he most effective way to speed up your file transfers is by shrinking the size of the files you send. First, consider compressing the files into a single file "container" such as zip, RAR or ARC. Zip is the obvious choice - support for zip files is built into both Windows XP and Vista, making it the most accessible format by far out there. Zip files can be opened directly simply by double-clicking them, while creating a zip archive is simple too: just select all your files and folders, right-click one of them and choose Send to > Compressed (zipped) Folder.
If you need to access a different kind of compressed file, or want to experiment with different containers to see which work best, install IZArc from here, but remember - anyone who receives a non-zipped compressed file will need IZArc or similar program to open it at their end too.
Choose a compressed file
Zipped files are best for distributing a large group of files or folders in one convenient package, but if you're working with a specific type of file, such as an image or music file, then consider saving it in a format that has compression built-in.
If you have an image file, try saving it as a GIF (for line art or greyscale images), PNG or JPEG. The step-by-step guide below reveals tips and techniques to follow in order to cut your image file sizes. If you have a large number of images to process, use a batch-conversion tool like that provided by the excellent Faststone Image Viewer (click here), which is free for personal use.
More ways to cut your photos' file sizes
1. RESIZE THE IMAGE
An 8-megapixel image can take up to 30MB space uncompressed. Reduce this to 2,000 x 1,500 - perfectly adequate for regular sized prints - and you'll cut its size to just 11.4MB - a saving of over 60 per cent.
2. REDUCE PNG COLOUR DEPTH
Experiment with the number of colours in your image - thanks to dithering techniques, 8-bit is still perfectly legibile, and you'll slash the image size by over 80 per cent (from 8.1MB to 1.3MB in our example above).
3. CHOOSE JPEG
PNG can't compete with JPEG when it comes to file size - at 80 per cent quality, our example has been shrunk from 11.4MB to just 545KB; at 60 per cent it's just 369KB, but obviously quality has been compromised.
Music and sound files can also be compressed - an uncompressed WAV consumes around 10MB per minute, while both MP3 and WMA can reduce that figure by up to 90 per cent, albeit at a cost of quality. To get the best compromise between quality and file size, choose 128-bit for WMA or 256-bit for MP3.
It's also possible to shrink files by stripping out unwanted information - look for an option in the parent application to compact or compress a file.
Lossless compression: Files shrunk in this way can be recreated in their original form without any loss of data or quality.