What is Instant About Instant File Initialization for SQL Server?

By | In SQL Server | August 03rd, 2016

This feature surfaced for the first time in SQL Server 2005. Though in my opinion, this is a critical feature, not many people know about the impact it has from a performance point of view. In this blog, I will show you how to enable this feature and provide a quick demo that exhibits how it drastically improves performance.

What does instant file initialization achieve? Faster creation of databases, faster data file growth (whenever it happens), and faster restores. It is critical, however, to know that this works only on the Data files and doesn’t apply to Log files. The necessary privilege is Perform Volume Maintenance Tasks when we are talking about Instant File Initialization.

I always enable this on my laptop whenever it gets refreshed; here’s how to do it: Make sure to open up SQL Server Configuration manager -> Select SQL Server Services -> SQL Server and select the Properties. Under the “Log On”, make sure to take a note of the “Account Name”. In your environment, this can be different or in a domain joined machine where the service logon was changed, these will be different values.

Instant File Initialization - Manager

Before I start taking you through the process, I’ll create a database (50GB Data File and 10GB Log file). This is to check the amount of time it takes to create this database on my laptop. It took almost 2:59 mins to perform this operation. This is shown below:

Instant File - Database

For the sake of completeness, let me give you the script that I used. These timings will vary in your environment based on HDD speed.

The next logical step is to add the permission mentioned earlier. For this run, the secpol.msc on your machine. Now under “Local Policies” -> “User Rights Assignment” -> Perform volume maintenance task -> “Add user or Group…” and make sure to add the “Log On” MSSQLServer Service account as we noted in step 1. In my example, I have added “NT Service\MSSQLSERVER” user account as shown in the figure below.

Instant File - Policy

After adding this permission, make sure to restart the SQL Server Service once. After this, just rerun the database creation script as shown before. The same script now runs faster at just under 23 seconds.

Instant File - Restart

The improvement we got by enabling the Instant File Initialization feature is substantial; from 3 minutes to 23 seconds. Though this capability seems to deliver ultimate and mind blowing performance, in a few of the production environments I have seen this is being disabled because of security concerns. Since the file creation doesn’t quite zero the sectors, there might be a way to do DBCC PAGE and get data that was stored inside the filesystem. Though this is beyond the scope of this blog, we can surely take a look at those edge cases in a future post. Were you aware of this feature? Have you enabled it in your environments? Let me know in the comments.

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Contact Us
Pinal Dave
Consultant to Datavail
Pinal Dave is a technology enthusiast and an independent consultant. He has authored 11 SQL Server database books, 21 Pluralsight courses and have written over 3800 articles on the database technology on his blog at a http://blog.sqlauthority.com. Along with 14+ years of hands on experience he holds a Masters of Science degree and a number of database certifications.

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