Tape backups may have trouble keeping up with 64-bit systems

When you install Service Pack 1 on Windows Server 2003 for Itanium, your tape backups may slow dramatically. Here's the reason why, and what you can do about it.

New 64-bit systems, like the ones based on Itanium processors, are built for speed. So is the version of Windows

Server 2003 for Itanium systems. However, when you install Service Pack 1 on Windows Server 2003 for Itanium, your tape backups may slow dramatically.

The slowdown can also occur if you have applied hotfix 873422, which corrected an earlier, more serious, problem with some 64-bit tape backups. In that earlier case, with some tape drives, Windows would issue a Tape Device Error whenever you attempted a restore or catalog operation on a recorded tape.

The slowdown would arise because hotfix 873422 and SP1 (which incorporates the hotfix) both limit tape backups to a 64 KB block size. The hotfix solved the Tape Device Error problem, but not without a cost. On 64-bit systems, many high-speed tape drives can handle much larger block sizes. But with SP1 or the hotfix installed, these drives are throttled back and can't operate at their full potential, and so the backups were again slowed down.

On January 31, Microsoft issued a hotfix for this problem. The hotfix requires restarting the system. As usual, Microsoft doesn't recommend applying the hotfix unless you are having the problem and the slowdown is impacting your environment.


Rick Cook has been writing about mass storage since the days when the term meant an 80 K floppy disk. The computers he learned on used ferrite cores and magnetic drums. For the last 20 years he has been a freelance writer specializing in issues related to storage and storage management.

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This was first published in February 2006

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