WSUS: Recovering Disk Space

Over time, my WSUS (Windows Server Update Services) Server began to consume alarming amounts of disk space, mainly due to neglect on my part. So, it was time for a bit of a tidy up.

Declining Superseded Updates

The most important thing to realise is that (even though there were over 30,000 items listed within the database) the only updates that are consuming disk space are the ones that have been approved. WSUS does not download updates that have a status of “Unapproved” or “Declined”.

So, lets have a look inside the console.

Go to “All Updates” and filter the results to “Approval: Approved” and “Status: Any”

WSUS Superseded Updates 010b

From the screen capture (above) it can be seen that I have almost 5000 approved updates filling up my server drive. The download folder was in excess of 50GB.

All of these updates would have been required at some point, otherwise I would not have approved them. However, a significant proportion of these will have been “Superseded”. In other words, Microsoft has issued an update that replaces a previous one, and therefore only the newer one is required.

The first step will be to identify and “Superseded” updates and “Decline” them.

The easiest way to identify “superseded” updates is to show the “Supersedence” column within the WSUS Console.

WSUS Superseded Updates 010c

The supersedence icon next to each update will enable us to identify updates that are no longer required:

WSUS Superseded Updates 023 These updates (and any updates without an icon) have not been superseded. These updates are “current” and we need to keep them.
WSUS Superseded Updates 023B These updates have been superseded, and (in most cases) are surplus to requirements.

As stated above, we are only interested in superseded items. Anything that has not been superseded may be needed.

So, let’s go ahead and select a few superseded updates and “Decline” them.

You should only select updates that have been superseded, and where the “Needed” count is zero and the “Installed / Not Applicable” value is 100%.

WSUS Superseded Updates 020b

Just select a dozen or so items to begin with. Then, click on “Decline” (and “Yes” to confirm).

WSUS Server Cleanup Wizard

After “Declining” the updates, Run the WSUS Server Cleanup Wizard. You should see some “Unused” updates have been removed and some disk space has been recovered.

WSUS Superseded Updates 063b

When you are satisfied with the results, go ahead and decline a larger batch of updates. Remember to make sure that they are:

  • Superseded
  • Needed Count = 0
  • Installed / Not Applicable = 100%

A Warning about “WSUS Updates”

These are updates to the WSUS Service itself. If you have inadvertently declined any of these updates, you will need to re-approve them. Otherwise, the WSUS system will not operate properly.

Within “Updates”, go to the “WSUS Updates” container and approve all updates that are listed as “Not Approved”.

WSUS Superseded Updates 051b

“Un-approving” (rather than “Declining) Updates

It is just as valid to “un-approve” updates as it is to “decline” them. However, I found that when an update is “un-approved”, the WSUS Cleanup Wizard waits for 30 days before deleting the download files from the WSUS folder.

Creating a Shared Resource Calendar in Exchange 2007

It’s often handy to create a shared calendar within your organisation for booking rooms and other shared resources such as cars and laptops.

Outlook / Exchange 2007 makes this easy to achieve.

Firstly, create a shared Calendar (within Public Folders) using Outlook. For the purposes of this example, let’s call this “Pool Cars”.

Shared Calendar 001  

Shared Calendar 002

The next stage is to create the shared  resource(s). This must be done within “Exchange Management Console” on the Exchange 2007 Server (Start => All Programs => Microsoft Exchange Server 2007 => Exchange Management Console). Again, it is a simple process using the “New Mailbox” Wizard. You should choose either a “Room Mailbox” or an “Equipment Mailbox”.

Shared Calendar 011

Use the table below for completing the details within the wizard.

Mailbox Type Room Mailbox or Equipment Mailbox
User Type New User
User Information Fill in the User (Resource) Information as required.
User Logon Name PoolCar01
Password Anything valid will do (the account will be disabled)
Alias (Email Address) PoolCar01
Mailbox Database Set as per your organisation
Managed Folder Mailbox Property Set as per your organisation

Now that the Resource Mailbox has been created, it needs to be configured to “Auto Accept” Meeting Requests. This must be done within the “Exchange Management Shell” on the Exchange Server (Start => All Programs => Microsoft Exchange Server 2007 => Exchange Management Shell). Type the following command into the shell:

Set-MailboxCalendarSettings "PoolCar01" -AutomateProcessing AutoAccept

Shared Calendar 035

To check that the value has been set correctly, type:

Get-MailboxCalendarSettings “PoolCar01" | fl

That essentially completes the process. You can create as many shared resources as your organisation requires (you do not need to purchase additional CALS for these mailboxes).

Additional Notes

By default, a resource cannot be booked for more than 24 hours (1440 minutes). This setting can be adjusted using the Exchange Management Shell. The example below extends the time to 5 days (7200 minutes):

Set-MailboxCalendarSettings "PoolCar01" –MaximumDurationInMinutes 7200

Dell PERC RAID Controller Configuration

The Dell PowerEdge Expandable RAID Controller Card Configuration Utility (BIOS) is accessed by hitting CTRL-R (or CTRL-C) at System Startup. From here, you can setup new RAID Arrays and maintain existing ones.

There are normally three options within the Configuration Utility:

  • Virtual Disk Management (these are the “Disks” that the Operating System can “see”)
  • Physical Disk Management (these are the physical disks attached to the Controller Card)
  • Controller Management

If you have an existing RAID Configuration, you may wish to think carefully before selecting any of the following options:

  • “Easy Configuration” will WIPE the existing Configuration / Disks
  • “New Configuration” will WIPE the existing Configuration / Disks
  • “Initialise” will WIPE the existing Configuration / Disks
  • “Clear” will WIPE the existing Configuration / Disks

Dell has various RAID Controller Cards available. Below is a summary of the more common ones:

PERC H200

This is an “entry level” card that only supports RAID 0; RAID 1 and RAID 10. Also, the number of Virtual Disks is limited to two. So, an ideal configuration would be a RAID 1 array for the Operating System and a second RAID 1 array to house the Data.

PERC 6/i

This card supports RAID 0,1,5,6,10.

PERC H700

This card supports RAID 0,1,5,6,10

Dell PERC RAID Controller: Degraded RAID States

The failure of a Hard Disk within an Array will cause the Array to become “Degraded”.

The failed disk will be marked as “Offline” within the RAID BIOS.

It is always worth trying to force the disk back “Online” before trying anything else.

If this doesn’t work, replace the faulty Drive ASAP with a brand new drive (of equal or larger capacity), and the array will re-build automatically. If you have a “Hot Swap” chassis, you can do this whilst the server is running.

Replacing the faulty disk with one that has been previously used in another array, will cause the new drive to show up as “Foreign”. In this circumstance, you will need to “Clear” the Foreign Array before you can use it: Foreign Config => Clear. It is always simpler to use a brand new drive.

DO NOT select “Clear Config” from the Main Operations Menu, or you will destroy all of the data on your Array!

Note: RAID 0 has no redundancy built in, and so cannot survive the loss of even a single disk. You will need to restore the entire system from Backups in this scenario.

Dell PERC RAID Controller: Foreign RAID States

The Dell PERC RAID Configuration BIOS will mark an Array as “Foreign” under the following circumstances:

  • The entire Array has been moved across from another server (and therefore the RAID Card has no knowledge of the Array)
  • There has been a “glitch” on the RAID Card and the configuration has lost details of the existing Array(s) that are attached to it.

Essentially, the BIOS is indicating that it has found an array that is it has no knowledge of. In this circumstance, you would most likely wish to “Import” the array. In order to do this, the status must be either:

  • Ready (including any hot spares) or
  • Degraded (part of the Mirror is missing)

DO NOT “Clear the Foreign Configuration”, unless you wish to completely erase all the data on the Disks!

iTunes and Roaming User Profiles

If your organisation has made the move towards issuing staff with iPhones and iPads, you may well be railroaded into installing iTunes on their respective workstations. This is all well and good, but if you are also using “Folder Redirection” and “Roaming User Profiles”, you may find the hard disk space on your network file server depleting at an alarming rate.

Several of my users installed iOS 7 yesterday and their profiles swelled from a few hundred MB to 5 GB each!

If we discount any music / video they store on the devices for a moment, the large files that caused the majority of the damage are held within “C:\Users\UserName\AppData\Roaming\Apple Computer”. Specifically:

  • C:\Users\UserName\AppData\Roaming\Apple Computer\MobileSync
  • C:\Users\UserName\AppData\Roaming\Apple Computer\Logs
  • C:\Users\UserName\AppData\Roaming\Apple Computer\iTunes\iPhone

So, as a damage limitation exercise (and to claim back some of my server storage), I decided to exclude the above folders from the roaming process by making use of group policy.

In a previous article, I implemented a similar policy to prevent the user “Download” folder from roaming: here. I have subsequently done the same for “SkyDrive” (which can be up to 7GB with a free account) and Java (Windows XP Only). So, if you follow those notes, simply add the two iTunes folders to the exclusion list (separated by a semi-colon).

The screen shot below shows how the policy setting now looks, with the Downloads; SkyDrive; and iTunes exceptions in place.

Exclude Directories in Roaming Profile 004

Small Business Server 2008 Remote Management

Several tools are available for managing Windows Server 2008 remotely (when physical access to the server console is not possible). Normally, this would be when seated at a Windows XP or Windows 7 Workstation that is connected to the domain, either on the local network or via a VPN link.

  • Remote Desktop Session
  • Windows Server 2003 Administration Tools
  • RSAT (Remote Server Administration Tools)
  • Exchange 2007 Management Tools
  • Computer Management Snap-In

Remote Desktop Session
From the remote workstation, Start Menu => Accessories => Remote Desktop Connection. Type the Server (Computer) Name; click “Connect”; and enter the admin credentials when prompted. It is important to note that for when adding new users within a Small Business Server (SBS) environment, you MUST use a Remote Desktop Session in conjunction with the “Windows SBS Console”.

Windows Server 2003 Administration Tools (AdminPak.exe)
”AdminPak” is a download from the Microsoft Web Site. Even though these tools were designed for Server 2003, they can be installed onto a Windows XP Professional Workstation in order to administer SOME of the features of Windows Server 2008. The following can be used: Active Directory Users & Computers; Active Directory Domains & Trusts; Active Directory Sites & Services; Computer Management (see below); WINS; DHCP; Event Viewer.

RSAT (Remote Server Administration Tools)
A new set of administration tools is released for each version of Windows Server. Generally speaking, you would use Windows Server 2008 tools from a Windows Vista (or newer) Workstation (as they are both the same generation of operating system). For the same reason, you would use Windows 7 to remotely administer a Windows 2008 R2 Server. Download the appropriate version of RSAT for the server / workstation combination you wish to use. The tools must then be enabled on the workstation from within: Control Panel => Programs = Program & Features => Turn Windows Features On or Off.

Exchange 2007 Management Tool (E2K7SP1EN32)
Small Business Server 2008 includes a copy of Exchange Server 2007. The Exchange Management Tools can be downloaded from the Microsoft Web Site (and will run on Windows XP / Server 2003 SP1 or newer). Make sure Custom Install / Management Tools is selected.

Computer Management (compmgmt.msc)
For certain basic tasks (such as starting and stopping services), the standard “Computer Management” snap-in can be used from almost any workstation (including Windows XP). From within the console, just select “Connect to another computer” on the Action Menu.