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[ The PC Guide | Systems and Components Reference Guide | Hard Disk Drives | Hard Disk Logical Structures and File Systems | Disk Compression ]

Volume Compression Products

Volume compression is no longer nearly as popular as it was in the 1990s. Back then, there were two main products on the market that were frequently used for volume compression in DOS and Windows. You may still run into these if you are maintaining older systems. The first is DriveSpace (formerly called DoubleSpace), which is a Microsoft product that comes in various versions and with various versions of DOS and Windows. The second is Stacker, which is (or was) a product of Stac Electronics, which is now called Previo. I don't plan to get into a lengthy review of the two products because that is really beyond the scope of what I am trying to do here. Both do a good job of providing compressed volumes, and each has some advantages and disadvantages compared to the other.

I personally prefer the use of Microsoft's DriveSpace 3 product, for Windows 95 or Windows 98, or the older DriveSpace 2 product for MS-DOS 6.22 (which is what you use if you are running Windows 3.x). This is not to disparage Stacker; in fact I have read in the past that Stacker was a very good product and in many ways better than DriveSpace. I just feel more comfortable with DriveSpace because I have used it more, and because due to the dangers of using compression, I prefer having the compression software and operating system vendor be the same. I felt, at the time that I made my selection, that I would be able to rely on the compression being supported fully by the operating system since they were made and tested by the same company. (Well, that's the theory anyway. With Microsoft, you never know. ;^) )

It should be noted that the older (DOS-based) DriveSpace 2 product is limited in its functionality compared to DriveSpace 3 and the latest version of Stacker. It only supports compressed volumes up to 512 MB, and that's the compressed volume size. If you want to compress a 1 GB host drive you have to split it into three or four compressed volumes. It also offers far fewer options to let you tailor how the compression is managed on the drive, and suffers from lower performance as well. DriveSpace 3 is a far superior product, but is supported only for Windows 95 or Windows 98.

It's important to realize that volume compression really is out of favor today, and this is reflected in the status of volume compression products here  in the 21st century. Recognizing that their product was on its way to obsolescence, Stac Electronics stopped producing and supporting Stacker a long time ago; in fact, they aren't even Stac Electronics any more! As for Microsoft, they have been doing their usual "steering" maneuver, where they try  to encourage people to stop using older technologies that they don't want to deal with any more. They decided not to implement DriveSpace support for FAT32 disk volumes, which all but eliminated it as a viable option for modern large drives. (In their defense, it isn't really necessary if you have a big hard disk anyway.) The "final straw" came when Microsoft removed support entirely for compressed disk volumes under Windows ME. If you want to keep using DriveSpace volumes on hard disks, you have to stick with Windows 95 or Windows 98.

Next: Volume Compression Operation

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