Windows 2008 R2 and Windows 7 Ultimate both exhibit this behaviour...

So I have directory structure like... YEAR\MONTH\file_x.ext, where YEAR goes back to 2007 and each MONTH directory contains anywhere from hundreds to thousands (2500 max right now) of files.

I have a program that will randomly select a file for working with, but it only works on a single directory. So I created a new directory, and created a hardlink in there for each and every file in my structure (40,000+).

Everything works peachy, except now Explorer reports that the disk only has a few MB left free and refuses to allow any more data to be written to the disk.

Since they are hardlinks I figgure I should have about 40GB remaining free on the disk.

Any thoughts on how to solve this? (eg, allow the single-directory application to operate properly while still retaining the organized structure, and not doubling the disk space usage)

Are you sure that it’s the hard links that are filling your disk? I tested this here, but couldn’t reproduce it.

Theoretically CreateHardLink should be equivalent to the mklink /h command; but just in case, I created the following AutoIt script to make sure that I was using the same function call as you. (I was far too lazy to code something in VC++…)

#include <WinAPI.au3>
#include <WinAPIError.au3>

Local $kernel = DllOpen("kernel32.dll")

If $CmdLine[0] <> 2 Then
   ConsoleWriteError("usage: CreateHardLink Link Target" & @CRLF)

Local $result = DllCall($kernel, "BOOL", "CreateHardLink", "str", $CmdLine[1], "str", $CmdLine[2], "LONG_PTR", 0)
If $result[0] == 0 Then
   ConsoleWriteError("Windows error " & _WinAPI_GetLastError() & ": " & _WinAPI_GetLastErrorMessage())
   ConsoleWrite("Hardlink created for " & $CmdLine[1] & " <<===>> " & $CmdLine[2] & @CRLF)

Then I created a separate 2.0GB disk in VMware and attached it, so that the tests wouldn’t be on the same disk as the pagefile, etc.

Test #1: Create a file with 1024 hard links (1023 + original file):

I put one file in the root directory and created an additional 1023 links to it (the maximum number supported) with the following batch file:

@echo off
dir | find "(s)"
for /l %%i in (0,1,1023) do C:CreateHardLink.exe %%i %1
dir | find "(s)"

Disk usage before:

           1 File(s)      3,212,078 bytes
           0 Dir(s)   2,089,775,104 bytes free

Disk usage after:

        1024 File(s)  3,289,167,872 bytes
           0 Dir(s)   2,089,222,144 bytes free

And Explorer says there are 1.94GB free of 1.99.

Test #2: Many files, all linked to the same directory (your case):

I copied about 1.08GB of data (in files of various sizes, and located in various directories) to the partition, and created one hard link for each file found to a directory called HardLinks. That batch file:

@echo off
setlocal enabledelayedexpansion
dir /s | find "(s)"
set /a i=0
for /r %%a in (*) do (
        C:CreateHardLink "HardLinks\!i!_%%~nxa" "%%~a"
        set /a i=!i!+1
dir /s | find "(s)"

Disk usage before:

        2034 File(s)  1,109,324,978 bytes
        1998 Dir(s)     975,511,552 bytes free

Disk usage after:

        4246 File(s)  2,490,368,854 bytes
        1998 Dir(s)     973,955,072 bytes free

This would be physically impossible without hard links, since my disk is only 2.0GB.

The disk space did decrease by exactly 1520K, which is ~1.46K per hard link created . At that rate, to consume 40GB in just metadata for hard links, you’d need about 29 million of them. (I imagine by that point you’d be hitting another limitation, like the number of file entries in a single directory. ;-)

Apologies that this isn’t a good “answer” per se; but hopefully it gives you some reassurance that, no, hard links aren’t supposed to fill your disk. If I were you, I’d create more hard links in smaller batches and measure the disk space usage before and afterwards. It might also be worthwhile to see if something else on the same disk is using more space than it should be.

I also can’t really think of an alternate solution for you; hard links seem perfect for this case, don’t they?

  • Thank you much for this. I will review my process and compare with your information just as soon as I get that system up and running again. Thank you for all the effort you put into this. – Sam Axe Jan 24 '12 at 19:55

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