Is Windows File Compression Worthwhile
By Leo Notenboom
The desire to conserve hard drive space is understandable. However, the use of Windows File Compression may not be the right solution for everyone. Our good friend Leo sheds light on the subject.–PC Pitstop
Should I compress old files?
I was wondering if I should run the Disk Cleanup utility and select the Compress Old Files option to use Windows File Compression. It is currently taking up 14372KB of space.
While you’re only asking about the Disk Cleanup utility, I’m going to talk about Windows File Compression in more general terms. Using file compression to save space is nothing new, even when it’s native in the file system used by Windows. Whether or not it makes sense to use isn’t necessarily a slam dunk.
In fact, without knowing more, I get to use all three of my favorite answers:
After you’ve finishing beating your head against the computer, read on, and I’ll explain why I say all three. We’ll also discover that later versions of Windows itself have made a not-too-subtle suggestion as well.
Windows File Compression
Windows File Compression is a part of the NTFS file system and when enabled, it automatically compresses files to take up less space on the disk. Seems simple enough, right?
As a gross oversimplification, compression means replacing one representation of data with another that takes up less space. For example, the 10 character string “**********” (10 asterisks) might be replaced with three characters – ”10*” – meaning “ten asterisks”. When decompressed, the “10*” would get transformed back into “**********”.
Now, of course, there are complications. For example, we need a way to make sure that if there’s actually a “10*” in the data before compression, we don’t try to turn it into “**********” on decompression.
Suffice it to say that real compression algorithms are exceptionally complex technologies, bordering on an art form.
This post is excerpted with permission from Leo Notenboom.
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