What I learned after 30 minutes with ReFS

Microsoft’s new Resilient File System (ReFS) has been available as an option for enterprise storage needs since Windows Server 2012. But how does it fare for desktop needs in Windows 10? I gave this question 30 minutes of my time.

Windows’ New Technology File System (NTFS) is soon to be . NTFS technology certainly isn’t “new” anymore and Microsoft has tried replacing their veteran file system multiple times over the years. The Resilient File System (ReFS) is Microsoft’s latest attempt at a next-generation file system.

This is by no means a comprehensive review of ReFS nor of its capabilities. It’s a recount of my own experiences and adventures with ReFS on a new spinning disk drive in Windows 10 Professional with Creator’s Update. I used one physical disk setup as a simple disk formatted with ReFS for these tests.

Here are some points I was able to learn after a quick 30 minutes of experimentation on ReFS:

  • You can format a drive with ReFS using Disk Management or PowerShell in Windows 10 Professional. The option is unavailable in Windows 10 Home edition. (This option has later been limited to Windows 10 Workstation and Server editions only.)
  • There’s no support for NTFS features like per-file compression nor encryption. Full disk encryption with BitLocker seems to be supported, but I haven’t verified that it works.
  • Windows Search worked fine even with advanced queries. I’ve read elsewhere that there are problems with Windows Search, but I couldn’t construct any search queries that didn’t return the expected resuls.
  • Windows Backup (a.k.a. File History) will let you backup to and from a ReFS formatted disk. This is probably a bad idea, however, as File History relies on a lot of NTFS features.
  • Windows Store can’t install any Windows Apps to a ReFS formatted disk. It’s listed as an available installation destination, but the Store app will throw an exception if you try to install to it. ReFS doesn’t implement the necessary parts of NTFS’ access control entries required to enforce the Windows Store’s app licensing-technology.
  • I installed a couple of programs to a ReFS formatted disk, and most failed to start. The programs executed, but then quickly ran into different problems or just crashed after a few seconds.
  • All programs I tested could open and save changes to existing files to a ReFS formatted disk. However, about half the programs had problems creating new files under ReFS.
  • I got a steady 70 MB/s when copying many small files onto a ReFS formatted disk. I got speeds varying from 150–180 MB/s with the same file set when copying it to the same disk formatted as NTFS.
  • You can’t convert existing NTFS file system to a ReFS file system in-place. There is no migration path for existing storage pools from NTFS to ReFS. The structures of the two file systems are so different that there’s no easy solution for it either.

It doesn’t look like ReFS will threaten NTFS’ position as the main operating system for Windows quite yet. I’m not sure where Microsoft is going with ReFS, but it doesn’t look like they’re aiming for the desktop. You probably shouldn’t use ReFS on Windows 10 desktops at this time.

Update (): Microsoft is reportedly going to remove ReFS support from Windows 10 Professional edition. It sure doesn’t look like ReFS is the future of the Windows desktop.