August 18, 2014

Have SSD and HDD work together in your Client Computers

In a recent upgrade for our computer pool, we also wanted to install SSDs in every computer. While SSDs are great, they usually don’t work that well with huge amounts of data. Some of our users store 100+ GB of data on the computers. Even though SSDs are becoming cheaper and cheaper, it wouldn’t make sense to put a 1 TB SSD in every computer: it is just too expensive.

Because of that we decided to take another approach: Every computer gets a relatively large 250 GB SSD and a 1+ TB HDD. We install the OS and Apps onto the SSD. First, I thought we could move the C:\Users directory to the HDD. Well, it turns out that this is actually possible, but not really a recommended thing to do. I didn’t test it, so I can’t really say anything about it, but this KB describes known issues with the FolderLocation setting. Despite being not-really-supported by Microsoft, users won’t profit too much from the SSD performance. Their user profile which usually contains lots of small files that are read often will still be on the slow HDD.

So we took another approach. Because compiling software from a network share is painfully slow, our users usually store their sources on the local drive and then copy it to the server in the evening before they leave. Our MDT does the following on OS installation:

  • Remove Permisison for “Authenticated Users” to create new directories/files on the root of SSD and HDD drive. Previously, we didn’t do this so users started creating directories all over the C: drive, which was quite chaotic…
  • Create a scheduled task triggered by user login that creates a directory on the HDD to which the user has exclusive access to.
  • Share that folder on the network so users can copy their files from the computer if they ever need them on a different computer.
  • I am currently developing a script that copies the local data from the HDD to the server and shuts the computer down afterwards. Our users can then start this script when they leave and don’t have to wait for the copy process to finish.

We will be deploying this to our computers in the next weeks. I set it up on a test computer a few days ago and will see how it works.

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