Posted by on July 12, 2010 in Family Tree Maker

Compact File. You may have noticed this option on the Tools menu. But what it is? As you work in your trees you will add and delete quite a bit of data. However, even when data has been removed from a tree, the file may still remain at a larger size. You can use the Compact File Tool to compress your tree file, remove unnecessary items, and reindex the file. This tool will optimize the software’s performance and is a useful tool to run periodically.

  1. Click Tools>Compact File.
  2. If you want to back up your file before you compress it, click the Back up file checkbox (recommended).
  3. Click Compact. If you have chosen to back up your file, the Backup window opens. Change any options as necessary and click OK.

When the process is finished, a message shows how much Family Tree Maker reduced the size of your file. Because file compression happens behind the scenes, you won’t necessarily see any changes in your tree, but you should notice better performance and a smaller overall file size.


Chuck Willford 

I do adds and deletes daily (about 4 hours) to add all the missing media files that were not merging with FTM2008&9. It will take me about a year to to back and add all those images that I chose to ignore when those “old” software issues existed. I compact daily and sometimes more often.

It still hasn’t stopped the crashes and the “FTM needs to close” problems. With a file with 23,500 people and a size of 100.3 MB, there are still issues.


July 12, 2010 at 10:26 am

I first purchased FTM 2009, plus the book, entered all the names from two “trees” that I wanted, as well as added some documents, but not as many as I should – a tedious job I’ve ignored, as I’ve searched for documents on another tree.
I then purchased FTM 2010 [why, I don’t know, but I fell for the “sales pitch” and the sale price} but with so many negative comments, it took me a long while to install it. Rather then mess up the two large trees I had in FTM 2009 {1000 and 4000+ – small by some standards}, I experimented with two very small ones {25 and 300+}importing all the names and documents that I had downloaded to my computer, then uploaded to my “trees”, etc.
Since that time, I have rarely if ever gone to either FTM, but I just checked out FTM 2010{also showing one of the trees in FTM 2009} – all the names I entered seem to be there, along with a whole bunch of “hints”, but when I try to click on a hint, a message comes up saying that I have to register, but nothing happens when I hit the word “register” {same goes for the FTM 2009 tree}!
I have no idea what it all means, so as far as I’m concerned, this product was a waste of money for me.

July 12, 2010 at 11:44 am
Linda York 

i agree there are still way too many crashes and FTM needs to close. Irritating but gratifying to know I am not the only one with this problem. I was told my file was too large — I split the file and have 50% of my drive as free space — the computer checks out fine — this is a FTM software problem — not the hardware. Please -PLEASE — fix the crashes and FTM has to close issues.

July 12, 2010 at 12:23 pm
Kirk Sellman 

Compacting FTM 2010 crashes about half the time, but I just bring it up and try again.

July 12, 2010 at 12:38 pm
Gord Hines 

I cannot sing the praises of FTM2010 highly enough!
(I have Windows Vista Business on a high quality Toshiba Satellite Pro laptop)

I’ll admit it is not easy to grasp all that it is capable of since FTM2010 is now so “feature rich”.
E.g. after using it 8-9 months now, I finally “discovered” how to transfer the downloaded Ancestry sources and media from closely duplicated facts, thereby being able to consolidate from 2-3 of the “same fact” into just a single fact.

I have used FTM since 1997 until Ver16 in 2006, only upgrading every 2-3 years. Luckily, I skipped the debacle of FTM2008 (tho’ I bought it, I had not installed it — not did I ever, once the problems began appearing.) I bought 2009 after the 1st or 2nd set of patches were released. I installed it and was able to import all my FTM2006 people apparently seamlessly. I then encountered some kind of enormous glitch that caused me to lose about 300 persons… and not just the most recent… most of which were still there. I was able to do a file comparison of GEDCOMs of the newest and prior largest FTM file copies (NOT FTM bk files, but actual copies) — and identified and restored all the “lost” persons, with all notes, etc intact. It took me a week or more.

That experience, I am convinced was due to NOT COMPACTING after doing many many new and updated person additions to the file.

I bought FTM2010 almost immediately after that disaster — suspecting there were still unfixed glitches in FTM2009.

The import went seamlessly (or so I thought). I recently became aware that my use of the characters / \ and ; within old (Ver 16 & before) placenames had caused many placenames/descriptions to become “jumbled” — desc parts appearing as place names and vice versa. The PLACEs sorting in FTM2010 is allowing me to easily find these and fix them on a 1 by 1 basis as I chose.

ALL my photos from my Ver16 FTM2006 miraculously appeared in FTM2010. I was ecstatic!!

The integration of FTM2010 with the website (I have a paid subscription) is a priceless timesaver. The hints are enormously helpful and highly accurate about 80-90% of the time– and many are DEAD-ON!! The ability to auto-download the source reference (text) AND any related source media document (record images, photos, stories etc) is invaluable.

My FTM data and media files grow larger daily… so COMPACTING AND BACKUP (BOTH DATA AND MEDIA) at least WEEKLY is standard for me now.

Especially with media files, compacting saves a lot of space — 5-10% each time I run it.

When I add more than 10-15 persons in a session, I will COMPACT (with backup) only the DATA file.

I just wish FTM2010 had a feature that allowed you to view all the persons you during a given session.
I often will work on 10-15 persons within a session and want to jump back and forth — it is impossible as far as I can tell. RootsMagic does have this feature!!… and I really liked it during my 4 week test run of their newest major update (Ver4, I think).

That’s my 2 cents worth for today.// Gord Hines

July 12, 2010 at 12:41 pm
Paul Wootten 

Is FTM ever going to be able synchronise what you have on your PC with what you have online???

I don’t want to create a new tree after making several changes/additions to my PC one, with the associated hassle of reinviting relatives and helpers. Neither do I want to duplicate everything I do on the PC with what I have online, it’s too slow and things will get missed on one tree or the other! And even if I do let FTM publish my tree, it won’t upload the pictures because the overall file size is too big. C’mon!! You encourage us to add images, documents, video, etc. But then you don’t even allow us to upload it!

I would have thought synchronisation would have been one of the major reasons for anyone to purchase the FTM program, and so far it seems to have been ignored by the programmers.


July 12, 2010 at 12:42 pm
Paul Wootten 

OK, so I may as well get another couple of moans off of my chest while the subject is FTM…

Why in the Web Dashboard, is there never any topics specifically relevant to the English/Europeans? You do plenty of articles relevant to the US.

Why isn’t it easier to see when someone has had more than one marriage?

When doing a Web Search and listing#1 is downloaded, why isn’t it cached? When you move to listing#2 then back to listing#1, the program reloads it?

Why doesn’t your mapping partner (Bing) know some of the most well known locations?

Why can’t you put a question mark in the date field? It’s an obvious use of English that’ll make you aware that it’s not absolute.

There’s more, but I’ve got to go now.
It’d be great if we could get some answers to some of these questions.

July 12, 2010 at 1:00 pm

It would be nice if FTM mirrored My Trees on the ACOM site.

July 12, 2010 at 1:27 pm


I use “c.” to note approximate dates. This usually gets translated by FTM as “Abt.” (“About”).


July 12, 2010 at 6:06 pm
Paul Roberts 

Gord Hines: I would love to know how you consolidate duplicate sources and media. I’m just starting and haven’t had to do that yet but I’m sure it’ll come up.

July 12, 2010 at 7:35 pm
Gord Hines 

After my earlier comment today (#5 above), I realized I’d been working intensively for almost 2 weeks without compacting (but had closed/reopened FTM 5-6 times over the period)… so I compacted tonite. The reported reduction in file size (including media) was almost 26%!!

July 12, 2010 at 8:47 pm
Gord Hines 

FTM crashes on Windows PCs MIGHT be attributable to high fragmentation of the hard drive — or just high fragmentation of the FTM data file. I do NOT use the Windows default defrag — it is too slow and has no option to defrag a single file. I have used the FREE Auslogics Defrag Utility for years (since WinXP) and am impressed with it. Available from

I also complement this with the FREE Defraggler —

Each has its nice little bells… e.g. Auslogics will delete many ‘temp’ files created while browsing automatically (if you choose to).

Both have the advantage of being able to select just a single file or group of files to be defragged!!

Just another 2 cents worth! // Gord :-)

July 12, 2010 at 9:01 pm
Gord Hines 

oops — Defraggler is free at this link:
// Gord

July 12, 2010 at 9:03 pm
Gord Hines 

To Paul Roberts (re: #10 above): Just to clarify… the problem I described deals with multiple versions of the “same” FACT — not multiple copies of the same media.

This “close duplicate” situation occurs most commonly when a NEW “FACT” such as a Birth, Death or Marriage gets created when merging a record found on into your FTM file.

Often when you find a NEW, better, evidence record for a Birth, say, the merge asks you to chose it as the PREFERRED FACT, ALTERNATE FACT, or IGNORE IT (but keep the Source) — PLUS keep the Media too, if you’ve chosen to.

If you already had only 1 Fact, then FTM (or you), already had this as a default “PREFERRED FACT”. The MERGE will NOT ALLOW 2 Preferred Facts….(understandably)… If the new FACT records (Data+Source+Media) are chosen as the PREFERRED, then your EXISTING FACT Data+Sources+Media MUST be made ALTERNATE. The RESULT is that all your NOTES (in particular, but could include Sources &/or Media) that should be associated with your PREFERRED FACT are now in the wrong place…

My goal was to move (by actual copying — NOT by simply linking to the source or media location) the NEWLY merged (i.e. downloaded) Source and media over to my original FACT — where I might have pages and pages of Notes PLUS other sources/media that are really part of my (original) preferred fact.

Having finally found how to do this (that’s the key part of course, that you want to know how to do), I (1) double check that all downloaded (merged) Source info and media have been duplicated over to the original FACT, then (2) change that original FACT from “Alternate” back to “Preferred”… This automatically changes the recently added “Preferred” FACT to an “Alternate Fact” along with its recently added (i.e. merged) Source & Media. (3) Anything I want to keep permanently from this Alternate FACT has now been safely “moved”… so I then delete this FACT…. leaving me quite where I started… i.e. with my Original PREFERRED FACT.

As with most things in PC-life, describing in words what is accomplished in a series of mouse-clicks makes for a considerable challenge. It’s far easier to understand if you can actually see the cursor moves and mouse-clicks in action on a live screen.

The FTM webinars do this kind to “how to” remarkably well.

After the latest webinar, in the after-show survey comments, I suggested they include this procedure as a HOW TO in a future webinar.

Here’s hoping they do…. and that it’s before you encounter the problem and actually need to know the corrective solution!!

I think I must be up to a nickel’s worth by now for the day.

Now I should get back to doing more work on my FTM….

Regards to all.// Gord

July 12, 2010 at 10:19 pm
Gord Hines 

A final comment on FTM crashes on Windows PCs — another cause, commonly overlooked.

The worst PC crash I ever sustained was back in Windows95 days… all I was running at the time was FTM and a Norton Anti-Virus. It turned out that there was an undocumented conflict with my ATI video card when BOTH FTM AND the anti-virus were running at the same time. That crash hobbled my use of FTM and doing genealogy in general for several years.

Although I have not researched anti-virus program conflicts for a year or so, I’m aware that various anti-virus programs, with various video cards, with various PC games (and other programs — like FTM???) STILL CAUSE CRASHES.

After that crash (it was 2003), I did a lot of research on anti-viruses and program conflicts.

I chose the AVAST HOME EDITION (FREE). It has never, ever, caused any interference with any of my programs…. It runs quietly in the background keeping me safe and secure.

You can get AVAST at

TTFN.// Gord

July 12, 2010 at 10:39 pm

WOW! I’m sure someone understands all that!

July 13, 2010 at 5:04 am
Chuck Willford 

I retried defrag again, just to verify. It had no effect. I can almost crash the software at will by deleting multiple redundant records (need to do about 12) and then try to add a new piece of data to the right side input panel in “People” view.

Again, I have a 100.5 Mb file and 23,600 people. Nearly 11000 media files.


NOTE: It is still the best choice for what I am doing. Adding and verifying and merging “Historical Image Records” residing on Ancestry.

July 13, 2010 at 11:27 am
Kevin Harris 

Everything is gone.. All the work I have done is gone. The trees are gone, I used my sign in and its someone, or no one. its all blank.

July 13, 2010 at 6:38 pm
Roger Engelken 

I’ve not had any problems of consequence using this utility. My file with media is 375mb consisting of 36,279 persons in the file from twenty years of genealogical research.

July 13, 2010 at 7:50 pm
Chuck Willford 


You’re using FTM2010? And, it does abruptly stop?


July 13, 2010 at 11:09 pm
Ed Hudson 

My main file is almost 309 Meg and 272,000 + people and, yes, FTM2010 does just abruptly stop with no indication. And I do compact my file frequently. I have to restart Windows to get going again (otherwise, FTM will show that my main file is still in use).
Only other issue is the Relationship Calculator. It’s so cumbersome that I added a Fact title and enter my own calculation of the closest kinship. My family is VERY complex, having traveled in groups from Europe to several very early arrival points in the Americas, then West and South to arrive in 2 neighboring counties.

July 14, 2010 at 8:21 am
Chuck Willford 

Ed Hudson,

Thanks for the update and data. What are you doing when it crashes? I’m adding and deleting sources.

After FTM crashes, you need to wait a bit before restarting. The auto backup is still running and will it will say the that your file is still in use. You can double check that if you are familiar with the task manager and it’s various tabs??? Right after the crash, bring up the task managers (ctrl-alt-del) and you will see that FTM is NOT a running in “Applications”; but, FTM.exe will still be running under the “Processes” tab. It will be the biggest file, so will usually show as the first entry. If you wait a few moments it will finish and you can start FTM regularly. No windows restart. AT least, that’s what I found out in WIN 7.

Hope this helps,

Anyone else?

July 14, 2010 at 9:00 am
Paul Roberts 

Gord, thanks for the tutorial!

July 14, 2010 at 8:25 pm
Gord Hines 

Paul Roberts… you’re welcome. Hope some of it helps.

Chuck Willford… Thanks for the crash tip…. patience can be a virtue.

Win7??…. I think I’ll wait with my Vista now working just fine…. After Service Pack 1 or 2 perhaps…

July 15, 2010 at 12:55 am

I am having a problem with the program tells me to compact my files, yet when I do the whole program closes and then when I open it again it gives me the same comment to go to tools and compact you files. Help

July 15, 2010 at 2:40 pm
Jon Sanders 

I’ve been using FTM for many years prior to FTM16 and also used 2008, 2009, and now 2010. Have over 20K names and over 4K attachments with a size of file of around 70M with 4.5G’s of attachments.

Anyway 2010 clearly does not crash nearly as much as 2008 did. But one thing that I’ve noticed is that almost all of my crashes occur due to the embedded IE when doing searches and merges. It was worse when my company forced me to use IE6 but when I upgraded to IE7 things got noticeably better. I get to upgrade to Win7 later this summer and thus IE8 which based on another PC I use is even more stable (I hope). Anyway not sure when the last nonIE based FTM crash I’ve had but its been a while (if I could just bypass IE).

If you use an IE version below 8 and can upgrade to IE8 you will likely solve many of your crashes with FTM.


July 15, 2010 at 11:53 pm
Beth Edmond 

I have always used Family Tree Maker. However I recently have stopped using it due to the fact that after I have entered so many people 20,000 the program crashes. I have compacted faithly right before I close the program.

I hope this issue is being taking care of.

July 19, 2010 at 11:11 am