Get 50% more space on a thumb drive with this tweak

Don't buy a new thumb drive, enable compression to store more files

Thumb drives (flash drives) are very useful for carrying files in your pocket. The problem is that they usually aren’t big enough and soon run out of space. What if you could get 50% more on the thumb drive?


You can easily carry files from home to work, computer to computer in your house or office, and so on. And with 50% more storage space, you can carry even more files on the same thumb drive. There is no need to throw it out and buy a bigger capacity thumb drive. Here’s how to store more files on the one you’ve got.

Format the thumb drive

  • Open an Explorer window and select This PC in the left Panel (called Computer in Windows 7).
  • Right click the thumb drive (mine is called Cruzer, yours will be different).
  • Select Format on the menu.

 File Explorer context menu

  • Set the file system to NTFS (often they are set to FAT).
  • Set the allocation unit size to the default.
  • Select Quick Format and Click Start.

 Format a disk drive in Windows

Compress the drive

  • Open an Explorer window and select This PC in the left Panel.
  • Right click the thumb drive.
  • Select Properties on the menu.
  • Tick the box Compress this drive to save disk space.
  • Click Apply.
  • Select Apply changes to drive, subfolders and files.
  • Click OK.

 Enable drive compression in Windows

What this does is to tell Windows to compress any file that is copied or saved to the thumb drive. This is not zip compression and the files are not zipped. Windows uses high speed on-the-fly compression. The files look like normal files, they behave like normal files, but they are compressed.

Windows handles the compression and decompression invisibly in the background. To you, everything appears to be normal.

View the space savings

To see how much extra space is gained, I copied several hundred files to the thumb drive. To see how much space is saved, open the thumb drive in Explorer, press Ctrl+A to select all files. Right click them and select Properties.

Here you can see that the Size is 150 MB, but the Size on disk is only 100 MB. A saving of 50 MB. This means you can put more files on the thumb drive. If this was a 16 GB thumb drive, it would be possible to store 24 GB of files on it!

 Explorer properties

This amazing feat is only possible because the files I chose were very compressible – Microsoft Word documents. If you copy zip files to the thumb drive, they are already compressed to save space and they cannot be compressed any further. This prevents any further space savings.

The amount of extra space you get on the thumb drive depends on the type of files you store on it and how much they can be compressed. There are always some gains though, and sometimes quite big ones.

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