Freeing Up Capacity On An SSD With NTFS Compression

Should You Compress Data On Your SSD?

Activating NTFS compression is worthwhile on high-end computers with fast multi-core processors because you can squeeze more storage space from an SSD without compromising the system performance significantly. Our comparison to powerful compression tools like 7-Zip shows that NTFS compression isn't very aggressive and it excludes important Windows system files. Thus, it's not designed to extract every last bit of capacity that might otherwise be available.

But it's precisely this approach that ensures the processor is not too heavily loaded. Users with a modern dual- or quad-core CPU should not notice the additional load incurred by enabling compression. Due to the generally lower performance available from notebooks, the same wouldn’t necessarily hold true on mobile systems. Depending on the hardware, compression could both impact speed and take away battery life as a result of a higher processing load.

Backup tools should have no problems with compression, since the feature has already been integrated in NTFS for more than a decade, and is consequently well known to the developers of imaging software. We can't give you an overarching go-ahead, but we did run backups of our compressed system partition using Acronis True Image Home 2011 without any problems at all.

Despite moderate compression rates, NTFS compression does indeed conjure up some much needed free SSD space. On our test system, it gave us back an impressive 12.5 GB. This is a benefit to small SSDs, in particular. If you're only talking about a 60 or 100 GB drive, reclaiming more than 10 GB is huge. Owners of large SSDs should keep NTFS compression in mind too, though. So long as you have a fast-enough processor, there's no reason to not consider enabling it.

Ultimately, the amount of capacity you free up depends on the type of data you're compressing. Most media is already compressed, so there isn't much savings available there. However, compressible files like server logs and Excel data will yield a lot more space.

There's one more point to consider, though. With information being compressed on the fly, you're consuming more of an SSD's available write cycles than if you were writing the files uncompressed. This could have negative implications on the drive's endurance. Although we're not necessarily concerned about larger SSDs, models with less capacity inherently have lower endurance ratings. Thus, NTFS compression could conceivably affect their useful lives more significantly. 

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  • compton
    I've been wondering about this very topic for a while now.


    However, in the conclusion, it is stated that compression ends up writing more vs. uncompressed NTFS, thus consuming more PE cycles. Shouldn't the opposite be true? When writing to the file system, if a file is compressible it should take up less space and therefore conserve more PEs (though actually compressing the files for the first time should result in more writes).

    Why does on-the-fly compression result in more writes even though the amount to be written is smaller?
    14
  • Other Comments
  • compton
    I've been wondering about this very topic for a while now.


    However, in the conclusion, it is stated that compression ends up writing more vs. uncompressed NTFS, thus consuming more PE cycles. Shouldn't the opposite be true? When writing to the file system, if a file is compressible it should take up less space and therefore conserve more PEs (though actually compressing the files for the first time should result in more writes).

    Why does on-the-fly compression result in more writes even though the amount to be written is smaller?
    14
  • husker
    An interesting article, but seems a bit contradictory. Kind of like buying a Ferrari and then worrying about the gas mileage.
    -2
  • Anonymous
    because when you modify even just one byte of a file that is compressed, you can end up changing a significant portion of the file, not just that byte. it's good if you can fit the change in one block erase; what if you can't? you'll end up writing more info on the "disk" then.
    4
  • clonazepam
    I'd been wondering how I would fit the 20+gb necessary for sw:tor on the ssd (i said this previously, in the recent games on ssd vs hdd article). It'd be interesting to see the titles tested in that article with full drive ntfs compression on and off.
    -4
  • Marcus52
    clonazepamI'd been wondering how I would fit the 20+gb necessary for sw:tor on the ssd (i said this previously, in the recent games on ssd vs hdd article). It'd be interesting to see the titles tested in that article with full drive ntfs compression on and off.


    Keep in mind, whatever storage option you use, you need room to install updates on top of installing the game, most especially for MMOGs. This means room to download the update AND install it.

    ;)
    1
  • Anonymous
    Why windows are using ntfs instead of zfs or ext4 which are far superior than ntfs?
    -9
  • BrightCandle
    Presumably this negatively impacts Sandforce based drives more than the Samsung by making the data stored compressed? Any chance you can do this with a Sandforce drive to see the impact?
    4
  • acku
    cruizerbecause when you modify even just one byte of a file that is compressed, you can end up changing a significant portion of the file, not just that byte. it's good if you can fit the change in one block erase; what if you can't? you'll end up writing more info on the "disk" then.


    Correctomundo. Compression involves replace repeated occurrences of data with references to a single copy of that data existing earlier in the input (uncompressed) data stream. That's why it's not right to think of a compressed archive as a container that stores any given file into a discrete space. If anything, the files kind of overlap in a big mixing pot.

    When you compress on the fly, you have to completely decompress all the files in an archive and recompress it when you're done. Hence it's all random transfers for the most part.

    BrightCandlePresumably this negatively impacts Sandforce based drives more than the Samsung by making the data stored compressed? Any chance you can do this with a Sandforce drive to see the impact?


    It's not a sequential transfer. Plus it's already precompressed data. Nothing SandForce can do about it. SandForce, Samsung, it's not going to make a difference.

    Cheers,
    Andrew Ku
    TomsHardware.com
    4
  • jemm
    SSDs manufactures do something in order to make it to the markeplace unexpensivelly! Economies of scale?
    -4
  • chesteracorgi
    Do you have any data on how much using compression shortens the life cycle of the SSD? It would be most helpful as those with smaller SSDs are the likely candidates for using compression.
    0
  • DanglingPointer
    The final conclusion mentions increased write cycles with compression shortening the life-span of the SSD!?!?!? Wot the...??? LoL
    There is less write cycle since the file is smaller! The increase is in the time needed to compress the file before writing to the SSD. Therefore Using compression lengthens the life of the SSD since u are writing less since the files are smaller!
    The author must have been sleepy...
    -9
  • Mark Heath
    DanglingPointerThe final conclusion mentions increased write cycles with compression shortening the life-span of the SSD!?!?!? Wot the...??? LoL There is less write cycle since the file is smaller! The increase is in the time needed to compress the file before writing to the SSD. Therefore Using compression lengthens the life of the SSD since u are writing less since the files are smaller!The author must have been sleepy...


    The above comment shows a lack of reading and/or comprehension skills!?!?!?!? Wot the...??? League of Legends
    The question was already asked and answered in previous comments! I can't think of what to put in this sentence. Therefore Using compression can potentially shorten the life of the SSD since u are potentially writing more [see above comments]!
    The poster must have been stupid...
    1
  • blackened144
    My 60gb ssd drive died.. Im back running Windows 7 64bit on a 30gb Vertex drive.. It works fine but it does just barely fit the OS and all my programs.. All of my games and steam are installed to another raid0 array.. And to be honest Ive never had an issue with this setup.. I flux between about 5-10gb free depending on what Ive been doing and how long I last ran disk clean up..
    -3
  • Lord Captivus
    I liked the review but the conclusion: "So long as you have a fast-enough processor, there's no reason to not consider enabling it", should have been tested including at least another CPU (Dual-Core).
    Thats just my opinion, just to check that Microsoft is right about that performance issue with NTFS.
    (Excuse my english).
    3
  • wolfram23
    I've been running an 80GB Intel X25M for quite a while now. I think 80GB should be the minimum amount most people would want to consider, as that allows me to have plenty of apps and even 1 or 2 games that I'm playing at the time. 60GB is just too small.

    I did use file compression on it, but only on the AppData and ProgramData folders, because those guys suck and can just randomly start becoming monstrously huge. Every now and then I go in there and find some programs like to put a couple gigs in there for no good reason (Adobe Premiere stored several movie files like wtf, and Code Master games (F1 2010, Dirt 3) like to store 1gb replays in there).

    However, Black Friday gave me a great opportunity, so I bought a 120gb Corsair Fore Series GT for $110 off (~$150)! This drive is strickly for my games... damn it's nice. Skyrim boots up and loads locations in seconds.
    2
  • hixbot
    This article reminds me of 1990 when I used a DOS compression program, Stacker, to increase the capacity of my 20MB hard drive to a whopping 40MB.
    6
  • Anonymous
    I don't think this would be as effective for the sandforce 2200 based SSD's because they already do some sort of compression - which is where they get their speed from. You can't compress compressed data, so NTFS compression would have no benefit for sandforce based SSD's

    "Like other SandForce controllers, the SF-2281 features a technology called DuraWrite, which uses data compression to lower write amplification and extend the life of the drive by reducing the number of program-erase cycles. This data compression also plays a big part in the controller's performance. The more the data can be compressed, the faster an SSD like the HyperX is able to read and write."

    from:
    http://cdrlabs.com/Reviews/kingston-hyperx-120gb-solid-state-drive/All-Pages.html
    0
  • hmp_goose
    The note about ware for compression: Was that with or without a RAM disk for the temp directory?
    0
  • TeraMedia
    I disagree with the way that compression ratios were measured for 7-zip vs. Windows NTFS. You stated that system files were often not compressed. This is probably because Windows couldn't compress an executable that was in-use. But then you compared the 17% compression ratio of the system drive to the ratios of specific folders compressed by 7-zip. You seem to have ignored the fact that you didn't compress a significant number of files in the system folder(s).

    You might try the following:
    1) Take your SSD with the system partition and connect it to another computer that already has a bootable drive.
    2) Boot into Windows on that other computer, go to the attached SSD, and re-compress the system folder as well as any contents in Program Files and Program Files (x86) that were not compressed already.
    3) Put the SSD back into your test machine, re-evaluate the compression ratios, and re-test boot times, shutdown times, and various other system tests.
    0
  • MasterMace
    Those using SSDs and storage hdds should make sure that they set up their virtual memory so that none is being used on the SSD. Instead have the hdd set up for virtual memory.
    -4