Earlier this month Microsoft introduced a new Windows 10 edition, the Windows 10 Pro for Workstations. With this now there are total seven different edition of Windows 10.
This edition is, as Microsoft themselves describe:
Windows 10 Pro for Workstations is a high-end edition of Windows 10 Pro, comes with unique support for server grade PC hardware and is designed to meet demanding needs of mission critical and compute intensive workloads.
Among all the Pro features and improvements that the new Win-10-Pro-WS will get, ReFS is one of them. And Microsoft is now disabling the ability to create a new ReFS partition in all other editions except the new Workstation one(I am already confused by the naming scheme). So Microsoft is ending support for ReFS for normal users, only 5 years after it was introduced. Let’s see the top 5 reasons why Microsoft is doing so.
What is ReFS?
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ReFS is a new file system that Microsoft introduced in 2012 as an alternative/successor to the popular and old NTFS we all use. It had new improvements like support for longer file names and was much more resilient to data corruptions in a multi disk array. But many of it’s new features came at expense of some basic features which is elaborated below.
1. You Can’t Install OS on a ReFS partition
The first limitation of ReFS is that doesn’t support installation of any OS, not even Windows Server editions. ReFS currently only serves one purpose of storing data. Windows or Linux can’t identify a ReFS drive as bootable one.
2. Limited Compression & Encryption Support
In it’s current version, ReFS doesn’t support file-level compression and encryption and it’s support for Windows Bit-locker is little finicky, unlike NTFS which is fully compatible.
For someone who has huge data, compression is an important feature. Similarly encryption is also crucial for protecting sensitive data.
3. Performance Restrictions
Unlike its NTFS counterpart, ReFS consumes more system resources and has more impact on IOP of a disk. In a server environment this is not factor, but on a normal PC, this can have impact on usage.
The bigger the ReFS disk array is, the more RAM, processor cycles and disk IOPs it will use for checking File Integrity . You can find a in depth comparison between the two file systems here.
4. Apps Cannot Be Installed
In line with the first reason, a ReFS drive does not support installation of any apps or programs. The reason behind this is the non-support of hard links in ReFS.
Very few programs do allow installation on ReFS disk but even they experience problems while running.
5. Profits Profits and more Profits
The last reason isn’t technical but has more to do with business strategy. Much like Windows 10 S is only available pre-installed on a Surface laptop, Microsoft wants to coerce users to upgrade from Pro to Pro Workstation by this tactic to increase sales.
While optimization of an OS for the vast server hardware is a large and costly task, disabling features already available in an edition sure isn’t consumer-friendly.
What To Do If I Have ReFS Drive?
If you already have a disk or VHD formatted in ReFS, your data is not going anywhere. Microsoft is just disabling the ability to create new ReFS disks and you can still access ReFS drives. Moreover this restriction will only come into effect with the Fall Creator Update, so you do have some time to create an ReFS partition.
So, to sum it up, Microsoft’s view that general users don’t have much of a use for ReFS is correct upto some extent, but whether this is just the starting of an micro-transactions era under the WaaS policy remains to be seen. Do share your views through comments.