Get More Hard Drive Space for Free

Last Updated Feb 10, 2009 2:51 PM EST

I like free stuff; that's why I hang out around the samples counter at the grocery store. Recently, I discovered that if you've got an external hard drive, you might be able to squeeze an extra 20% or so of extra storage space, depending upon your drive and operating system.

Here's how: Many external hard drives come pre-formatted for the old FAT32 file system, mainly for compatibility with Macs, Linux, and older versions of Windows. But if you have Windows XP or Vista, you're just wasting space like a sucker. Here's how to find out how your drive is formatted:

  1. Click Start and then click My Computer.
  2. Right-click the external hard drive and choose Properties.
  3. On the General tab, check the File system.
If it says FAT32, consider reformatting the drive. To do that, go back to the My Computer folder and right click the drive. This time, choose Format and specify the NTFS file system (be sure Quick Format is checked). Of course before you format the drive, make sure there's no important data on it, or you have a reliable backup.

After the format is complete, you'll have more space than you did before, and it didn't cost a penny.