DiskZIP Review - Finished!

Discussion in 'Windows OS and Software' started by msintle, Apr 11, 2018.

  1. msintle

    msintle Notebook Consultant

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    Topics I shall cover in this review:

    Describe the product's purpose/background as desired
    How to get it (download, etc)
    Installation/setup
    In use/impressions
    Competing product discussion
    Benchmarks as applicable
    Bulleted Pros/cons (if desired)

    1. What is DiskZIP?

    A lot of old timers on this forum are already familiar with the DiskZIP concept. DiskZIP is similar to the on-the-fly, transparent disk compression tools found in the late 80's-early 90's. Examples of such old-time products include:

    Stac's Stacker
    stacker-for-OS2-front.jpg
    Microsoft's DriveSpace/DoubleSpace
    AddStor's SuperStor

    All of the above methods stored your data inside a single "compressed disk file" on your disk. This file would be similar to a really large ZIP archive, with the crucial difference that it was "mounted" by a driver so to the operating system (DOS, Windows, and even OS/2) would perceive it as an actual disk.

    Stacker discontinued its product after Windows 95, and the other products similarly vanished with the exception of Microsoft, which continued to include disk compression in its Windows 9X line, but replaced it with NTFS compression in its Windows NT line. NTFS compression implemented a much weaker form of disk compression, and it never actually created a "compressed disk file". Instead, each file was compressed on a per-file basis. NTFS compression is still available in Windows 10, but decades after the likes of Stacker, its compression is terrible - both from a space savings perspective and a performance perspective. Therefore, it is safe to say that, with the death of Windows 9X and its integrated DriveSpace compression, there has not been a reasonable disk compression alternative available for Windows - until DiskZIP.

    DiskZIP, which appears to be about two years old and counting (based on the domain age), is the first strong compression, compressed-disk-file based alternative for Windows NT based operating systems. Just to clarify, all modern versions of Windows (10, 8.1, 7, Vista, XP, 2000, etc.) are based on Windows NT technology.

    As some of you may already be familiar from this forum, I am an avid user of DiskZIP! I have been looking high and low for years for a product which could do something we had from as long back as three decades ago. Let's face it - we all run out of space eventually. And we may be running remote server hardware (which we cannot upgrade at reasonable cost), or using a fixed-storage, non-upgradeable tablet (such as the Surface tablet I am typing this on), or have just run out of space, with no easy file deletion targets in sight. I've been in all three situations, which is how I found out about DiskZIP.

    DiskZIP claims to do the following:

    - Increase free disk space without deleting anything
    - Improve disk read performance and not harm disk write performance
    - Automatically recover free space from duplicate files without deleting or hard-linking them
    - Protect from malware using the last compressed state of the system as a reference
    - Apply your compressed disk image to another computer, effectively cloning your PC

    In addition to the above, DiskZIP also includes a full featured file compression stack, giving products like WinZip/WinRAR a run for their money. This stack is based on the open source 7-Zip, with the following additions:

    - Archives of 100+ types shown as folders in Windows File Explorer, with a much faster and more advanced implementation than Windows's own criticized ZIP Folders feature (do not confuse this with transparent disk compression, it is not related)
    - WinZip compatible ZIPX compression including JPEG compression
    - Outlook Add-Ins for attachment compression and secure attachment previews

    Since that is a review in itself, I will be skipping the file compression related parts entirely, and focus on what is really unique about DiskZIP - the transparent disk compression.

    Many of the old timers I alluded to at the start of this section have had strongly negative experiences with transparent disk compression in the 90s. For as long as I have been using the product (almost two years now), I have not had any issues with data loss or corruption.

    This product is truly a hidden gem, which motives me to write this review.
     
    Last edited: Apr 11, 2018
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  2. msintle

    msintle Notebook Consultant

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    2. Setting Up DiskZIP

    The first thing to do is download and install the software. Head on over to their website at www.diskzip.com. The site attempts to be clever but is a bit counter-intuitive in my opinion, as it is not immediately obvious that you need to scroll down for content and downloads. The animations which happen while you are scrolling down do add a nice touch though.

    Basically, scroll down until you see the download link, and click it. Entering your email address before downloading is optional. If you do this, you will get news of new version announcements, promotions, bug fixes, software enhancements, and the works. I was subscribed for a while and then I removed myself during a mailing. However, I later subscribed again because the site does not contain any version announcements/history, and the only way of receiving new version notifications seems to be by email. This is once place where DiskZIP definitely need to improve their website.

    The installer is a breeze though. There is a single file which supports both 32 bit and 64 bit operating systems, so you don't need to guess which file you need. Part of my day job is to test software on various operating systems, and I cannot help but notice how shiny the installer looks running on Windows Vista:
    Untitled.png
    If you don't want the file compression feature, feel free to deselect it while installing - so you'll just be getting the juiciest bits of the software. I myself have grown fond of the archives-as-folders feature, so I keep it on. Other than this feature screen, the entire installation is basically a breeze with next-next-nexts all the way through. All of the disk compression related features are automatically configured based on your Windows version, so there's no guesswork on your part.

    System Requirements:

    This does mean that, for example, on Windows Vista, while you get the slickest installer look, you won't be getting DiskZIP's best disk compression features. In fact, only Windows 8.1.1 and newer users have access to the best DiskZIP has to offer with disk compression, and this could be considered a negative.

    Minimum OS: Windows XP
    Minimum OS for Advanced Disk Compression Features: Windows 8.1.1 or Newer
    My Recommended OS: 64-bit Windows 8.1.1 or Newer

    The following are the actual disk compression programs included with DiskZIP:

    DiskZIP Online:
    NTFS compression + Windows 10 compression (where available) + proprietary extensions
    Always installed
    Runs on all operating systems
    Compresses all types of disks, including boot, non-boot, and external disks

    DiskZIP Offline:
    Best DiskZIP compression, appears to be a proprietary technology built on top of WIMBoot
    Installed on Windows 8.1.1 or later
    Runs only on Windows 8.1.1 or later
    32 bit and 64 bit supported
    Compresses boot disks only, external drives are not supported

    DiskZIP Max:
    DiskZIP shell for Microsoft data deduplication, appears to be a GUI wrapper only
    Installed on Windows 8.1.1 or later
    Runs only on Windows 8.1.1 or later
    Requires a 64 bit operating system
    Requires manual installation of Microsoft data deduplication drivers
    Compresses non-boot disks only, external drives are not supported

    The good news is you don't have to worry about what to install and what may not work. The installer, to its credit, handles all of this automatically.

    The bad news is, for DiskZIP Max, the installer cannot do the job cleanly. Unless you are installing on a server operating system, or you have pre-installed Microsoft data deduplication drivers yourself on your Windows 10 workstation OS (some hacked libraries are available, sourced from Server 2016), DiskZIP Max directs you to a third party website for installing these data deduplication drivers:

    www.orontesprojects.com/?page_id=371

    The software you download from this recommended "partner" site completes the job of installing data deduplication drivers on your system:

    dedup.png

    The above is a screenshot of this installer. It looks a little confusing in my opinion and does not employ the design ethos of the DiskZIP product at all. It would appear Orontes Projects are only loosely associated with DiskZIP.

    It is also possible to install data deduplication drivers from the command line, yourself, manually, if you'd rather not run an opaque EXE from a mostly unknown entity. Simply visit:

    http://www.slr-corp.fr/2017/04/windows-10-all-builds-enabling-deduplication/

    Just look for Dedup_16299_DSIM.zip on this page. It adds deduplication drivers for the latest version of Windows 10, Fall Creators Update. Download this ZIP file, and run the included batch file as an administrator - and you're good as gold with data deduplication on your PC.

    My final verdict on the installation is that it is perfect, except for this data deduplication driver mess. It is because of this reason that I will not be covering DiskZIP Max in this review. I don't believe customers should be jumping through hoops during any software installation like this on a consumer oriented, mass market OS like Windows. To be fair, it would be illegal for DiskZIP to bundle these official Microsoft drivers with their software, which is why I am not penalizing their installer for that exclusion. But this does mean I will be focusing on DiskZIP Online and DiskZIP Offline only, which is where DiskZIP adds value anyways - DiskZIP Max, despite the "maximum" in its name, is nothing more than a fancy shell for what you can do yourself with the data deduplication drivers above and some PowerShell scripts.

    3. In Use - DiskZIP Online

    We're finally here! Having installed DiskZIP from their website, we're ready to compress our disk. First, we take a look at DiskZIP Online, which is a lot less fear inducing than DiskZIP Offline, because it runs "online", meaning while Windows (and all your apps) are up and running.

    Of course, this means any files in-use by the system cannot be compressed.

    This also means that none of the advanced capabilities of DiskZIP Offline will be available (such as built-in data deduplication - yes, even DiskZIP Offline does a form of data deduplication, eliminating space taken up by duplicate files without deleting them or creating hard-links).

    Still, this is a great place to start building confidence using DiskZIP. DiskZIP Online implements per-file compression, and does not do the per-disk compression that DiskZIP Offline does. In other words, it compresses files individually on disk, and does not put them all together in a single compressed disk image file. In this sense, DiskZIP Online is closest to what most of us already know as being traditional NTFS file system compression.

    Start out by opening up your Start Menu, and manually launch DiskZIP Online by typing "diskzip online":

    dzo.PNG

    Choose the DiskZIP Online icon, which launches the DiskZIP Online window:

    win.png

    This window is deceptively simple, and I love that about the DiskZIP design ethos. There's really no reason it should be more complex:

    1. First, click the drive to compress. You can choose any drive, including removable drives such as USB flash memory.

    2. Next, click "Compress" to compress your selected drive. Yes, it's that easy!

    DiskZIP Online will compress your disk with recommended defaults immediately when you click "Compress". However, if you are the curious type (like I am), I suppose you will click "Options" at least once before beginning compression. Let's take a look at what's available:

    options.png

    Compression Cores: This field is automatically adjusted by DiskZIP Online based on your detected hardware. If you have an SSD, your compression speed will be limited by only your available CPU cores. If you have an HDD, your compression speed will be limited by the hard disk, so DiskZIP will not attempt to use all of your CPU cores, as this would slow the process down instead of speeding it up, since spinning platter hard drives cannot access multiple areas of disk all at once, unlike flash memory.

    Exclude Extensions: I don't know where to find the Server Edition of DiskZIP. Presumably, this area allows you to exclude certain file types from processing with DiskZIP Online.

    Compression Type: If you're running on Windows 10, this field let's you change the type of compression being used:

    menu.png

    One nice touch is that DiskZIP Online automatically increases or decreases the number of threads you will be using during compression. Probably the notion of cores here is a bit of a misnomer, since the CPU maxes itself out during higher compression grades easily, even when you have selected a small number of threads. For example, on my 4 core Surface Pro 2017 tablet that is the subject of these examples, DiskZIP Online suggests using only 2 threads when compressing the disk using the most aggressive LZX algorithm - this means that a single LZX worker thread has enough load to keep 2 CPU cores busy while processing:

    maxstrength.png
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 19, 2018
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  3. Vistar Shook

    Vistar Shook Notebook Deity

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    How much?

    Enviado de meu Pixel 2 usando Tapatalk
     
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  4. msintle

    msintle Notebook Consultant

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    Excellent question. I should probably integrate this into the main review roadmap at some point.

    The current list price is not advertised on their site, which appears to be another oversight (maybe intentional, to not distract from their main message).

    The installer contains a purchase link:

    www.diskzip.com/buy.php - $99

    The software in trial mode contains a different link, but same price:

    www.diskzip.com/buy.aspx - $99

    So their list price is $100, more than triple that of WinZip/WinRAR, which may be hard to justify despite their exponentially larger feature set.


    However they have cleverly hidden some "achievements" in the product. These reduce the cost substantially. Here are the "achievements" which I have managed to unlock so far:

    1) Use DiskZIP Online in trial mode - 30% discount - $69.30
    Instructions: Launch DiskZIP Online directly using your Start Menu. Start compressing your disk with DiskZIP Online. Once you have created 1 GB of free disk space, the trial will prevent further compression; but you will be shown the coupon code. You can also "game" the system by restarting DiskZIP Online each time you are booted out, and creating a new free 1 GB block each time.

    2) Use DiskZIP Offline with maximum compression - 50% discount - $49.50
    Instructions: Launch DiskZIP Offline directly using your Start Menu. Choose the MaxSpace compression setting and click Compress. The trial does not allow compression at this setting, but it will show you the coupon code.

    3) Use DiskZIP Offline to recompress a disk - 70% discount. - $29.70
    Instructions: Launch DiskZIP Offline directly using your Start Menu. Choose the MaxSpeed compression setting and click Compress. Follow the on-screen instructions to complete the compression process "offline". When you have rebooted back into Windows, Launch DiskZIP Offline again through the Start Menu. Choose the MaxSpeed compression setting, and click Recompress. The trial does not allow you to recompress your disk, but it will show you the coupon code.

    If the above instructions are against the rules or DiskZIP has an issue with it, just drop me a note and I'll take them out!

    Clearly the product is overpriced at list, and the achievements mechanism is designed to lure you in to trying the product in exchange for revealing its true price. At $30, its a bargain, at least compared to the likes of WinZip/WinRAR. Considering how much extra space you may create on the biggest SSDs which run in the thousands (say Samsung 860 EVO 4 TB, $1,872.95 on Newegg), it would easily pay for itself many times over.
     
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  5. TreeTops Ranch

    TreeTops Ranch Notebook Deity

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    "Many of the old timers I alluded to at the start of this section have had strongly negative experiences with transparent disk compression in the 90s."

    I'm one of those so I don't do disk compression anymore. But appreciate your review non the less and I don't want to be critical of your effort.
     
  6. msintle

    msintle Notebook Consultant

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    Thank you for your support! I am trying to do a good job here.

    I am barely getting started with the review, hoping to finish the installer section later today.
     
  7. Maleko48

    Maleko48 Notebook Evangelist

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    Can you share any quantified results proving there is no or very minimal performance losses? Like disk speed/test results with and without the DiskZIP software?
     
    Last edited: Apr 12, 2018
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  8. msintle

    msintle Notebook Consultant

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    Here are official DiskZIP results on an SSD:

    ssd.jpg

    And here are official DiskZIP results on an HDD:

    hdd.jpg

    All of the results apply only to compression performed with DiskZIP Offline.

    As you can see, these results illustrate that effects vary by compression type, and the underlying type of hardware
     
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  9. Maleko48

    Maleko48 Notebook Evangelist

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    Thank you for that info. And the other half of the equation is roughly what percentage % of disk space does this actually conserve?

    Like say you got a 512GB SSD that's half full uncompressed for example.

    One reason I really like the idea of this utility is because it would actually put our often-under-utilized CPUs to better use for everyday computing. I hate spending the money on nice hardware and rarely using it beyond 10% of it's abilities, lol.

    On the flip side, I bet all the extra processing full time on a laptop would knock down battery life figures.
     
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  10. Maleko48

    Maleko48 Notebook Evangelist

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    Oh and I just thought of a couple more questions:


    How hard is this to reverse or uninstall if you have issues?

    Does it require partition imaging or restructuring at all during install/uninstall?

    Or does it just operate at the O/S level on top of whatever your existing partition layout/scheme is?
     
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