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Troubleshoot disk quotas in Windows Server 2003

Disk quotas are a useful storage management feature in Windows 2003, so you should know how to fix problems quickly when they occur.

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Disk quotas are one of the most useful storage management features that Windows 2003 offers. The quotas let administrators control the growth of storage requirements and encourage users to employ storage resources efficiently.

However, because they directly affect users, storage quotas can produce a lot of interaction -- and friction -- with users. For that reason, it is important that you diagnose and fix problems or unusual conditions that arise with disk quotas -- quickly.

Be on the lookout for the following conditions or problems:

If the quota entries aren't being updated, make sure the enable quota management check box on the volume's quota tab isn't selected. If quota management is not enabled, Windows will continue to apply pre-existing quotas, if any, but it won't update them.

The disk quota feature only works on Windows 2000, XP and Windows Server 2003 families. This can lead to a problem with quotas on legacy systems that are still running Windows NT as well as Windows 2003. On such systems, users can exceed their quotas while NT is running, but the next time users start up Windows 2003, they will not be able to add files.

The quick fix is to give the users more space under Windows 2003. You can add to the users' quota under 2003, or clear the Deny disk space to users exceeding quota limit check box in Disk Quotas.

A better long-term strategy (aside from getting everyone off NT) is to either increase the quotas for the users with problems, move or delete files from their volumes or change the permissions on the volume so users do not have write permission under NT.

Generally, you cannot delete a quota entry if it still has files in it. If you cannot delete a quota entry, make sure all the user's files have either been removed from the volume or their ownership has been transferred to another user.

Files that were created under the FAT file system and translated to an NTFS are automatically assigned to the administrator's account since administrators have unlimited volume use. However, since disk quotas are based on file ownership, any changes to the ownership of the files on the volumes may affect disk quotas on the volume. It's important to understand the implications for quotas before converting volumes from one file system to another.

Microsoft discusses troubleshooting disk quotas in a TechNet article at


Rick Cook has been writing about mass storage since the days when the term meant an 80 KB floppy disk. The computers he learned on used ferrite cores and magnetic drums. For the last twenty years, Cook has been a freelance writer specializing in storage and other computer issues.

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