How To Get Extra Space On Any USB Drive

How To Get Extra Space On Any USB Drive

Most of your digital files are probably stored up in the cloud these days, but the humble USB stick still comes in handy every now and then. It’s a simple way of getting data from one computer to another or just keeping a backup of important files. If you’re struggling to cram all your files onto one USB drive, here’s a quick trick that can free up several gigabytes of extra room.

It involves using Windows’ built-in tools to compress the data on the device. Compression levels will vary depending on file type, and it means your files might open up a fraction slower, but you can pretty much carry on using your USB drive as before.

You have to format the drive first, so if there are already files on the drive you’re using, put them somewhere else temporarily. Right-click on the USB stick in Windows File Explorer, choose Format, and then make sure NTFS is selected as the file system. Tick the Quick Format box and then click Start.

Once the formatting process has finished, right-click the USB drive again in File Explorer, and this time pick Properties. On the dialog that pops up, tick Compress this drive to save disk space, then click Apply and confirm your choice includes all subfolders and files. Hey, presto! Your drive is compressed.

File types that already use some form of compression technique, like zip files and JPEG images, won’t shrink that much, so keep that in mind when you’re choosing files. The storage savings should be immediately noticeable so long as you’re not trying to saving a bunch of zip files.

You can use the same method to compress any folder on a Windows system, at the expense of a few CPU cycles — but it’s not really wise to apply it to your whole hard drive. It also increases the number of writes required, so it’s best used for files that you’re archiving away and accessing only occasionally. [Hat tip RAW Computing]

This article originally appeared on Gizmodo Australia


  • Gonna say I’d recommend not compressing USB sticks. Or NTFS formatting them either. If the main reason these days for using them is sneakernet/”a simple way of getting data from one computer to another” then leaving them as a more compatible, faster format outweighs any compression benefit for me.
    And, in my experience, anyone with more than a few GB of files on a USB is probably risking data they should have somewhere else so the increased capacity of compression just puts their data at more risk – especially when additional sticks can be had for a few bucks.
    That said, good tip for the use-cases where it may help.

    • On the contrary, NTFS is supported by pretty much everything these days. And it is far more robust than last century’s Microsoft filesystems (FAT12, FAT32, VFAT).

      • You’re probably right. I’ve often had issues getting various kit to boot from NTFS USB sticks. But I guess most typical users won’t be creating/using their USB sticks to boot from.

  • Also, if you’re running out of space on a 32GB USB Drive, I’m going to guess you’re filling it full of files that don’t compress well anyway.

    Databases, Word Documents and other text-based files compress very well, but you can fit a lot of them into 32GB.

    It’s the photos, videos and music that’ll be taking up all the space, and that stuff is compressed anyway. Windows Compression isn’t going to give you much.

    If you’re running out of space, spend $10 on a new USB stick.

  • Gotta agree with what the other guys say. Compressing the files using built in windows compression seems pretty much useless. If you really need to compress then you’re better off using a more efficient compression tool (7-zip/WinRar) to do it.

    And honestly, these days you can get a 128GB USB3.1 memory stick for $39. Why would you even bother messing about with compression?

  • Method 1: Delete old work files, more space for porn.
    Method 2: Delete old porn files, more space for work.

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