Slow network browsing in Windows XP

Slow network browsing in Windows XP


1) Shortcuts in 'My Network Places' make network browsing very slow.

If the 'My Network Places' folder contains a shortcut to a network share, then each refresh of the explorer window will attempt to read icon information from every file in the remote location, causing the system to slow to a crawl.

Removing all shortcuts from 'My Network Places' will return the system response to normal.

Every time you open a file via a UNC name, Windows XP will automatically add another shortcut to the 'My Network Places' folder - so the issue tends to get worse over time.

You can prevent the automatic addition of shortcuts with the registry setting below:
Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00

Q841978 - Explorer.exe stops responding when you use network shortcuts (XP)

Similar issues affect the Start menu and Desktop - placing a shortcut to a network resource in either location can drastically slow down system response, particularly when the network resource is unavailable. Shortcuts to Domains or Machines don't suffer from these problems as they always have the same icon. A sensible routine for managing desktop shortcuts for ALL Users can be found here.

There are two methods of accessing the network that avoid this performance problem:

  • Create a drive map and use this to browse the network files
  • Create a shortcut to explorer.exe and pass the UNC name of the resource.
    explorer /e, \\Server\FileShare

2) Explorer randomly locks files

There are reports that Windows Explorer can run very slowly or stop responding if some of the profile permissions get corrupted.

To fix this logout and login with a different (Administrator level) account and rename this folder:

C:\Documents and Settings\<profilename>\Local Settings\Application Data\Microsoft\Windows

When you login again the folder will be re-created with the correct permissions.

3) Listing the contents of a shared folder is slow - Desktop.ini

Another issue that will slow down browsing is the desktop.ini feature. This issue affects Windows clients using mapped drives or UNC connections, this issue was fixed in XP sp2 (Q840309), but from Q326549 has re-emerged in Windows 7.

When listing a directory, Windows will search for and parse Desktop.ini files. This will noticably affect performance when a large number of subfolders are involved, it does this for the current folder and one level down the directory tree.

Desktop.ini can be used to provide a custom icon, thumbnail view, and can make normal file folders into 'Special Folders' (eg Fonts, History, Temporary Internet Files, "My Music", "My Pictures", and "My Documents").

Desktop.ini files are only visible in Windows Explorer if you first un-check "Hide protected operating system files" (under Tools, Options, View)

To see the file locks created by this process run the following command on the file server, while a client is (slowly) listing a large directory:
NET FILE | Find "desktop.ini"

A quick solution to this performance problem is to remove the READ_ONLY attribute from the folder and/or delete the non-essential desktop.ini files.

Other browsing issues
Also consider: AntiVirus software, DNS configuration, the NTFS volume (security descriptors & indexes) defrag and CHKDSK.

Browsing Network Neighbourhood is slow
Workstations which don't need Peer-to-Peer File, Print, or named-pipe sharing can disable the server service to reduce browse master traffic. This will also disable use of the admin$ share.

"Total world oil reserves amount to one thousand billion barrels, yearly consumption is 27 billion barrels" - BP Amoco


CleanRoamingProfile.vbs - VBScript to delete selected files from a roaming profile.
SysInternals - Mark Russinovich - Desktop.ini files fill up the audit event log.
Q904160 - File sharing on the network is slower than expected (WinServer 2003 SP1)
Q885189 - Slow performance from a mapped drive - Windows Server 2003
Q841978 - Explorer.exe stops responding when you use network shortcuts (XP)
Q834350 - Access to network resources is slower
Q822219 - Slow File Server Performance
Q819017 - Long delay before files appear in My Computer (XP)
Q816375 - XP Explorer pane flickers
Q814112 - Network shares open slowly SMB/AntiVirus scanning
Q326549 - Read-only & System attributes for folders
Q321281 - Desktop.ini does not work correctly when you customise the Default Profile
Q320138 - Disable automatic search for network printers and folders (XP)
Q320829 - Increase the Request Size Buffer on the file server - (try between 32 and 64 Kb)
Q319470 - Office2000: Screen response is slow in Save As dialog box in Word
Q315237 - 100-Megabit network packets
Q312403 - Distributed Link Tracking
Q265396 - Slow network performance on a share that uses NTFS
Q245800 - Delay viewing shares (Windows 98/2000)
CleanMgr - Automated cleanup of Temp files, recycle bin
Max Cached Icons - Resize the icon cache

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