All versions of Windows since 3.1 in 1993 store information in a format called NTFS. Not only does this format offer better security and convenience over the systems that it replaces, it offers a convenient space-saving feature that isn’t used nearly as often as it should be: NTFS has inbuilt file compression. When you use NTFS file compression, you get to save on disk space and get access to your files quickly without going through a file expansion step.
The downside to using NTFS file compression
While the NTFS file compression system offers on-the-fly expansion when you need to access your files, it does require considerable CPU power to offer a seamless experience. If your CPU isn’t well-enough specified, you could experience slowdowns. With most modern CPUs, though, slowdowns aren’t a real possibility — they come with plenty of power to spare for most such everyday tasks. In addition, since the NTFS file compression system doesn’t come with an aggressive compression algorithm, the load on the CPU doesn’t tend to be high.
When do you use NTFS file compression?
NTFS compression is ideal for files that you don’t often need to access. If you have a large archive of files that you just need to keep around to use once a month or so, file compression could save you valuable space.
Not every kind of file compresses well. For instance, video files are hard to compress significantly. Impressive reductions in size are possible with text files, on the other hand.
NTFS compression works well when your CPU is powerful and isn’t often used to capacity. If your CPU often needs to hit 80% or above over the course of routine work, you’ll see slowdowns if you try to throw file compression at it. On servers that need to service dozens of requests each minute, having to access many compressed files can be a visible strain on the processor.
How do you get NTFS file compression?
NTFS file compression is built right into Windows. It is available on every context menu, wherever relevant. To run it, all you need to do is to right-click on a file or folder, select Properties and click the Advanced button on the General tab. In the Advanced Attributes dialog box that opens, you need to check the Compress contents to save disk space box and then select Apply changes to this folder, subfolders and files in the dialog box that follows. When a file or folder has NTFS compression, you’ll know it by looking at its name – they have their names printed in blue font.