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How to Play Nicely with IO

Wednesday 12 May, 2004, 11:44 AM

I recently lamented the apparent lack of support for prioritizing IO in Windows.

Sean McLeod pointed out to me a paper published by Microsoft Research on this topic. The paper's title is 'Progress-based regulation of low-importance processes.' It describes a mechanism they call 'MS Manners,' which allows a low-importance process to use resources in such a way as to avoid degrading the performance of more important processes using the same resources.

I wish my virus scanner used this.

Actually, scratch that. I wish something like this was built into Windows... The OS can already prioritize use of the CPU, but with a modern PC, the CPU is often the one of the least important factors in how long things take - most of what I do seems to be network-bound or disk-bound. I think the OS should be prioritizing access to any resources whose use has a noticeable affect on the user experience.

(And I also want things like virus scanning not to churn the contents of my disk cache, or to cause Windows to decide to trim the working set of every process as it tries in vain to cache my whole hard disk... The virus scanner is reading everyone on my hard disk exactly once, so there's absolutely no need for the OS to start reallocating memory to the disk cache on its behalf. But that's a different issue.)

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