Classic Computer Magazine Archive COMPUTE! ISSUE 157 / OCTOBER 1993 / PAGE 76

Breathing room. (managing hard disk space)
by Daniel S. Janal

Five years ago, a 20MB hard disk was considered a huge warehouse for your data. Now, it isn't uncommon for some games and business applications to take up 25MB of hard disk space. If you use Windows or a graphics program, it's sure to take up a lot of hard disk real estate. And if you own a laptop, which generally has a smaller storage system than a desktop PC, you have an even more urgent need to use your limited hard disk space wisely.

The advantages of reducing the amount of space you use on your hard disk are that your programs will run faster, you'll be able to keep more vital information immediately available, and you'll have room for those little utilities and games that make owning a computer worthwhile even when there's no work to do.

Here's how to get the most out of your disk.

Prune regularly. Do you really need your invoices from 1983 on your disk? Or the game you haven't played since your son graduated from ABC's to UCLA? Maybe it's time to prune the dormant files from your disk forever, or at least copy them to a floppy where they can be stored for an IRS audit or for your grandchildren when they learn to read,

For commonly used programs, you might be able to delete files that are not essential to running the programs--now or ever. For instance, you might want to copy the READ-ME file to a floppy in case you ever need to use it. In the meantime, you free up valuable space. Check the manual to see if it lists the unnecessary files that can be erased without damaging the program. For instance, if you use DOS in the United States, you probably won't ever use the keyboard program for Germany that sits in your DOS directory. Warning: Don't kill a file if you aren't 100 percent sure that it isn't needed. There are many files in your program directory that might seem cryptic but actually perform valuable functions. You'll find out when you're on deadline.

Windows users can find gold mines on their hard disks by eliminating never-used accessories, like Windows Write and Card. Go to the Main menu, choose Windows Setup, choose Options, and then choose Add/Remove Windows Components. You'll see check boxes for Readme Files, Accessories, Games, Screen Savers, and Wallpapers, Misc. Eliminating the accessories will save 1.5MB.

Many programs have tutorials. Once you've read them, kill them. Also, Word for Windows users can eliminate the import filters for never-used word processors and graphics file formats.

Some programs automatically create backups whenever you save a file. Delete the backups, or turn off the automatic backup command. Clip art and templates can also clutter your disk.

Archive. For files that absolutely, positively have to be accessible and can't be in a drawer of floppies, consider archiving. Archiving is a method of compressing a file or group of files into a single compressed file that occupies a fraction of the space. When you need to read or write to the file, you can select the file and expand it back to its original size so that it can be edited. Many free and shareware archive programs are available on bulletin boards.

Compress. If you don't want to go through the trouble of individually archiving dozens of files in dozens of directories, consider compressing everything on the disk. Several software programs can do this. Stuff It, Stacker, Double Disk, and DOS 6 are widely available for less than $100. These programs compress every file on your hard disk. You could easily double your disk space and turn a 60MB hard drive into a 120MB hard drive in minutes. Programs load almost as quickly as they do without the compression software.

Be sure to read the installation procedures, back up your data, install the compression program carefully, and run every application program you have on your disk to make sure it works.

Squeeze. Keep your eye open for duplicate files, duplicate directories, and directories and files that could be dumped to a floppy or printed out and filed in manila folders. Archive or use a disk compression program. Back up and delete files you rarely use. Your hard disk will repay you with better performance.