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Overview of DFS Namespaces

Updated: October 16, 2013

Applies To: Windows Server 2008 R2, Windows Server 2012, Windows Server 2012 R2

A namespace is a virtual view of shared folders in an organization. The path to a namespace is similar to a Universal Naming Convention (UNC) path to a shared folder, such as \\Server1\Public\Software\Tools. In this example, the shared folder Public and its subfolders Software and Tools are all hosted on Server1.

If you want to give users a single place to locate data, but you want to host data on different servers for availability and performance purposes, you can deploy a namespace similar to the one shown in the following figure. The elements of this namespace are described following the figure.

  • Namespace server . A namespace server hosts a namespace. The namespace server can be a member server or a domain controller.

  • Namespace root . The namespace root is the starting point of the namespace. In the previous figure, the name of the root is Public, and the namespace path is \\Contoso\Public. This type of namespace is a domain-based namespace because it begins with a domain name (for example, Contoso) and its metadata is stored in Active Directory Domain Services (AD DS). Although a single namespace server is shown in the previous figure, a domain-based namespace can be hosted on multiple namespace servers to increase the availability of the namespace.

  • Folder . Folders without folder targets add structure and hierarchy to the namespace, and folders with folder targets provide users with actual content. When users browse a folder that has folder targets in the namespace, the client computer receives a referral that transparently redirects the client computer to one of the folder targets.

  • Folder targets . A folder target is the UNC path of a shared folder or another namespace that is associated with a folder in a namespace. The folder target is where data and content is stored. In the previous figure, the folder named Tools has two folder targets, one in London and one in New York, and the folder named Training Guides has a single folder target in New York. A user who browses to \\Contoso\Public\Software\Tools is transparently redirected to the shared folder \\LDN-SVR-01\Tools or \\NYC-SVR-01\Tools, depending on which site the user is currently located in.


Folders can contain folder targets or other DFS folders, but not both at the same level in the folder hierarchy.

You can administer namespaces by using DFS Management, the DFS Namespace (DFSN) Cmdlets in Windows PowerShell, the DfsUtil command, or scripts that call WMI.

Additional references