How to Use NTFS Compression to Free up Storage Space?

What is NTFS compression and how to use it? In this tutorial, you’ll learn what this feature is used for and learn the correct way to use it. Meanwhile, a better alternative to NTFS file compression will be introduced so as to help free up space.


By Michael / Updated on May 12, 2023

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Recently, I found my D drive was low on disk space. As it’s the Steam’s installation location, I can’t download any other games on it anymore. I heard that Windows 10 has a built-in feature called NTFS compression which is used for file compression. Anyone know where I can find it and how to use it? Thanks.


What is NTFS compression?

NTFS compression is a lightweight compression method on Windows 10 designed to reduce the size of files so as to free up space while retaining normal access without the need for manual decompression like when you’re using various containers. However, enabling NTFS compression can affect your computer performance in some ways. Even though you needn’t take additional steps, the feature still has to decompress and recompress files in the background every time you access them and in return, additional resources should be required.

There’re many reasons why the compression is necessary although this feature can degrade performance. For example, it could be another way to free up disk space, even after the deletion of .tmp files and unnecessary data. It could be a proper way to set up a drive to store data you seldom use too. Or you could save files that you often use but that don’t noticeably affect your device performance, some of which can include documents and pictures.

NTFS compression vs ZIP compression

As a counterpart to NTFS compression, there is another way of file compression called ZIP compression. ZIP file is generally created by compressors, for example, WinZip. NTFS compression can only be used on disk in NTFS while ZIP compression can be used on both FAT 32 and NTFS drives.

In the method of ZIP compression, contents of files are compressed based on the files’ type and finally reduce the size of the files themselves. Moreover, it packs the files and folders into a zipped folder. When the file is packed tight, it can’t be used without being unpacked. So, every time we open the zipped file, we have to unzip it. The file can also be encrypted which takes time and reduces performance.

As for the method of NTFS compression, the amount of size required to store on a disk will be reduced when files and folders are compressed using this method. The method doesn’t alter the file or change its extension. We needn’t manually unzip them when we use the files. However, when the files are accessed, the Windows decompresses them and when we close them, it compresses back to save space. Different from ZIP compression, NTFS compressed files can’t be encrypted.

2 Ways to use NTFS compression

How to free up space with NTFS compression? Actually, there’re 2 different ways – NTFS file compression and NTFS drive compression. Read on, and you’ll learn how to perform the 2 operations on your own.

NTFS file compression

 It’s the easiest way to reduce files’ size without the need to compress the entire drive or take additional steps to zip and unzip every time you need a file. Follow the steps below to compress files or folders.

1. Double-click on “This PC” to launch File Explorer.

2. Navigate to the folder you want to compress and right-click on it.

3. Select “Properties” to bring up the “Notes Properties” window.


4. Click on “Advanced”.


5. Tick “Compress contents to save disk space” and hit “OK”.


6. Hit “Apply” and select “Apply changes to this folder, subfolder, and files” and hit “OK”.

Now, you can check how much space is saved by right-clicking on the folder and selecting “Properties”. “Size” represents the size of the folder before the compression while “Size on disk” shows the size now.


NTFS drive compression

Alternatively, instead of compressing files or folders individually, you can also use NTFS compression to compress an entire drive. The same benefits as compression files individually will be given if you use this option which means you’re able to access files normally as compression and decompression happen immediately. To activate NTFS drive compression, follow the steps below.

1. Still open “File Explorer”.

2. Right-click on the drive you wish to compress and select “Properties”.


3. Tick the option “Compress this drive to save disk space” and hit “Apply”.

compress this drive

4. When prompted, select “Apply changes to drive, subfolders and files” and hit “OK”.

apply changes

5. Hit “OK” again.

Once done, NTFS should enable compression inside the drive.

Alternative to NTFS compression to save storage

Although the feature of NTFS compression is totally free and comes in handy, it has many limits. For example, if you compress the drive that contains the Windows 10 installation, system performance could be significantly impacted and additional problems could be triggered as well. 

Meanwhile, the compression ratio is usually very low for NTFS compression has been designed to be fast and lightweight. In this case, to save disk space more efficiently, I recommend you to try AOMEI Partition Assistant Professional that is able to move files from on drive to another without any data loss. Meanwhile, file shredding, SSD secure erase, and large files deletion are also available.

Try the demo of the most powerful disk manager to free up enough space for hard drives.

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Step 1. Install and launch AOMEI Partition Assistant Professional. Click “Free up” in the upper toolbar and select “APP Mover”.


Step 2. Select the partition where the files you are going to move are and hit “Next”.


Step 3. Tick programs and apps you want to move and preset the destination.


Step 4. Click on “Move” and then “OK” to proceed.


Step 5. When the transfer is completed, click on “Finish”.



What is NTFS compression and how to use it? This article offers a brief introduction to this feature and a step-by-step guide for its use. Also, third-party software AOMEI Partition Assistant Professional is also provided to help free up disk space more efficiently. To use this software on Server, you might as well try the Server edition.

Michael · Staff Editor
Michael is a professinal editor of AOMEI editor team.