Running Out Of
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Water doesn't compress but ... Data does! File compaction ...

When do you compress your drive for more space, and when do you avoid it?

Running out of space with your storage? Use compression on that data!

Back before the major Operating System publishers had a built in file compaction for data there were some third party solutions that would compact the data contained in a volume.

NOTE: A "volume" is a section of a hard drive or SSD, it could be the complete capacity of the drive or it could be a portion of the capacity or the drive.

When they were first introduced there was a chance you could loose your data if not properly installed (such as DoubleSpace). If the person who did the installation chose encryption and then if they forgot the password they used the data was as good as destroyed.

With today's operating systems one of the features is the ability to compact the data on a drive, another is to encrypt the data (I strongly discourage the use of this encryption because it is low level encryption of only 48 bit, which a thief with a powerful computer and some time can crack). If you want to encrypt your data find a program that is:

  • 128 bit or better encryption algorithm.
  • Has a high level 'Peer Review' of the program to insure there are NO back doors in to the encryption process.

How do you compress your data?

The process is quite involved but easy to describe.

By patterns. That is the program that squeezes the data looks at the data for patterns in the data such as all 'zeros' or more than ten zeros in a row.

Beginning with C programming language programs and their associated library files (dll, dat, hip, ocx, etc) have a lot of open space at the end of the files (Why? Don't ask you wouldn't believe me any way).

This padding can be anywhere from 5K to 20 meg or more of wasted space.

So you when you compact your drive the program goes through each file and removes the empty space and certain patterns where the space would make the file smaller.

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When the program compacts a file it adds 'markers' to the file where the data was removed. The marker contains the start and end of the removed data and the 'pattern' of the data so that when you open a file it is just the same as before you compacted it. If you change any of the data then the process will go back through the file and recondense it.

There are few drawbacks to compacting a volume:

  • Some programs will not run from a compacted drive.
  • The backup of the data will be larger than the stored data on the compacted drive.
  • Your system (where the OS is installed) volume can not be compacted.

If you use data compaction I would recommend you compact folders instead of the complete drive. In the last few months I have found out that Quicken will not open a file that is in a compacted folder, it is possible that Quicken checks the file to see if it is compact prior to opening it because once I decompressed the folder the file would open. Strange...

Don't confuse this compacting the file with defragmenting your hard drive, even compacted files are large and can reside in many different places on the hard drive.

So now you can have more space on your data volume ...

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