Helpware: Hard disk full? Zipping files will free up space

Harold Glicken, Tribune News Service on

Published in Business News

At the risk of dating myself, I couldn't imagine, in the 1980s, that I'd need a hard drive bigger than 20 megabytes. As it turned out, I never filled the hard drive. Microsoft Word documents took up a few kilobytes, and digital cameras, with their massive photo files, weren't on the scene yet.

In those days, files could be zipped -- condensed by as much as 80 percent -- by utilities such as PKZip. Zipping software programs were crude by today's standard, until WinZip (for Windows) made its appearance in the early 1990s. Nearly three decades later, it's morphed into a powerful, but intuitive, utility that frees up hard disk space with a mouse-click.

How times -- and hard disk capacity -- have changed. When I bought my latest PC two years ago, I figured that a 1 terabyte hard drive would never fill up. What I discovered is that photos and movies of grandchildren and vacations, along with dozens of software programs I've reviewed, have forced me to transfer many of those data files to external hard drives. To put bits and bytes into perspective, my 20-megabyte drive was .00002 the size of a terabyte drive. Yet I never filled the 20-magabyte drive.

While external drives are a great way to store files you don't use often, it's another piece of hardware on my already cluttered desk.

There's a better way: Version 22 of WinZip, which does so much more than its name implies. True, it fulfills its primary purpose, which is condensing data and storing those files until you need them. But unlike earlier versions, it adds bells and whistles that couldn't be imagined in the first Windows version of the program.

For example:

Zipped files can be encrypted and protected with passwords.

Files can easily be turned into pdfs.

Zipped files can be shared via email, Facebook and other social media. That means you can attach files that, unzipped, would be too large to upload by email. Individual photos of my grandson's third birthday were far too large to email to other relatives without zipping the files first. By making the files executable, receivers didn't have to buy the program to decompress the files.

Photos can be edited and then compressed. You can even place watermarks on files.

Not only can zipped files be opened in the zip format, but WinZip will open 15 other formats, such as ISO as well.

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Zipped files are searchable, which means if you know the name of a file, you can find it easily.

Cloud service files can be condensed. If your cloud backup service charges by the gigabyte, you'll save money by zipping files before they're backed up.

There's a whole range of file operations, ranging from simple copying and deleting commands to adding individual files to existing zip files -- a great aid for folks like me who forget to include an important file in an existing zip file.

Technical support is offered online only. At, you'll find dozens of tutorials and frequently asked questions. There's a 21-day trial download; after that, the basic version costs $30. A $50 version offers the ability to scan from the program and share photo files directly from the camera, among other features.

Through the decades, WinZip has grown flashier and more useful. If your files are straining your hard drive's capacity, WinZip is an excellent way to free up more space. Or you can upgrade your hard drive to 2 terabytes or more. Remember, one of the rules of computing is you can't have too much RAM and too large a hard drive.

About The Writer

Harold Glicken is a retired newspaper editor. He can be reached at and a collection of his columns can be found at

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