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Configure File Share Witness with USB Thumb Drive On #WindowsServer #StorageSpacesDirect

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In this article, we will show you how to configure file share witness with USB Thumb Drive on Windows Server 2019 and later.


In Windows Server 2016, Microsoft added a new type of storage called Storage Spaces Direct (aka S2D). S2D enables building highly available storage systems with locally attached disks, and without the need to have any external SAS fabric such as shared JBODs or enclosures. This is the first true Software-Defined Storage (SDS) from Microsoft. Software-Defined Storage is a concept, which involves storing data without dedicated hardware.

In June 2018, Microsoft made a big announcement for Storage Spaces Direct that will be shipped in Windows Server 2019. One of the announcements was to bring two-node at the edge, and the idea here is with any two-node cluster whether is running Windows, Nutanix, VMware, or anything else, any two-node cluster needs some kind of a quorum solution, it needs a tie-breaker to achieve quorum and guarantee high availability.

Microsoft did already a great job in the previous release of Windows Server, you could use File Share Witness or Cloud Witness by leveraging Azure blob storage for a quorum. However, File Share Witness requires another Windows server to be available in the environment, and Cloud Witness requires Internet access. So what about scenarios with branch offices and retail stores that have no Internet to access the cloud, and no other Windows infrastructure to provide a file share?

For these types of scenarios, Microsoft introduced in Windows Server 2019 a new witness solution called “USB Witness” by leveraging a simple USB Thumb Drive as the witness! This makes Windows Server 2019 Hyper-Converged a great platform to deliver a true two-node cluster, without Internet, without another server, and without even Active Directory.


Before we start configuring file share witness with USB Thumb Drive, we have a couple of small requirements that we need to look at:

1) Router, Switch, NAS:

  • You can use any router, switch, or even NAS storage from any major vendor such as QNAP and Synology.
  • Need to have a USB port.
  • Need to have SMB 2 or SMB 3 support. SMB 1 is not supported. It’s also worth mentioning to remove and uninstall SMB version 1.0 if you are still using it. The original SMB 1 protocol is nearly 30 years old, and like much of the software made in the ’80s, it was designed for a world that no longer exists!

2) USB Thumb Drive:

  • Any USB storage size will work.
  • You can use the cheapest USB thumb drive that you can find.

For this example, I am using a modern router in my home office with USB and SMB 2 support.

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How it works

Simply insert the USB thumb drive into the USB port on your router.

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Use the router’s UI to configure the share name, username, and password for access.

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And finally, login to any member node of the cluster and run the following PowerShell command.

Set-ClusterQuorum -FileShareWitness \\\USBDisk1 -Credential $(Get-Credential)

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If you open Failover Cluster Manager (FCM), you can see the File Share Witness is Online.

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When you navigate to your File Share Witness share on the USB disk, you will see a folder created for your Cluster which contains two files:

1) The VerifyShareWitnessAccess.txt text file, to verify the write access to the share from each cluster node.

2) The Witness.log is under 1 KB in size and contains the membership information for the Cluster.

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You have now successfully configured a File Share Witness on a USB Thumb Drive, for the cluster hosting your workloads.

And that’s it. Enjoy Windows Server 2019!

Thank you for reading my blog.

If you have any questions or feedback, please leave a comment.

-Charbel Nemnom-

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About the Author
Charbel Nemnom
Charbel Nemnom is a Senior Cloud Architect with 20+ years of IT experience. As a Swiss Certified Information Security Manager (ISM), CCSP, CISM, MVP, and MCT, he excels in optimizing mission-critical enterprise systems. His extensive practical knowledge spans complex system design, network architecture, business continuity, and cloud security, establishing him as an authoritative and trustworthy expert in the field. Charbel frequently writes about Cloud, Cybersecurity, and IT Certifications.

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