Windows 7 Hard Disk Compression and Management

December 14, 2010, By Christian Cawley

The most common use for a hard drive is to store data. Windows PCs and laptops can have several partitions or even disks, and these can quickly run out of space.

Further reading might reveal that this problem can be made worse by temporary files and inefficient disk management that not only fill up your storage device but also slow down your PC. With the right tools you can get around this, and fortunately such tools are included in Windows 7.

We’re going to look at how you can compress your Windows 7 disk drive, defragment and tidy up and generally make your storage more efficient.

How to compress disks in Windows 7

Compress Disk, Save Space

Using the Windows disk compression you can increase space on your hard disk drive. This system leaves the contents of your drive compressed while not in use, and then decompresses the files as you open them.

You will probably find that this system is particularly useful for drives where images and documents are stored as opposed to the system partition where Windows is stored, but this can be a great way to apply additional compression.

Note that this is a drive wide compression that will allow you to only gain a space advantage by compressing all files on a single partition. For more specific compression you will need to investigate using a ZIP or other folder compression utility.

To compress a Windows 7 disk partition, go to Start > Computer and choose the disk partition that you wish to increase storage space on. Right-click the disk and select Properties; on the General tab look for Compress this disk to save file space on the bottom quarter of the box and tick the box. Click Apply to continue with a compressed disk drive!

Disk Cleanup

In order to detect temporary files that you wish to discard, you will need to use the Windows 7 Disk Cleanup tool. This can be started by entering disk cleanup in Start > Search.

When you run the utility, you will first be prompted to select a disk on which to begin the cleanup. (If you only have one partition, the cleanup will begin automatically.)  Click OK when you have chosen a disk to scan, and the Disk Cleanup tool will then assess the amount of data it can remove and how much space you can save. If you’re unsure about what you might be deleting, use the View Files option; otherwise, proceed with the Clean up system files option.

Using Windows 7 Disk Defrag

It never ceases to amaze how many users are unaware of how important it is to defragment a hard disk drive, particularly the Windows 7 system drive. That it is so easy to do also comes as a surprise, and ideally you should be looking to defrag the drive at least monthly. Daily users should consider a weekly defrag of the system drive and perhaps a fortnightly or monthly defrag of other drives they regularly use.

While it can take a while to complete a disk defrag is easy to instigate – go to Start > Computer, find the disk you wish to defrag and right-click to select Properties. On the Tools tab, go to Defragment now… and select your disk. Click Analyze disk to scan the disk for defragmented files, and if a high percentage of defragmentation is displayed you will need to use Defragment disk to resolve this.

What defragmenting the drive does is bunch together data on the drive; when written the data will have been placed in the nearest available sector to the hard disk’s read/write head. “Defragging” the drive resolves this, making the drive more efficient and improving its lifespan.

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