How to Use the NTFS Compression Feature on Windows 10

Imagine using a machine that never gets full because you know how to bypass or free up more space to hold more data.

The NTFS compression feature can help you to manage the straightforward task of making your files smaller on storage media.

The Windows 10 operating system, with its New Technology File System (NTFS) technology, has an added compression feature that helps users to save on space while retaining normal access and without going through the manual decompression process.

Enabling NTFS compression could affect your machine’s performance negatively, especially if it has low computing power.

Whenever you access files, NTFS works on the background, decompressing and recompressing files.

Although compression reduces the performance of your machine, there are other setups that makes sense to use it. For example, it allows you to free up space even after deleting all temporary files and unnecessary contents.

Other administrators use it to store files that are not in use or to save files that have no significant impact on computer operations such as pictures and documents.

Regardless of your current operating environment, as long as you are using Windows 10, you can enable the compression feature using any of the following two ways:

  • Using compression at the file level
  • Using compression at the drive level

We are going to use this article as a guide to take you through the processes of enabling the NTFS compression using the two levels.

Using NTFS File Compression (File Level)

File level compression is the easiest to use in making files smaller without touching on the storage media or using additional tools such as zipping methods.

You can use the following steps to compress files and folders using NTFS:

  • Open File Explorer
  • Open the folder that will store the compressed files
  • Click on the Home button
  • Click the New folder button

TIP: Use the Ctrl + Shift + N shortcut to create a new folder

  • Give the New folder a name of your choice (in our case “Compression”) and press Enter
  • Right click on “Compression” and select the Properties option

  • Click on the General tab
  • Click on the Advanced button

  • Below the “Compress or Encrypt attributes” section, click to check the Compress contents to save disk space option

  • Click OK button
  • Click Apply button
  • In the “Confirm Attribute Changes” dialog box that follows, select Apply changes to this folder, subfolders, and files
  • Click the OK button

Once you have done all the steps above, NTFS file compression will be active, and any file sent to the folder will automatically undergo the compression process. The new changes in the folder will work on both files and folders.

By looking at the newly created folder, you will notice two arrows pointing to each other at the top right corner.

You can confirm the amount of space you are saving by right clicking on the folder and selecting the Properties option. Size indicates the original size before compression while Size on disk indicates the size of the folder after compression.

You can revert to the original folder properties using the same instructions but ensure you clear the Compress contents to save disk space option.

Using NTFS Drive Compression (Drive Level)

Alternatively, you can also use the option of shrinking folders and files individually by way of compressing the whole drive. This feature gives the same benefits as compressing individual files, meaning that accessing files will be much faster.

You can use the following steps on the hard drive to enable NTFS drive compression:

  • Open File Explorer
  • Click and select This PC
  • On the “Devices and drives section”, right click on the storages you wish to compress (in this case Data), then select the Properties option

  • Click on the Compress this drive to save disk space option

  • Click the Apply button
  • In the small “Confirm Attribute Changes” dialog window, select Apply Changes to Drive, subfolders, and files

  • Click OK button
  • Click OK button

Once you are here, know that the NTFS files will be active inside the drive. Compression can be active on a drive with or without files.

Note that compressing a drive with so many files will take a considerable amount of time; therefore, it is a good idea to compress an empty drive before storing files inside it.

To undo the changes above done at the drive level, use the same instruction as outlined but do not check the Compress this drive to save disk space option.

Knowing the Right Time to Compress Files Using NTFS

The compression ability of Windows 10 without the help of third-party software is useful when dealing with media storage issues.

However, before engaging the NTFS compression feature, here are the things you need to look at:

  • Activating compression on a drive running Windows 10 is not a bad idea; however, doing so may bring some negative consequences, such as poor system performance issues.
  • Before compressing the drive on the system, consider using Compact OS, which is an inbuilt feature that reduces installation footprints, giving up free space on the system drive.
  • Compression is applicable on virtually any device; for example, you can activate the feature on systems running on new processors and fast drives such as the Solid State Drive (SSD) for optimal performance. SD cards and USB flash drives can also use NTFS compression, but your focus should always be on more capable system drives such as the SSD and Hard disks.
  • If you are using a low-end or an old device, you can forgo the compression option and buy a larger external drive. External drives also play an important role in freeing up resources, without necessarily compressing and decompressing data that could slow down your system.
  • The amount of space you save using this feature depends on the amount of data and other factors. NTFS compression is ideally a fast and a quick process, but gives a small compression ratio compared to what third party tools offer.
  • Drivers and folders that use the NTFS compression can take in compressed files such as zip files and music files. Files that are already in compression state do not change in size.
  • When using NTFS compression, files go through a decompression process before moving over the network, meaning no optimization takes place to reduce bandwidth or time. So, instead of sending a large amount of data over a network through compression, try the zip container.
  • All the above steps also apply to the earlier version of Windows, such as Windows 8.1 and Windows 7.


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