Windows 8 Ready for 2.2TB+ Hard Disks Native 4,096-byte (4K or 4KB) and Advanced Format 512E

Last Updated on Tuesday, 29 November 2011 10:32 Written by Mire_B Tuesday, 29 November 2011 10:32

Windows 8 will no longer have the same problems with large hard disks and large sectors as its predecessors, or at least this is Microsoft’s promise. The company is readying Windows 8 for a time when 2.2TB+ hard disks and going to as much as 8TB will become the norm.

 

Customers with native 4,096-byte sector (4K or 4KB) disks as well as those with advanced format devices, 512E, will both be able to take advantage of Windows 8 unlike any existing version of the platform.

 

Our digital collections keep growing at an ever increasing rate – high resolution digital photography, high-definition home movies, and large music collections contribute significantly to this growth. Hard disk vendors have responded to this challenge by delivering very large capacity hard disk drives – a recent IDC market research report estimates that the maximum capacity of a single hard disk drive will increase to 8TB by 2015.

In 2010, Capacity is 2 TB; in 2011, 3 TB; gradually increasing to a (predicted ) 7 TB in 2015

Maximum capacity growth over time for single-disk drives
(Source: IDC Study# 228266, Worldwide Hard Disk Drive 2011–2015 Forecast:
Transformational Times,
May 2011)

In this blog entry, I’ll discuss how Windows 8 has evolved in conjunction with offerings from industry partners to enable you to more efficiently and fully utilize these very large capacity drives.

The challenges of very large capacity hard disk drives

To start you out with a little bit of context, we will define “very large capacity” disk drives as sizes > 2.2TB (per disk drive). The current architecture in Windows has some limits that makes these drives somewhat tricky to deal with in some scenarios.

Even as hard disk drive vendors innovated to deliver very large capacity drives, two key challenges required focused attention:

  • Ensuring that the entire available capacity is addressable, so as to enable full utilization
  • Supporting the hard disk drive vendors in their effort to deliver more efficiently managed physical disks – 4K (large) sector sizes

Let’s discuss both of these in more detail.

Addressing all available capacity

To fully understand the challenges with addressing all available capacity on very large disks, we need to delve into the following concepts:

  • The addressing method
  • The disk partitioning scheme
  • The firmware implementation in the PC – whether BIOS or UEFI

The addressing method

Initially, disks were addressed using the CHS (Cylinder-Head-Sector) method, where you could pinpoint a specific block of data on the disk by specifying which Cylinder, Head, and Sector it was on. I remember in 2001 (when I was still in junior high!) we saw the introduction of a 160GB disk, which marked the limit of the CHS method of addressing (at around 137GB), and systems needed to be redesigned to support larger disks. [Editor’s note: my first hard drive was 5MB, and was the size of a tower PC. --Steven]

The new addressing method was called Logical Block Addressing (LBA) – instead of referring to sectors using discrete geometry, a sector number (logical block address) was used to refer to a specific block of data on the disk. Windows was updated to utilize this new mechanism of addressing available capacity on hard disk drives. With the LBA scheme, each sector has a predefined size (until recently, 512 bytes per sector), and sectors are addressed in monotonically increasing order, beginning with sector 0 and going on to sector n where:

n = (total capacity in bytes)/ (sector size in bytes)

The disk partitioning scheme

While LBA addressing theoretically allows arbitrarily large capacities to be accessed, in practice, the largest value of “n” can be limited by the associated disk partitioning scheme.

The notion of disk partitioning can be traced back to the early 1980s – at the time, system implementers identified the need to divide a disk drive into several partitions (i.e. sub-portions), which could then be individually formatted with a file system, and subsequently used to store data. The Master Boot Record partition table (MBR) scheme was invented at the time, which allowed for up to 32-bits of information to represent the maximum capacity of the disk. Simple math informs us that the largest addressable byte represented via 32 bits is 232 or 2.2TB. Of course, in the 1980s, this seemed a perfectly legitimate practical limitation to impose, considering that the largest consumer disk available then was a whopping 5MB and cost well over $1500!

As early as in the late 1990s, system implementers recognized the need to enable addressing greater than the 2.2TB limit (among other requirements). A group of companies collaborated to develop a scalable partitioning scheme called the GUID Partition Table (GPT), as part of the Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI) specification. GPT allows for up to 64-bits of information to store the number that represents the maximum size of a disk, which in turn allows for up to a theoretical maximum of 9.4 ZettaByte (1 ZB = 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 bytes).

Beginning with Windows Vista 64-bit, Windows has supported the ability to boot from a GPT partitioned hard disk drive with one key requirement – the system firmware must be UEFI. We’ve already talked about UEFI, so you know it can be enabled as a new feature of Windows 8 PCs. This leads us to the topic of firmware.

Firmware implementation in the PC – BIOS or UEFI

PC vendors include firmware that is responsible for basic hardware initialization (among other things) before control is handed over to the operating system (Windows). The venerable BIOS (Basic Input Output System) firmware implementations have been around since the PC was invented i.e. circa 1980. Given the very significant evolution in PCs over the decades, the UEFI specification was developed as a replacement for BIOS and implementations have existed since the late 1990s. UEFI was designed from the ground up to work with very large capacity drives by utilizing the GUID partition table, or GPT – although some BIOS implementations have attempted to prolong their own relevance and utility by using workarounds for large capacity drives (e.g. a hybrid MBR-GPT partitioning scheme). These mechanisms can be quite fragile, and can place data at risk. Therefore, Windows has consistently required modern UEFI firmware to be used in conjunction with the GPT scheme for boot disks.

Beginning with Windows 8, multiple new capabilities within Windows will necessitate UEFI. The combination of UEFI firmware + GPT partitioning + LBA allows Windows to fully address very large capacity disks with ease.

Our partners are working hard to deliver Windows 8 based systems that use UEFI to help enable these innovative Windows 8 features and scenarios (e.g. Secure Boot, Encrypted Drive, and Fast Start-up). You can expect that when Windows 8 is released, new systems will support installing Windows 8 to, and booting from, a 3TB or bigger disk. Here’s a preview:

C drive is shown with 2.71 TB free of 2.72 TB

Windows 8 booted from a 3 TB SATA drive with a UEFI system

4KB (large) sector sizes

All hard disk drives include some form of built-in error correction information and logic – this enables hard disk drive vendors to automatically deal with the Signal-to-Noise Ratio (SNR) when reading from the disk platters. As disk capacity increases, bits on the disk get packed closer and closer together; and as they do, the SNR of reading from the disk decreases. To compensate for decreasing SNR, individual sectors on the disk need to store more Error Correction Codes (ECC) to help compensate for errors in reading the sector. Modern disks are now at the point where the current method of storing ECCs is no longer an efficient use of space, – that is, a lot of the space in the current 512-byte sector is being used to store ECC information instead of being available for you to store your data. This, among other things, has led to the introduction of larger sector sizes.

Larger sector sizes – “Advanced Format” media

With a larger sector size, a different scheme can be used to encode the ECC; this is more efficient at correcting for errors, and uses less space overall. This efficiency helps to enable even larger capacities for the future. Hard disk manufacturers agreed to use a sector size of 4KB, which they call “Advanced Format (AF),” and they introduced the first AF drive to the market in late 2009. Since then, hard disk manufacturers have rapidly transitioned their product lines to AF media, with the expectation that all future storage devices will use this format.

Read-Modify-Write

With an AF disk, the layout of data on the media is physically arranged in 4KB blocks. Updates to the media can only occur at that granularity, and so, to enable logical block addressing in smaller units, the disk needs to do some special work. Writes done in units of the physical sector size do not need this special work, so you can think of the physical sector size as the unit of atomicity for the media.

As illustrated below, a 4KB physical sector can be logically addressed with 512-byte logical sectors. In order to write to a single logical sector, the disk cannot simply move the disk head over that section of the physical sector and start writing. Instead, it needs to read the entire 4KB physical sector into a cache, modify the 512-byte logical sector in the cache, and then write the entire 4KB physical sector back to the media (replacing the old block). This is called Read-Modify-Write.

Disks with this emulation layer to support unaligned writes are called 4K with 512-byte emulation, or “512e” for short. Disks without this emulation layer are called “4K Native.”

4K Physical Sector is shown with 8 chunks of 512 each. Step 1: Read 4K Sector into Cache from Media. Arrow. Step 2: Update 512-byte Logical Sector in Cache (one of 512 blocks highlighted). Step 3: Overwrite previous 4 K Physical Sector on Media.

As a result of Read-Modify-Write, performance can potentially suffer in applications and workloads that issue large amounts of unaligned writes. To provide support for this type of media, Windows needs to ensure that applications can retrieve the physical sector size of the device, and applications (both Windows applications and 3rd party applications) need to ensure that they align I/O to the reported physical sector size.

Designing for large sector disks

Learning from some issues identified with prior versions of Windows, AF disks have been a key design point for new features and technologies in Windows 8; as a result, Windows 8 is the first OS with full support for both types of AF disks – 512e and 4K Native.

To make this happen, we identified which features and technology areas were most vulnerable to the potential issues described above, and reached out to the teams developing those features to provide guidance and help them test hardware for these scenarios.

Issues we addressed included the following:

  • Introduce new and enhance existing API to better enable applications to query for the physical sector size of a disk
  • Enhancing large-sector awareness within the NTFS file system, including ensuring appropriate sector padding when performing extending writes (writing to the end of the file)
  • Incorporating large-sector awareness in the new VHDx file format used by Hyper-V to fully support both types of AF disks
  • Enhancing the Windows boot code to work correctly when booting from 4K native disks

This is just a small cross section of the amount of work done to enable across-the-board support for both types of AF disks in Windows 8. We are also working with other product teams within Microsoft and across the industry (e.g. database application developers) to ensure efficient and correct behavior with AF disks.

In closing

NTFS in Windows 8 fully leverages capabilities delivered by our industry partners to efficiently support very large capacity disks. You can rest assured that your large-capacity storage needs will be well handled beginning with Windows 8 and NTFS!

 


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Download Internet Explorer 10 (IE10) Platform Preview 4 (PP4) for Windows 8 – Even More Support for HTML5 Technologies

Last Updated on Tuesday, 29 November 2011 01:50 Written by admin Tuesday, 29 November 2011 01:45

Yes, Internet Explorer 10 also supports Windows 7, but the last two platform previews can only be tested on Windows Developer Preview.

 

Speaking of which, testers can now download a new Platform Preview, the fourth, of Internet Explorer 10 for Windows 8. IE10 PP3 was included into Windows 8 Developer Preview. Click here to download IE10 PP4 for Windows 8.

 

An updated platform preview of IE10 for the     Windows Developer Preview is now available for         download. This IE10 preview adds even more support for HTML5 technologies,    enabling richer Web applications with significantly improved performance. IE10’s    hardware acceleration of technologies like SVG, CSS3 transforms and animations delivers    faster rendering than other browsers, as highlighted in this short video.


See some of the new HTML5 capabilities, performance improvements in IE10.

With this fourth Platform Preview, developers can start    working with more site-ready HTML5 technologies. You can read the full list         here in the IE10 developer guide. Here are a few highlights:

  • Cross-Origin Resource Sharing (CORS) for safe use of XMLHttpRequest across domains.
  • File API Writer support for blobBuilder allowing manipulation of large binary objects        in script in the browser.
  • Support for JavaScript typed arrays for efficient storage and manipulation of typed        data.
  • CSS user-select property to control how end-users select elements in a Web page        or application.
  • Support for HTML5 video text captioning, including time-code, placement, and captioning        file formats.

These foundational capabilities are what developers building native applications    depend on: working with binary data and files, controlling selection and hit testing    in application UI, and providing accessible video content with captioning. The features    in this platform preview are available to Web pages now, and will be available to    Metro style applications in Windows 8.

Building HTML5 Applications

This IE10 preview supports CORS (cross    origin resource sharing) to allow developers to use XMLHttpRequest to safely    request, share, and move data across applications on different domains. This is    a common pattern developers use to bring data and services together from different    applications. In this        test drive demo, you can see how CORS is used along with XMLHttpRequest,    the File API, and HTML5 progress control to deliver a smooth experience for uploading    multiple files to a service on another domain.

Screen shot of IE Test Drive demo Cross-Site Update showing four image files being uploaded in response to a file drop on an HTML5 target element.

Click here to see    CORS used with XMLHttpRequest to upload files across domains.

Having the ability to work with binary data and files enables developers to build    new kinds of applications and experiences on the Web. This IE10 preview supports    blobBuilder from File API: Writer    for working with large binary objects (blobs) and JavaScript typed arrays. In this test drive demo,    you can see how different file types, including file types which are not natively    supported in the browser like PCX files can be read, rendered, and even have their    internal contents displayed.

Screen shot of IE Test Drive demo Binary File Inspector showing a hex dump of a PCX file and a rendering of that file using HTML5 canvas and JavaScript.

Click here to    see how JavaScript typed arrays used with File APIs to read and view binary files.

As developers build more sophisticated applications on the Web, they have more need    for precise control over how end-users select parts of the page. With CSS user select    support in IE10, developers can specify which elements in their page can be selected    by the consumer when using their applications. In this         this test drive demo, you can see how selection control is applied in a    sample blog application using the user-select property in a CSS rule.

Screen shot of IE Test Drive demo User-Select showing the markup needed to restrict text selection to a portion of the Web page.

Click here to    try CSS user-select to control end-user Web page selection.

Improving Same Markup for HTML5

We continue to contribute to the     test suites under development at the HTML5 standards bodies, submitting         118 new tests to them, to further the goal of interoperability and same    markup. You can view them at the IE Test Center as well. We strongly encourage all    developers to write for HTML5 standards first by always using the HTML5 doc type    <!DOCTYPE html> in your pages.

IE10 Preview 4 introduces an updated     quirks mode that is more consistent and interoperable with the way quirks modes    works in other browsers like Firefox, Chrome, Safari, and Opera. This updated quirks    mode supports quirks for page layout, while allowing use of more up-to-date standards    features like HTML5 elements for audio, video, canvas, and more.

You can find a full list of new functionality available to developers in the IE10    developer guide here.    Download the Windows 8 developer preview    to try this update to IE10. We look forward to continued engagement with the developer    community and your feedback on Connect.

Rob Mauceri, Group Program Manager, Internet Explorer

 


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Download New Microsoft Security Essentials Public Beta Version 4.0.1111.0

Last Updated on Tuesday, 29 November 2011 01:37 Written by Mire_B Tuesday, 29 November 2011 01:33

Microsoft Security Essentials Public Beta is now available for download, according to Microsoft. Beta testers have started receiving email invitations to take the next version of MSE out for a spin. In order to download the bits testers need to do so from Microsoft Connect.

 

I received the message from the Microsoft Security Essentials team (it’s included below), but so far I was unable to access the new Microsoft Security Essentials vNext bits.

 

Update: Microsoft Security Essentials (MSE) Public Beta version 4.0.1111.0 was leaked and is avaialble in the wild from various warez sites.

 

Welcome to the Microsoft Security Essentials Beta program! The Beta program has started! You can now sign in and download the Beta from theMicrosoft Security Essentials Beta website. The Beta program is a fully functional antimalware app with ongoing updates to help protect your PC from viruses, spyware, and other malicious software. In addition to ongoing virus and spyware definition updates, we’ll provide software updates to the Beta for download through Microsoft Update on a periodic basis.

 

To have these updates installed automatically, you must be subscribed to Microsoft Update with preferences set toAutomatically download and install new updates. Learn moreabout automatic updates through Microsoft Update. During the Beta, you’ll receive additional emails from Microsoft inviting you to participate in optional surveys. These surveys provide us with important feedback that will help improve future versions of the product. Your participation makes a difference! At the end of the Beta program, participants who are subscribed to automatic updates through Microsoft Update will be upgraded to the released version of Microsoft Security Essentials. Instructions for manually upgrading to the released version will be included in an email that you’ll receive at the end of the Beta period. Please note that to continue receiving technical support, you’ll need to upgrade or install the final version of Microsoft Security Essentials once it’s released.

 

Thanks again for participating in the Microsoft Security Essentials Beta program. Best regards,The Microsoft Security Essentials Team


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