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High Performance File System

"HPFS" redirects here. For the HP-UX filesystem, see Hi Performance FileSystem.
Developer Microsoft, IBM
Full name High Performance File System
Introduced November 1989; 30 years ago (1989-11) (OS/2 1.2)
Partition identifier 0x07 (MBR)
Directory contents B+ tree
File allocation B+ tree
Bad blocks B+ tree
Max. volume size 64 GiB (as implemented)
2 TiB (theoretical)
Max. file size 7.68 GiB
Max. number of files Unlimited
Max. filename length 255 characters
Allowed characters in filenames Double-byte from 0x0020 to 0xFFFF
Dates recorded Access, Creation, Modified
Forks Yes
Attributes Read-only, hidden, system, archive, sandwich
File system permissions Yes (only in HPFS386)
Transparent compression No
Transparent encryption No
Supported operating systems OS/2, Windows NT, Linux, FreeBSD, eComStation

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, and released in 1988.

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 last modification-only datestamp)
  • a B+ tree structure for directories
  • root directory located at the midpoint, 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 assembly language. 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.

Due to the Microsoft dependence, limited partition size, file size limit of 2 GiB 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.

Windows NT 3.1 and 3.5 have native read/write support for local disks and can even be installed onto an HPFS partition. This is because NT was originally going to be a version of OS/2.[citation needed]

Windows NT 3.51 can also read and write from local HPFS formatted drives. However, Microsoft discouraged using HPFS in Windows NT 4 and in subsequent versions despite upgrades to NT 4.1 operating satisfactorily with servers pre-formatted with HPFS. Microsoft even removed the ability of NT 3.51 to format an HPFS file system. Starting with Windows NT 4 the filesystem driver PINBALL.SYS enabling the read/write access is not included in a default installation anymore. Later Windows versions do not ship with this driver.

Microsoft retained rights to OS/2 technologies, including the HPFS filesystem, after they ceased collaboration with IBM. Since Windows NT 3.1 was designed for more rigorous (enterprise-class) use than previous versions of Windows, it included support for HPFS (and NTFS) giving it a larger storage capacity than FAT filesystems. However, since HPFS lacks a journal, any recovery after an unexpected shutdown or other error state takes progressively longer as the filesystem grows. A utility such as CHKDSK would need to scan each entry in the filesystem to ensure no errors are present, a problem which is vastly reduced on NTFS where the journal is simply replayed.

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