How are the file metadata stored in Windows?



When it comes to managing file metadata in Windows, IT admins must understand how Windows stores and manages this information in order to properly maintain their network and its data. Metadata is essentially data about data; it is information used to describe and define a file, such as its size, type, and other attributes. In Windows, this metadata is stored in the file system in a variety of ways.

One way Windows stores metadata about a file is in the file system itself. Windows will store the file name, date of creation, date of last access, and date of last modification in the file system. This is done to help the operating system quickly identify and access the file when needed. In addition, Windows will also store the file’s attributes and permissions in the file system. For example, Windows will store whether a file is read-only, hidden, or archived, as well as which user accounts have access to the file.

Another way Windows stores metadata about a file is in the NTFS Master File Table (MFT). The MFT is a database that stores information about every file on an NTFS-formatted drive. This includes the file’s name, size, and attributes. It also stores the file’s data runs, which are collections of clusters on the disk where the file’s data is stored. Additionally, the MFT stores the file’s security descriptor, which contains the file’s owner and the permissions assigned to the file.

Windows also stores metadata about a file in the registry. This includes data such as the file type, the application used to open the file, and the icon associated with the file. This information is used by Windows to determine which application to open when a user double-clicks the file. It also allows Windows to display the correct icon for the file.

Finally, Windows stores metadata about a file in Alternate Data Streams (ADS). ADS are separate collections of data that are stored alongside a file’s main data. This allows applications to store additional data about a file, such as the author’s name or comments about the file. This data is not visible to the user, but can be accessed by the application that created it.

In summary, Windows stores metadata about a file in the file system, the NTFS Master File Table, the registry, and Alternate Data Streams. This data is used by Windows to quickly identify and access files, as well as to determine which application to open when a user double-clicks a file. IT admins must be aware of this information in order to properly maintain their network and its data.

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