High Performance File System

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HPFS or High Performance File System is a file system created specifically for the OS/2 operating system to improve upon the limitations of the FAT file system. It was written by Gordon Letwin and others at Microsoft and added to OS/2 version 1.2, at that time still a joint undertaking of Microsoft and IBM.

Among its improvements are:

  • support for mixed case file names, in different code pages
  • support for long file names (255 characters as opposed to FAT's 8+3 characters)
  • more efficient use of disk space (files are not stored using multiple-sector clusters but on a per-sector basis)
  • an internal architecture that keeps related items close to each other on the disk volume
  • less fragmentation of data
  • extent-based space allocation
  • separate datestamps for last modification, last access, and creation (as opposed to FAT's one last modification datestamp)
  • a B+ tree structure for directories
  • root directory located at the mid-point, rather than beginning of the disk, for faster average access

HPFS also can keep 64 KiB of metadata ("extended attributes") per file.

IBM offers two kind of IFS drivers for this file system:

  • the standard one with a cache limited to 2 MiB
  • HPFS386 provided with certain server versions of OS/2, or as added component for the server versions that did not come with it

HPFS386's cache is limited by the amount of available memory in OS/2's system memory arena[1] and was implemented in 32-bit assembler. HPFS386 is a ring 0 driver (allowing it direct hardware access and direct interaction with the kernel) with built-in SMB networking properties that are utilizable by various server daemons, whereas HPFS is a ring 3 driver. Thus, HPFS386 is faster than HPFS and highly optimized for server applications. It is also highly tunable by experienced administrators.

Though IBM still had rights to HPFS, their agreement with Microsoft to continue licensing the HPFS386 version is contingent upon them paying Microsoft a licensing fee for each copy sold. This was a result from the Microsoft and IBM collaboration that both IBM and Microsoft had right to use Windows and OS/2 technology. Microsoft used HPFS in Windows NT.

Because of the Microsoft dependence, limited partition size, file size limit of 2GiB and the long disk check times after a crash, IBM ported the journaling file system JFS to OS/2 as a substitute.

DOS and Linux support HPFS via third-party drivers. Windows NT versions 3.51 and earlier had native support for HPFS.


Windows Native Support

Windows 95 and its successors Windows 98, Windows Me can read/write HPFS only when mapped via a network share, but cannot read it from a local disk. They listed the NTFS partitions of networked computers as "HPFS", because NTFS and HPFS share the same filesystem identification number in the partition table.

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