Alamo PC Organization: HOME > PC Alamode Magazine > Product Reviews


Stacker 4.1 multiple views

© David Savage, Phyllis Christian, Les Smith

box David: Billed as the Only official Stacker for Windows 95 we give mixed reviews to Stac Electronics newest revision. Stacker is a great product for disk compression. It’s guaranteed to give you the most disk space possible. But there is a war brewing and we’ll give you that info also.

With the limitations we note, Stacker 4.1 works well on DOS 3.2 or higher and Windows 3.0 up, WFWG, and Windows 95. A separate version is available for OS/2.

 I used Stacker on my 486, Win 3.1, 2 Gig drive and love it. I was running out of space last month and about to go buy a new hard drive when I ran across this. When I say out of space, I mean out of space, less than 20k free. I was having to delete files every time I called the BBS to get a qwik packet. Installation on a fully populated 2 gig drive in two equal partitions gave me a total of 5 gigs after running the Stacker routine. It took a lot of time, about 3 hours to install.

 There were two tradeoffs. First it does reduce performance, in my case about a 10% increase in access times. More importantly it increased the space on my C partition in the C partition. However on my D partition, it created a new partition G and moved all my files there. For DOS that won’t be much of a problem but in Windows it meant that every icon application now could not be found. I had to manually change the properties of every icon to point to G instead of the original D. Overall, it was worth it for the extra space, overall gain of 2.5 times. I asked Phyllis Christian to evaluate it on Win 95.

 Phyllis: (Files Sysop, Alamo-PC Organization)
System: Pentium90, 1.08Gig, 420 MB and 1.2Gig Hard drives. 16 MB Ram
Windows95 and Microsoft Plus

I have used Stacker to compress my drives since version 2.0 right through Stacker Multimedia Version 4.0 and felt very comfortable with it. Although Stacker 4.1 has a label stating it to be "The Only Windows 95 Official Stacker Compression" it is not a Windows 95 certified program...Right off the top, I do not feel that Stacker 4.1 is really W95 compatible, for everything of any importance has to be done from DOS. Keep in mind that the return to W95 is by using the command "Exit" (unless you use Alt/Tab) which has the ability to also dismount a removable drive...

 First, I have 3 hard drives.; My 1 gig C drive was not compressed but my 420 Meg D drive and 1.2 gig E drive was compressed with DoubleSpace3 since I also have the add-on "Microsoft Plus". The first conflict was that Stacker would not convert DoubleSpace3 drives. That meant you had to go through the lengthy procedure of transferring any excess files off your hard disk and then decompression. This takes a couple of hours to say the least before you are ready to use Stacker.

 Although my drives had been thoroughly scanned, defragged and hung on the line to dry...Stacker continually found an error 18 on drive D and then suddenly went on as though nothing was wrong and stacked the drive. It went from about 200 meg free to 860 free and drive E 675 Meg free to 492 Meg free and then created another drive I with 1069MB free...When accessing drive E I received a "low disk space" notice and had to scramble to transfer some of my files to the new drive.

 I also have a Zip drive with 100MB cartridges and I thought this would be great to carry files to the BBS site. I made the mistake and compressed a disk with some files on it and it took an hour and five minutes to process a 100MB cartridge...Compressing an empty drive is much more time efficient (about 15 minutes) and you wind up with 248MB free, which will drop radically if you are storing already compressed zip files. By the way, be sure to read the "readme.txt" file created on your removeable, go everywhere disk. I had used this function before with Stacker and liked the ability to carry large files and more quantity with me...guess what...I stacked a disk and filled it with files. When I got to the site I dropped to DOS to install the Zip drive and Stacker kept telling me to close all windows programs and go to DOS....Although I had dropped to DOS through the Program Menu, I assumed it wanted me to reboot in the DOS mode. Since I couldn't shut the BBS down with many users on line, it was a lost cause. Never could get it to take so I haven't stacked any other removables......

 This is not meant to be a burial review about Stacker 4.1.. It is just what I have encountered and don't feel it was properly finished product.. It needs to be tweaked and fine tuned... As usual it is a memory hog and I suddenly found myself running into the dreaded "Not enough memory" phrase...Stacker's recommendation was for me to use MemMaker which I didn't even have on my system anymore and I had no memory problems with DoubleSpace3.. What may not work for me may be just fine on your system. This will just help alert you to some of the pitfalls.

 David: Aha! Microsoft is also in the drive compression business now and not wishing to be Stacker friendly. Phyllis has gone back to DoubleSpace with a 1.8 times compression obtained. I just bought another 486 for my niece. Configuration is 486, 8 megs RAM, 420 Meg Conner drive, prepopulated with Win 95 and a total of 330 Megs of stuff out of the box, no Microsoft Plus. Billing a system as a 425 meg system with less than 90 megs of available space to the new purchaser is another story. Anyway, after a little clean up, I decided to test it on that system.

 I did an express setup which installed without a glitch in 1½ hours, giving me now a total of 1,056 Megs (1 Gig) with 649 Megs free. Performance decrease again was about 10% but it did provide enough space for a high school student to reasonably use the system. This time, no drive reassignment took place. All of the available space is on drive C. Overall compression of 2.33 times. Concerned with Phyllis’s experience and suspecting something from the Microsoft Plus may be the problem, I then asked Les Smith to uninstall his Microsoft Plus and see how he would fare with Stacker 4.1.

 Les: First, I need to define some parameters. We wanted to know if Stacker would install, run and generally work correctly when a computer had Microsoft Plus installed and then removed prior to installation of Stacker. Stacker had previously been installed over Microsoft Plus and disaster occurred.

 My system is a 486 DX4-100 with 12 megs of RAM. I have an 850 meg Western Digital hard-drive. I ran SCANDISK AND CHKDSK prior to installation as per instructions. My system had no problems and I proceeded to install Stacker 4.1. Installation took approximately one hour and seventeen minutes to install. The following is going to look like the side of a software package.

850 MB
2,139 MB
8.2 - 8.6 ms
8.68 ms
Seat of the pants reaction was favorable. Start-up for windows was longer by about 20 seconds from 25 to 45 seconds. Slightly longer to open MS Word 7 by 6-8 seconds; it went from the high teens to 25 seconds. I didn’t notice any difference with other programs. I also have a utility named First Aid 95 which works much like Norton except it’s more through. The Stacker Users Guide states NOT to use this type of program. Well, I called First Aid and ask them. They assured me there were no conflicts and they were right. All in all, I can sum it up in one word. AWSOME! I now have a 2+ Gig hard drive and an extremely acceptable trade-off in speed.

 David: To wrap up, Stacker is and has been the premium drive compression software for quite awhile. If you have run DOS, Windows 3.1 or Windows 95 WITHOUT Microsoft Plus, it is a very affordable way to greatly increase your available space without too much of a performance hit. Stacker 4.1 and Microsoft Plus have some problems which still need to be addressed. If that is your setup you may want to wait for version 4.2, or resign yourself to Drivespace at ½ the efficiency.

This just in! Stacker V. 2.0 is now available for the Macintosh for those users who know what expensive hardware really is. If it works as well for you folks, then you are in for a real affordable thrill.

 Finally a word on registration. Phyllis removed the copy from her system, I purchased and registered mine and my niece’s copy, Les Smith received the final review copy for registration as his reward for participation. We neither promote nor encourage software piracy.

 What did you pay for your harddrive space? Is it worth $49.98 less 5% with your cue card and another 5% with the coupon in this issue from Egghead?

 You Betcha!