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I've read that cygserver can improve performance in some circumstances but I'm not really clear on how - or on how to know whether it's applicable to our use case.

Can anyone provide any insights?

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The major effect on performance is the cache of network credentials

From https://cygwin.com/cygwin-ug-net/using-cygserver.html

What is Cygserver?

Cygserver is a program which is designed to run as a background service. It provides Cygwin applications with services which require security arbitration or which need to persist while no other cygwin application is running.

The implemented services so far are:

XSI IPC Message Queues.

XSI IPC Semaphores.

XSI IPC Shared Memory.

Allows non-privileged users to store obfuscated passwords in the registry to be used by setuid and seteuid calls to create user tokens with network credentials. This service is used by passwd -R. Using the stored passwords in set(e)uid does not require running Cygserver. For details, see the section called “Switching the user context”.

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