3.4 Searching Your Computer

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3.3 Compressing Files and Folders

No matter how large your hard disk is, it's never big enough. Sooner or later, you're going to run out of space, which means constantly pruning files or installing an extra hard disk ‚ both of which can seriously carve into your Solitaire time.

Good news: you can create extra hard disk space without spending a penny or deleting files. Simply compress your files so they're much smaller than their normal size . This section offers hints on saving space with compression.

3.3.1 Getting Extra Disk Space by Using NTFS Compression

A simple way to get more disk space is to use Windows XP's built-in NTFS compression ‚ a scheme that only works with hard disks that use the NT File System (NTFS). (The steps later in this hint explain how you can find out if yours does.)


Note: NTFS, besides being an intimidating technical-looking acronym, merely stands for the disk-formatting system that Microsoft developed for Windows NT back in 1993. It represented a departure and improvement over the earlier DOS and its descendant, FAT, a system that previous versions of Windows ran on. Windows XP, advanced and versatile, can run on either a FAT or NTFS drive.

NTFS compression can shrink the size of individual files and folders or entire drives . Once you've compressed any of these items, Windows XP automatically decompresses them when you use them, and then compresses them again when it saves them. (Unless you have a slow computer, you won't even notice this process.)

But be careful about which files you compress, because you can slow down your system if you choose the wrong ones, and you may not save much space on your hard disk in return. Here are some tips to keep in mind when deciding which files to compress:

  • Music files in MP3 and WMA formats are already compressed, so compressing them won't yield benefits ‚ but it can retard your system.

  • GIF and JPEG graphics files are already compressed as well.

  • Bit-mapped graphics file formats (like .bmp and .tif) are not compressed, so you can save a lot of space compressing those.

  • Microsoft Word files and database files are great candidates for slimming down.

  • Don't compress system files and .log files like those found in your Windows folder: If you do, your system can take a very severe performance hit.

  • If you compress a file, you can't encrypt it. For more information about encrypting files and folders, see Section 12.2.

3.3.1.1 Compressing a folder

Here's how to use NTFS compression for a particular folder:

  1. Make sure your hard disk uses the NTFS file system .

    To find out, right-click the icon for your hard disk in Windows Explorer. Choose Properties General and next to "File system," see whether it reads NTFS, as shown in Figure 3-13.

    Figure 3-13. Before you can use NTFS compression, you have to make sure your hard disk uses the NTFS file system. Even if you don't plan to use NTFS compression, it's a good idea to convert your file system to NTFS because it also allows you to encrypt files. For information on converting to NTFS, see Section 3.3.1.


  2. In Windows Explorer, right-click the folder you want to compress, and then choose Properties General Advanced .

    The Advanced Attributes dialog box appears, as shown in Figure 3-14. This dialog box also lets you control other folder features, such as indexing the folder for faster searches. (When you've indexed a folder, Windows keeps track of its files, so you can find them more easily.)

  3. Turn on the box next to "Compress contents to save disk space" and click OK. When the Properties dialog box appears, click OK again .

    Windows compresses the folder and all of its contents.

Figure 3-14. The Advanced Attributes dialog box for a folder lets you do more than compress the folder's contents. You can also encrypt the folder so only you can see what's inside. But you can't compress a folder and also encrypt it. As you can see here, when you turn on compression, the encryption feature is unavailable (grayed-out). So if you have a folder whose contents you want to keep secret, better to encrypt it rather than compress it.



Tip: As you use Windows Explorer, you can tell which files are compressed and which aren't ‚ compressed folders should be blue. If yours aren't, and you want them to appear in color, choose Tools Folder Options View. Scroll down and select "Show encrypted or compressed NTFS files in color ."
3.3.1.2 Compressing an entire drive

If you want to compress an entire drive, and not just individual folders, right-click the drive in Windows Explorer and choose Properties General "Compress drive to save disk space." (You can compress any drive.)

After a prompt asks you to confirm your choice, Windows compresses every folder and file on the drive, one after another. Depending on the size of the drive, this process can take several hours, but you can continue to use your PC while the compression takes place. Just be aware that during that time, you may be prompted to close a file you're working on so Windows can compress it.

3.3.2 Getting Extra Space by Using Zip Folders

For files you frequently use, NTFS compression is a great bet because you can quickly open and then recompress 'em. But Windows XP helps you save disk space another way ‚ by using Zip files. Zipped files use a type of file compression technology that smushes files and entire folders much more effectively than NTFS file compression. Plus, Zip files work on any kind of file system, not just NTFS. But zipped folders are slower to close and open ‚ which can be a significant drawback.

Here's when you'd use Zip files instead of NTFS compression:

  • When you need to send a large file or files to someone via email . You can Zip all the files into a single archive (folder) and send it without taxing your Internet connection ‚ because you've shrunken the files, they take less time to transfer.

  • Storing files you rarely use . You can create Zip archives to store the files, and then delete the originals . You can usually save anywhere from 10 to 90 percent of the original file sizes.

  • Gaining the maximum amount of disk space . If hard disk space is at a premium, you'll save much more space with Zip files.

  • When you want to compress and also encrypt files . Although you can't encrypt files that have been compressed using NTFS, you can encrypt files that have been zipped. So if you have sensitive files that are also very large, use Zip compression.

There are two different ways to create a zipped folder. If you want to create an empty folder that automatically zips files as you add them to the folder, follow these steps:

  1. In Windows Explorer navigate to where you'd like to create the zipped folder .

    You'll create the folder in the right-hand pane.

  2. Choose File New "Compressed (zipped) folder" and type a name for the folder you're creating .

    You can also create a zipped folder by right-clicking and choosing New "Compressed (zipped) Folder." If you use this right-click shortcut, be careful not to click a file or folder because youll just compress those items (rather than creating a new, empty zipped folder).

  3. Copy your files into the zipped folder .

    Copy your files into the folder as you would with any folder. The zipped folder automatically compresses the files. To save disk space, delete the original files after you've copied them.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTION

Compression Size

I turned on NTFS file compression. When I checked Windows Explorer it looks like my files still take up the same number of megabytes. Did I do something wrong?

Not at all. When you compress a file or folder, and then examine it in Windows Explorer, its size appears to be the same as it was before compression ‚ the computer equivalent of losing ten pounds and having the bathroom scale register the same weight.

In fact, you have saved space by compressing the file. But for reasons known only to Microsoft engineers , Explorer normally only shows you the original uncompressed size, even if the file is compressed. Fortunately, there's a way to see the new, trimmer size (if you care about how large your files are). Right-click a compressed file or folder in Windows Explorer, and choose Properties General. Youll see two listings for the file size: "Size" (before compression) and "Size on disk" (after compression).


Alternatively, if you have a folder with files in it and you want to zip up that folder, you can do so in a single step: From Windows Explorer, select the folder you want to zip and right-click it. Choose Send To Compressed (zipped) Folder. (The original, unzipped folder remains, so delete it if you no longer want it.) Windows creates a new Zip file, with a .zip extension, containing the compressed folder.


Note: When you compress files using Zip, Windows Explorer won't show that you've saved any space, indicating instead only the uncompressed file size. To view the compressed size, see Sidebar 3-3.

3.3.3 Using WinZip for More Compression Features

If you only zip files occasionally, Windows XP's built-in tools for that purpose work fine. But if you find yourself using compressed files more frequently ‚ or wish Windows XP offered more zipping options ‚ get yourself a copy of WinZip. This superb program allows you to choose from several levels of compression, lets you zip a file and email it in a single step, and offers a host of other features to make zipping and unzipping a snap.

Following are just some of WinZip's basic features:

  • It creates self-extracting archives, so you can send the folder to someone as an .exe file, and when the recipient runs the file, it automatically unpacks itself, revealing all of the files. This is handy when you want to send a lot of files to someone, but don't want to clutter his email with many different attachments.

  • It works with a wide variety of compression standards, not just Zip.

  • It can span disks, so if you have a very large Zip file that won't fit on a single disk, you can split that file among several disks, and then easily reassemble it.

  • It lets you add files to Zip folders using wildcards like *. This way, you won't have to manually add many files. Instead, you can automatically add dozens of files at a time. For example, you can add all of the MP3 files in a folder in one fell swoop, instead of adding them one by one.

And those are just a few of WinZip's better qualities. You can download a free trial copy from http://www.winzip.com. A full version costs $29.

POWER USERS' CLINIC
Make WinZip and Zip Folders Coexist

When you install WinZip, it takes over the .zip association and becomes the primary program Windows uses to handle Zip files and folders. But what if you like the way Windows handles Zip files, yet you still want access to all of WinZip's extra features? You can get the best of both worlds . All you need to do is tell Windows to handle your Zip files, instead of having WinZip handle them.

In Windows Explorer, choose Tools Folder Options File Types. Select Zip in the Extensions column and click Change. In the Open With dialog box that appears, choose "Compressed (zipped) Folders." With this change, XP is now associated with the .zip extension, but you still get to use all of WinZips features by right-clicking a zipped folder.


3.3.4 Automatically Compressing and Emailing a Photo

When you send digital photos via email, you can go gray waiting for your Internet service provider to stuff the pics through the pipe. To save time, people often compress their pictures before hitting the send button.

But selecting a picture, compressing it, running your email program, attaching the compressed file, and then sending it can also cut time off your life span. Here's how you can compress the process:

  1. Open Windows Explorer and highlight the photo or photos you want to send .

    Make sure you're in the File and Folder Tasks view, which has a pane on the left side with icons for common tasks . If you're not in that view, get to it by clicking the Folders icon in the Windows Explorer toolbar. To select multiple pictures, hold down the Ctrl key as you click each file.

  2. Click "Email the selected items" in Explorer's left-hand pane (it will say "Email this file" if you've selected only one file). The Send Pictures via E-Mail dialog box opens (Figure 3-15) .

    You may only see the top portion of the dialog box, and not the bottom, which lets you choose your exact picture size. If you don't see the whole dialog box, click "Show more options."

  3. Choose "Make all my pictures smaller," and select the size you want for the pictures you're sending .

    The smaller the picture, the smaller the file, and the more quickly it travels . But balance file size against picture quality: if you make the file too small, your recipient may not be able to print a good copy of the family photo you send her.

    Figure 3-15. When you compress files to send them via email, Windows converts the files to the .jpg format and sizes them according to the choices you make in this dialog box. The amount of space you'll save varies according to how large your original file is; the larger the file, the more space you'll save. For example, an 850 KB file can shrink all the way down to about 40 KB. But a 15 KB file hardly shrinks at all.


  4. Click OK. Your email program opens and attaches the compressed pictures to a message, as shown in Figure 3-16 .

    Fill out the address for the email and send it.

Figure 3-16. XP automatically attaches the compressed files to an email message. If you use Outlook, as shown here, you can see the file sizes of the shrunken pictures before you send them ‚ which gives you a hint as to how long it will take to send them.



Tip: If you want to make sure your recipient can see your photo in all its original, multi-megabyte glory but you also want to reduce the file size, compress the file using Windows XP's built-in Zip compression or WinZip (Section 3.3.3). Then attach that zipped file to an email message. This way, your compressed photo will quickly email and download, but when your lucky recipient opens it, the photo will retain all its original quality and resolution.


Windows XP Power Hound
Windows XP Power Hound: Teach Yourself New Tricks
ISBN: 0596006195
EAN: 2147483647
Year: 2003
Pages: 119

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