What to know before you compress your hard drive.

Question: I found this place on my computer where it says I can compress my C: drive so it has an extra 1200 megs available. Is there anything I need to know before I do this? Is it safe to do this without backing it up first?
— Tony

Answer: You’re talking about DriveSpace. It’s a Windows utility that allows the data on a hard drive to be compressed on the fly.

DriveSpace essentially crunches down files so they use less space on a hard drive. When the crunched files are needed, they are uncrunched automatically by your computer.

The downside to this utility is that it takes time to uncrunch files before they are used, so access to your data is slower.

Once upon a time, DriveSpace-type utilities were great tools because they gave you up to double the amount of storage space your hard drive shipped with. Nowadays, drive compression tools aren’t that useful because larger hard drives have gotten less expensive and people would rather part with a few hundred dollars for a larger hard drive than put up with diminished system performance.

One issue you should be aware of, if you decide to go ahead and use DriveSpace, is that it can’t be used on a FAT32 disk. That’s a new file storage technology that arrived with Windows 95b (also known as OSR 2) and Windows 98, which allows the use of large hard drives and less disk space waste.

There’s more on FAT32 technology on this web page: http://www.project9.com/fat32/.

For more information on DriveSpace on your computer, go to Start and then Help, and type in DriveSpace. If this takes you to Microsoft’s site, be sure to check the results you get for a link to articles in the Microsoft Knowledge Base.