Get 50% more space on a thumb drive with this tweak

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USB sticks (flash drives) are very useful for carrying files around your pocket. The problem is that they are usually not big enough and quickly run out of space. What if you could get 50% more on the USB stick?

You can easily transport files from home to work, from computer to computer in your home or office, etc. And with 50% more storage space, you can transport even more files on the same USB stick. There is no need to throw it away and buy a larger capacity USB flash drive. To save more files on top of the existing one.

Format the USB stick

  • Open an Explorer window and select This PC (called Computer in Windows 7) in the left pane.
  • Right click on the USB stick (mine is called Cruzer, yours will be different).
  • Choose Format from the menu.

File Explorer context menu

  • Set the file system to NTFS (often they are set to FAT).
  • Set the allocation unit size to the default.
  • Choose Quick Format and click Start.

Format a drive in Windows

Compress the drive

  • Open an Explorer window and select This PC in the left pane.
  • Right-click on the USB stick.
  • Select Properties from the menu.
  • Select the Compress this drive to save disk space check box.
  • Click Apply.
  • Select Apply changes to drive, subfolders and files.
  • click OK.

Enable drive compression in Windows

This will instruct Windows to compress any files that are copied or saved to the USB drive. This is not zip compression and the files are not zipped. Windows uses fast compression on the fly. The files look like regular files, they behave like regular files but are compressed.

Windows does the compression and decompression invisibly in the background. Everything seems normal to you.

Look at the space savings

To see how much additional storage space is gained, I copied several hundred files to the USB stick. To see how much space is saved, open the USB stick in Explorer and press Ctrl+A to select all files. Right-click on it and choose Properties.

Here you can see the size is 150MB but the size on disk is only 100MB. A saving of 50MB. This means you can put more files on the USB stick. If this were a 16GB stick, it could hold 24GB of files!

Explorer properties

This amazing performance is only possible because the files I chose were highly compressible – Microsoft Word documents. If you copy ZIP files to the USB stick, they are already compressed to save space and cannot be further compressed. This prevents further space savings.

The amount of extra space you get on the USB stick depends on the type of files you store on it and how much they can be compressed. However, there are always some wins, and sometimes quite large ones.

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