to the mapped drive, but all of the local and application settings stay local.

Everything works well except for accessing a certain folder on the network. It contains a lot of random batch files and self-executable programs I use for diagnostics and what not, and nearly every time I open the folder the computer hangs for 15-60 seconds. This happens on every machine, including the server (but not nearly as often as the clients). I've searched high and low and cannot figure it out and it's driving me crazy. Here are all the things I've tried to no avail:

  • Disabled firewall (XP) and anti-virus (ESET NOD32)
  • Deleted any desktop.ini file I can find in the share
  • Disabled "automatically search for network folders and printers"
  • Disabled "remember each folder's view settings"
  • Set HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Policies\Explorer NoRecentDocsNetHood = 1
  • Tried with mapped drives and with UNC shortcuts
  • Ran CHKDSK
  • Removed Read-Only attribute from all folders (well, tried to remove, it always came back on with a half check)
  • Added the server's static IP to the hosts file on the clients

I've tried monitoring the server's performance to see if anything makes sense. Occasionally the issue coincides with a spike in pages/sec (memory) but not always. Other than that, everything else seems normal. The anti-virus would seem to be the most likely cause to me considering the batch files and what not, but it still hangs when it is completely disabled.

I'm at a loss and if anyone can help me with this I'd greatly appreciate it!

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6 Answers

You could try turning on the Show Hidden Files option. This behaviour could possibly be caused by lots of hidden files (and might also explain the inability to completely remove the read-only attribute).

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Good suggestion. However, I turned on hidden and system files and I don't see anything except the regular files in the folder and subfolders. In some folders I see a thumbs.db but those folders have never had any problems opening up quickly. Other than that, nothing :-( –  bikefixxer Apr 28 '10 at 5:00
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Does the share have a lot of Zip files in it by any chance? I've had problems with the XP zip folders function where since it shows them as folders it inspects every one and so can be really slow, especially in large/complex zip folders.

To verify unregister the zip folders DLL on one of the boxes.

regsvr32 /u zipfldr.dll 
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You could try defragmenting the drive that contains the folder in question. That would at least rule something out. Try creating a new folder; copy all the files there and see if the same thing happens with the new folder. If it does, one of the files may be unusually structured, internally - or even partially or completely corrupt. Small utilities I've downloaded from time to time have done some very peculiar things. If you're wondering how the contents of a file has any effect on a directory listing, consider that Windows has to parse each file to extract at least its icon. If the icon data is corrupt it could maybe cause what you're seeing. Then the trouble is finding out which file is the culprit.

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Does this happen when you map a network drive and access it by using "dir" in a console? If it doesn't, I'm willing to bet it's something in Windows Explorer that's trying to do too much work. If it does, I would tend to guess it would have something to do with something going on lower in the stack, like with authentication or a network problem of some sort.

Is your network stack configured only to use TCP/IP, or is there some other lower level transport that's being tried before TCP/IP? I've seen a bunch of computers (especially older ones that run XP) that try other, older protocols first and that causes much pain indeed.

Check your server's SYSTEM event log for hard drive/controller errors. Check your server's SECURITY event log for any logon failures. Unlikely, but worth a look...

Check to make sure that you're only on the "Classic" folder view on the client, and that the client isn't trying to to something silly like make thumbnail images of all of your image files/videos that you might have. This is also a killer. Also cut down on the columns you display in Explorer for those folders, because often clients try to read the metadata of all of the files to show information (like image size or video runtime) in a column.

If you really want to go deep, put Wireshark on one of the clients and see what you can see. Maybe something will strike you, like multiple authentications or something.

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If the files being accessed are on a slower drive (IDE vs SATA). The drive I/O may not be able to keep up. An experiment to try is to attach a spare external USB 2.0 drive and share some files from it. Then measure access times and transfer speeds. I moved from an 80GB ATA-100 drive to a 500GB ATA-100 drive on the same IDE bus and saw 5x transfer and performance improvements.

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I manage 1200 xp clients at work.

Also our goals are to prefer semplicity and clients' speed over complex and almost useless features, so this is a piece of our .REG file :

;disable last access update ( local drives, I don't remember over network shares )
[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\FileSystem]
"NtfsDisableLastAccessUpdate"=dword:1

;Disable "Offline Files and Folders"
[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\NetCache]
"Enabled"=dword:0

;removing Network Scheduled Tasks
[-HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\RemoteComputer\NameSpace\{D6277990-4C6A-11CF-8D87-00AA0060F5BF}]

;this is a client box, not a server
;http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/cc959923.aspx
[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Services\Browser\Parameters]
"IsDomainMaster"="False"
"MaintainServerList"="No"

[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Policies\Explorer]
;http://support.microsoft.com/kb/816375/en-us
;http://support.microsoft.com/kb/885189/en-us
"NoRemoteRecursiveEvents"=dword:1
"NoRecentDocsNethood"=dword:1

I put url references for the hardset and less known items, for the other items you can google.

For my experience, other items to check are : - antivirus realtime scannning - windows updates - malware putting hidden .INF files also over network shares

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