Many folks are familiar with the concept of zipping files or folders in order to reduce their size. However, Windows has the built-in ability to compress folders and files in a manner that is very transparent.
Why NTFS Compression?
As alluded to above, the biggest advantage of using NTFS compression is its transparency. There’s no need to compress and decompress manually like with stand-alone utilities such as WinZip, etc. Once applied, NTFS compression and decompression occurs automatically, without the need for any user intervention.
NTFS compression is also very flexible in terms of its scope – it can be applied to a single file, one or more folders, or an entire disk drive (NTFS volume).
Tip: As its name implies, NTFS compression is supported only on NTFS file systems (e.g. it won’t work with FAT32, for example). Not sure what type of file system you have? Just right-click a drive in Windows Explorer and select Properties from the resulting pop-up menu. The file system type will be displayed in the General tab of the Properties window.
When to Use NTFS Compression
Some file types compress better than others. NTFS compression is well-suited to a range of file types, including:
- Documents, such as those produced by Microsoft Office
- Text files such as as log files, configuration files, XML data, and many others
- Uncompressed image files (such as bitmap images)
When NOT to Use NTFS Compression
It’s important to note that NTFS compression can cause a decrease in performance with working with NTFS-compressed files. This happens because Windows is automatically decompressing files for you behind the scenes whenever you open them. When you close the file, Windows then compresses it again. This process does consume some amount of computing resources (primarily CPU time), making NTFS compression more suitable to folders and files that are infrequently accessed.
NTFS compression also isn’t well-suited to all file types. For example, many image file formats (such as JPEG, PNG, etc.) are already compressed and won’t benefit much (if at all) from NTFS compression. The same is true for some video file formats, zipped files, program installers, etc.
Compressing an Entire Drive
You must be logged on as an administrator or a member of the Administrators group to complete this procedure. To compressing an NTFS volume:
- Click Start, then click My Computer.
- Right-click the volume you want to compress, and then click Properties.
- On the General tab, click to select the Compress Volume to save disk space check box, and then click OK.
- In Confirm Attribute Changes, click the option you want.
Compressing Individual Files or Folders
- Click Start, and then click My Computer.
- Double-click the NTFS Volume that contains the folder or folders you want to compress.
- Right-click the file or folder you want to compress, and then click Properties.
- On the General tab, click Advanced.
- Click to select the Compress contents to save disk space check box, and then click OK.
- In the Properties dialog box, click OK.
- In Confirm Attribute Changes, click the option you want.
Finally, a key component of using any compression mechanism effectively is understanding how your disk space is currently being allocated. FolderSizes can help you to understand precisely which files and folders are taking up the most space, as well as identify logical compression candidates (e.g. large folders, old files, document file types, etc.).
FolderSizes 7 introduced an powerful feature called Snapshots, which allow you to capture the metadata state of an entire file system for further analysis at a later date and time. Snapshots are useful for a wide variety of purposes, but today we’ll focus on the ability to search a file system even after it’s no longer online.
We’ll start by first using the Snapshot feature within FolderSizes 7 to capture the state of a file system point. Please note that Snapshots can be generated from any available file system node – a drive, folder, network share, or even multiples of any of the above. For this example, we’ll capture the entirety of the host system’s D drive.
Start by selecting Snapshot | Create New Snapshot from the main window within FolderSizes.
The Snapshot Generator window will appear. As mentioned above, we’re capturing the state of the local data drive (with a drive letter of “D”) in this example, and writing the resulting Snapshot (.fssx) file to a temporary folder on the local C drive.
Clicking the Create Snapshot button will begin the capture process. The amount of time required and the size of the resulting Snapshot (.fssx) file will depend upon the amount of data stored on the D drive (in addition to other variables such as disk speed, etc.). In the case of our example, the FolderSizes Snapshot feature captured the state of 11,238 folders and 1,516,277 files within an elapsed time of 3 minutes and 26 seconds.
I would like to point out that FolderSizes has built-in support for scheduling the generation of Snapshots. This not only allows the capture to take place during non-business hours (if desired), but also easily enables the accumulation of regular Snapshot (.fssx) files for later use (e.g. trend analysis, data archival, etc.).
Now that we have a Snapshot (.fssx) data file, it can be used in place of the equivalent live file system within FolderSizes. You can generate folder reports, file reports, and searches against the Snapshot data file, but in this case we’re going to try a search.
We start the FolderSizes Search tool and use the New Path button to browse for our newly created Snapshot file.
As you can see above, we’ve designated the Snapshot file as a search path. In fact, you can easily search multiple Snapshot files using this method just by adding them to the list. You can even search a combination of Snapshot files and live search paths at once.
Now we’ll switch to the Search Rules tab and define a simple file-based search rule that will find any image files within our Snapshot.
With that done, we can close the File Rule Editor and Start the search. Since the Search itself is reading from a single, consolidated Snapshot, it will generally execute very quickly. In the example scenario above, the search found 1,345,085 image files for a total of 10 GB of disk space within 1 mins and 55 seconds.
And so there you have a simple, step-by-step example of how to capture the state of a file system node as an offline Snapshot (.fssx) file, and later search it at will even when the target file system node is no longer available.
Benefits of this technique include:
- Provide reporting and analysis capabilities to other users that lack access to the target file
- Create a history of file system state that can be used for historical review or investigation
- Generate reports even when the target file system(s) are offline or otherwise unavilable
In future articles, we’ll discuss additional capabilities exposed by this amazingly powerful and unique capability of FolderSizes.
Key Metric Software is proud to announce the public availability of FolderSizes 7.5.
This release continues to build on our position as a world leader in disk space analysis software by adding a number of compelling new features and enhancing existing ones.
New features and improvements:
- New disk usage history tracking capabilities
- Percentage growth indicator now available for disk-based reports and views
- Disk reports can now be scheduled for periodic execution
- The trend analyzer can now consume Snapshot (.fssx) files directly
- Improved column sizing for reports exported in Excel file format
- New ability to apply NTFS compression to text-based report export files
- Added a new “Files (Immediate)” column to the folder report detail view
- Scheduling assistance integrated into Disk Reporter, File Report, and Search tools
- File report ranges can now be reset to their default values
- Numerous user interface enhancements
- Minor bug fixes
To better introduce the new disk history tracking capabilities of FolderSizes 7.5, we have written a technical overview that may be of interest to you.
FolderSizes v7.5 is a free upgrade for all v7 license holders. Version 7 license owners can simply download the new release and install it.
If you’re still running an older release of FolderSizes, you’re missing out on some amazing new capabilities. Please consider upgrading your FolderSizes license today:
Please don’t hesitate to reach out to us if you have questions, comments, or suggestions. We love hearing from our customers. Just send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, and we’ll get back to you quickly.
We’ve published a white paper on one of the most useful new features introduced in FolderSizes 7 – the ability to take file system snapshots, from which any report (or even search) can be executed in the future.
We’ve received a number of emails recently asking whether we’ll continue supporting FolderSizes on Windows XP now that Microsoft’s support for the OS has been discontinued.
The answer is yes – we will continue supporting FolderSizes on Windows XP for the foreseeable future. Our goal, as always, is to meet the needs of our customers – and a considerable number of you still use this operating system.