Is mkdir still atomic? (Windows 7 filesystems mounted on SAN)

We have some old applications that communicate via directory-based queues. Each item in the queue is a file, and there's a header file that maintains an ordered list of the filenames for the items in the queue.

Naturally, this old code needs to lock the queue while items are pushed and popped. What it's doing is creating a lock subdirectory, on the assumption that mkdir() is an atomic operation - if multiple processes attempt to create a directory, only one of them is going to succeed.

One of my co-workers has been trying to chase down an obscure problem, and he thinks the causes is that this locking is no longer working, when the processes are running on different machines, and when the filesystem in question is mounted on a SAN.

Is there any possibility that he might be correct?


Very old question I know, but I hope someone finds this interesting.

I was also getting confusing results using PowerShell to create a shared folder for use as a mutex, so I created a test script.

function New-FolderMutex {
    try {
        New-Item -ItemType directory -Path .\TheMutex -ErrorAction Stop > $null
    } catch {

function Remove-FolderMutex {
    Remove-Item -Path .\TheMutex

1..100 | % {
    if (New-FolderMutex) {
        Write-Host "Inside loop $_"

This script is run while the current directory is in a network share.

When I ran this script simultaneously in two separate PowerShell consoles, it was clear from the error messages that the approach was doomed. There are a number of different errors produced by the call to Remove-Item, even though it is being called only by the process that created the folder. It seems that behind the scenes there are a whole bunch of non-atomic steps occurring.

Of course, the OP was asking about mkdir (probably the system call) and my example uses the much higher level PowerShell cmdlets, but I hope this is of some interest.

Example output from one of two processes (edited for brevity)

Inside loop 30
Inside loop 31
Inside loop 32
Inside loop 33
Inside loop 34
Remove-Item : Access to the path 'H:\My Documents\PowerShell\MutexFolder\TheMutex' is denied.
At H:\My Documents\PowerShell\MutexFolder\Test-FolderMutex.ps1:93 char:5
+     Remove-Item -Path .\TheMutex
+     ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    + CategoryInfo          : PermissionDenied: (H:\My Documents...Folder\TheMutex:String) [Remove-Item], UnauthorizedAccessException
    + FullyQualifiedErrorId : RemoveItemUnauthorizedAccessError,Microsoft.PowerShell.Commands.RemoveItemCommand

Inside loop 39
Remove-Item : H:\My Documents\PowerShell\MutexFolder\TheMutex is a NTFS junction point. Use the Force parameter to delete or modify.
At H:\My Documents\PowerShell\MutexFolder\Test-FolderMutex.ps1:93 char:5
+     Remove-Item -Path .\TheMutex
+     ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    + CategoryInfo          : WriteError: (H:\My Documents...Folder\TheMutex:DirectoryInfo) [Remove-Item], IOException
    + FullyQualifiedErrorId : DirectoryNotEmpty,Microsoft.PowerShell.Commands.RemoveItemCommand

Inside loop 42
Remove-Item : Could not find a part of the path 'H:\My Documents\PowerShell\MutexFolder\TheMutex'.
At H:\My Documents\PowerShell\MutexFolder\Test-FolderMutex.ps1:93 char:5
+     Remove-Item -Path .\TheMutex
+     ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    + CategoryInfo          : WriteError: (H:\My Documents...Folder\TheMutex:String) [Remove-Item], DirectoryNotFoundException
    + FullyQualifiedErrorId : RemoveItemIOError,Microsoft.PowerShell.Commands.RemoveItemCommand

Inside loop 44
Inside loop 45

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