Disk Compression

What are the pros and cons of compressing the hard drive on my computer.I have a Toshiba lap-top running Win 95. It is a 486 ,75 Mhz machine with 32 Meg of ram and only a 500 Meg hard disk so I could do with some more disk space.I have heard that using disk compression can slow down the system. Any advice would be welcome.

In general I would say DO NOT do this. Compressing hard drives has led to far more headaches and problems than I care to count.

  1. It DOES slow your machine down. Essentially everytime data is accessed your computer has to do the computations to ‘re-inflate’ your data. On a 486 this is likely to be quite noticeable.

  2. Some programs do not run on compressed drives. Somethimes the people who wrote the program will say so but usually it is never mentioned and you learn the hard way.

  3. Theoretically the compression can be reversed back to the original uncompressed drive if you find you don’t like the compressed version (or if it doesn’t work well). I have NEVER seen this successfully done. While it may not be 100% truth consider compressing your drive a one way deal. If you don’t like it the only way to undo everything is to erase everything and re-build your PC.

All of that said the ONLY time I’ve ever seen compressing the hard drive as recommended is when you have no other choice. If you are totally stuck with the laptop you have and absolutely MUST have additional space and can’t delete any more from your hard drive then maybe you should consider doing this.

If you do this take the attitude that the whole thing is going to go to hell. That way you will presumably backup all relevant data that you can’t afford to lose before embarking on compressing the disk drive.

Disk compression will indeed slow down the system somewhat. The amount of performance loss is dependent on the level of compression and how fast in general the CPU and disk subsystem in general are (compression can actually increase performance on very slow disk subsystems since less data is being sent to/received from the drive).

Another possible downside is data integrity. Recovering files from a damaged compressed volume is much harder than from a damaged uncompressed drive. Also, certain programs are incompatible with compressed drives.

I’d check on a larger drive for your laptop, too. http://www.dirtcheapdrives.com is a great source for 2.5" drives. Check first that your BIOS can handle drives larger than 504MB.

On the other hand, I have several old (P-90) machines running Win 98 compression with no problems. However, none of them are critical, so it’s not a big deal for me if I need to reformat and reinstall (I haven’t had to do this, at least not due to the compression).

If you decide to go for it, back up your machine first (maybe using the parallel port connection feature? Does Windows 95 have that?), and make sure you have a Windows 95 CD and boot disk in case you need to reinstall. Also make sure you feel comfortable reinstalling.

While sewalk mentioned putting a larger drive in your machine, I have a feeling that due to the age of your machine, that option will not be available to you (not to mention the fact that it’s probably not worth the expense).

The type of file being compressed determines whether or it not it slows the system down. If you work with text a lot it can actually speed things up. Getting files on and off the hard drive can be slower than the compression process, particularly with older hard drives, so the CPU processor time may be fast enough to be more than offset by the increased speed of the hard drive transfers. If you are working with a lot of binary files that don’t get much smaller when compressed, then the compression process can slow things down.

Storage is so cheap now that compression has fallen out of favor, but unless you can pick up a large hard drive for your laptop at a good price, compression might be a good option for you.

This has been my experience with compressed drives. If you compress your drive to, say, double the capacity, then you will also have to double the drive space requirements of any software you install. In other words, if you buy some software and it says on the box that it will take up 100mb, it’ll probably actually work out to about 200mb on your compressed drive. Then again, I suppose it might depend on the software.

I can also agree with everyone else that compressing a drive can slow your system down to a crawl. So as I said, in my experience, there wasn’t much of a benefit. I used to compress my drives, but I’ve left them uncompressed in the last two computers I’ve owned. I’d definitely go with purchasing a larger hard drive, if that’s an option.

Back in the 468 days, I used doublespace to compress my 170mb drive - it worked great, slightly slower - but hardly noticeable, all programs ran w/ problem - and I did remove it sucessfully after I got a 1 gb drive in another computer and this one became a light duty computer.

now for the down side - I have never seen an actual 2:1 compression rate over the entire drive, you will get something like 1.4:1 - also the windows swap file MUST be on an uncompressed HD.

IIRC For 32 MB ram you will need at least 64 megs swap space and would want to reserve some more ‘just in case’ so maybe you will need 90 megs of uncompressed space and maybe another 10 (to make math easy) for compression files - that gives you 400mb that you can get 560 mb out of (1.4 x 400 mbs) giving you a total usable of 640 (560 compressed + 100 Uncompressed - 10 compression files that you wouldn’t need) on 2 drive letters - Is 140 mbs worth it for you? it was for me at the time and much lower mb gain.

ran w/ problem should be w/o problem

And don’t forget if your disk crashes and you need to get some files off it from another computer (or even from a boot disk), you’ll be FUBAR.