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We have a folder on a Windows Server 2003 R2 share. The folder is 3.17 GB and contains, 93,679 files (46,839 .txt, 46,832 .tif, 7 .jpg, 1 Thumbs.db). We have moved the folder to another Windows server, a Windows XP workstation and a ReadyNAS II Pro (which runs a Linux OS), but the problems persists.

The problems: 1) Opening this folder in Explorer (at the server or via a Windows XP client) takes much longer than opening other folders on the same share.

2) Opening any of the image files in the folder take an abnormally long time (10-20 seconds). The Windows viewer displays, "Generating preview..." while we wait.

The questions: 1) What is the maximum number of files that should be storing in a single folder? We understand the theoretical limits are very high, but at what point is performance affected?

2) Does the fact that we are storing images in the folder have an impact on the number of files that can be stored in a single folder before performance is impacted?

Links to sources are very much appreciated.

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This is another one of those "how long is a piece of string" questions. It varies wildly based on hardware, software and other variables. (For example, do you have thumbnail caching on, and/or do your users connect to it in one of the views that tries to load up a thumbnail?) It's simply unanswerable, and not likely to be made answerable. Do some benchmarks. Also, while we might not be able to give you a precise answer, I can tell you that storing 93,000 files in a frequently accessed directory is foolish. – HopelessN00b Jul 17 '12 at 20:13
up vote 4 down vote accepted

The performance hits you are seeing come from the way that those tools function. Explorer looks at the metadata of each file in a folder when you open a folder, which requires a read of each and every file within it.

From personal experience, about 2,000-3,000 files is the limit of my patience when using explorer to view a folder shared across a network.

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Thanks for the quick reply. I've seen others reporting similar. I was hopeing for something definitive/authoritative. Maybe even a formula. – Brad Heiple Jul 17 '12 at 20:18
Reboot your system start Process Monitor, then browse to the folder, and watch all the filesystem hits. – Zoredache Jul 17 '12 at 21:48
Formula? 1-2 IOPs per file. How long that takes depends on your storage subsystem and network latency. – Hyppy Jul 18 '12 at 1:23

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