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7-Zip 9.1 Beta And FreeArc 0.60

Four Compression And Archiving Solutions Compared
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7-Zip 9.1 Beta

7-Zip is an open source file archiving tool available at 7-zip.org. It supports a variety of formats that can be unpacked and a limited number of archiving formats. 7-Zip’s Web site claims that the program compresses 2% to 10% better into ZIP format than competing software. This refers to the program’s compression ratio compared to six of its ZIP-based peers.

However, the real strength of 7-Zip is its own 7z format. This open architecture allows the 256-bit AES encryption we tried in our AES-NI Performance Analyzed article, which looked at the performance advantages of Intel’s new Clarkdale-based Core i5 processors when utilizing the six new instructions for AES encryption and decryption. AES is supported within the 7z and ZIP formats. With 7z, you might not see much performance benefit, despite the new instructions. This is because the 7z algorithm is already pretty heavy, slowing down the process enough to make AES acceleration less relevant. This is something we've discussed with Intel, and representatives at the company confirm our findings.

7-Zip isn’t as prolific as some of the other tools in this story, but it’s still supported by other archiving utilities, such as IZArc, PowerArchiver, TUGZip, and WinRAR. Typically, 7-Zip utilizes LZMA compression (LZ77), but it’s also possible to utilize others. LZMA can run variable dictionary sizes of up to 4GB (via a 64-bit OS).

The 7-Zip 9.1 beta also supports the more advanced LZMA2. 7-Zip runs on the command line, or you can use the default Windows GUI that includes a file manager interface. As many as 74 localized language versions are available, and the program runs on all Windows versions from Windows 98 to Windows 7. Unlike WinZip, 7-Zip is fully thread-optimized and can take advantage of multiple processing cores.

FreeArc 0.60

The fast (yet efficient) FreeArc tool is available at freearc.org. The site says that the utility can work up to 3x faster than the best compression programs. This probably refers to WinZip and other popular products. FreeArc runs on either a command line or a GUI, and the list of advantages on FreeArc’s site is impressive. The program is capable of switching between various compression algorithms according to file type. While this helps to maximize the compression ratio, it also binds the user to FreeArc, as other solutions are unlikely to be able to understand and decompress your archives. A total of 11 algorithms are supported. Keep in mind that this doesn’t necessarily apply to compressing--only reading and unpacking archives. It’s also possible to integrate external programs to compress or filter data.

Within a range of up to 1GB, the program can find repetitions (REP), remove repetitions in texts (LZP), and pre-process executables (BCJ). FreeArc also sorts files in an a way that takes maximum advantage of these features. Fast compression settings will automatically use GRZIP for text and Tornado for binary data.

FreeArc can also add encryption to secure your file archives. It supports AES, Blowfish, Twofish, and Serpent. Self-extracting archives, joining, recompressing, locking, and comments are all supported. However, not all file attributes are stored. So far, there hasn’t been a 64-bit version of FreeArc released, and it still lacks support for multi-volume archives. Fortunately, self-extracting archives and the ability to create simple installers are included.

FreeArc is suitable for anyone who doesn’t mind spending a bit of time adjusting archiving solutions for her or his environment. Version 0.7, which should be available around the time this article goes online, is supposed to make “the program as easy to use as WinRAR.” The developers want to add full support for RAR and 7z formats later on.

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Top Comments
  • 16 Hide
    jsowoc , March 10, 2010 6:01 AM
    7-zip also supports multi-volume archives (at least the stable 4.65). It's an option called "volume size", and you automatically get a multi-volume archive.
  • 14 Hide
    jsowoc , March 10, 2010 6:30 AM
    I disagree with the way weighting was assigned, as simply a product of processing time and file size. I have a tool that would win: gnu tar. It does not do any compression, and should be able to "compress" the 650 MB workload into 650 MB in whatever time it takes to read/write the data. An overall "score" should factor in how you might use the compressed data.

    In my opinion, the tradeoff between speed and compression depends on what you want to do with the data. Assuming you have a 56kbps modem connection, you'd spend the extra hour compressing if it saved 25 MB. However, if you have a 1 Mbps line, the same file savings of 25 MB would only be worth 4 minutes of your time. In the case of storing to (fast) local backup, the shift should be even more toward faster compression.
  • 12 Hide
    Anonymous , March 10, 2010 11:53 AM
    7-zip also has the option of integrating with the OS via contextual menus, but for some reason the devs do not do this by default on installation.
    You have to open the program options and enable the contextual menus, which improve 7-zip's usability significantly.
Other Comments
  • -6 Hide
    kahwaji_n , March 10, 2010 5:13 AM
    why tomshardware remove the Print Option from all the Articles?
    really too bad:( 
  • 9 Hide
    ricardok , March 10, 2010 5:59 AM
    Do people still use WinZip??

    Also, with every new WinZip version what else they change apart from some graphics on the GUI?? I've realized "Zip" was a bad choice since the LHA/ARJ days...
  • 16 Hide
    jsowoc , March 10, 2010 6:01 AM
    7-zip also supports multi-volume archives (at least the stable 4.65). It's an option called "volume size", and you automatically get a multi-volume archive.
  • 14 Hide
    jsowoc , March 10, 2010 6:30 AM
    I disagree with the way weighting was assigned, as simply a product of processing time and file size. I have a tool that would win: gnu tar. It does not do any compression, and should be able to "compress" the 650 MB workload into 650 MB in whatever time it takes to read/write the data. An overall "score" should factor in how you might use the compressed data.

    In my opinion, the tradeoff between speed and compression depends on what you want to do with the data. Assuming you have a 56kbps modem connection, you'd spend the extra hour compressing if it saved 25 MB. However, if you have a 1 Mbps line, the same file savings of 25 MB would only be worth 4 minutes of your time. In the case of storing to (fast) local backup, the shift should be even more toward faster compression.
  • 4 Hide
    gracefully , March 10, 2010 6:41 AM
    kahwaji_nwhy tomshardware remove the Print Option from all the Articles?really too bad


    They did not. Look for the printer icon near the top of the "Comments" header.
  • -4 Hide
    kahwaji_n , March 10, 2010 6:47 AM
    jakobbg how smart u are , this print only the current Page(i think u can do it from your browser! right Mr. Smart), what i meant is gone the Print article Option, OK take some omega3 (very good for brain)
  • -5 Hide
    Sihastru , March 10, 2010 6:57 AM
    Using an SSD to to archival/compression tests? Most of us use slow, "green", rotating platters for that. Any speed advantage 7zip has over winrar or winzip will disappear when you switch your expensive and puny-sized SSD with a cheap, reliable, multi-TB mechanical HDD.

    What is left is OS/application integration/adoption and there winzip is best. Winrar comes in a well deserved second place, for some of it's more interesting functions, that the others do not offer (like deep recursion into a given folder and auto decompression of all found archives, no matter the packaging method).
  • 2 Hide
    shreeharsha , March 10, 2010 7:02 AM
    Very useful article, Thanks.
  • -4 Hide
    Chipi , March 10, 2010 7:26 AM
    So you tested a beta version of WinRAR even though the final is out for some time now... Good job!

    My guess is that they removed the printer friendly version because anyone was able to read an article before it was published (and complete).
  • 0 Hide
    iye , March 10, 2010 9:18 AM
    WinACE used to be a very good piece of software, and quite popular too. Why is isn't included in this review?
  • 1 Hide
    mariushm , March 10, 2010 9:40 AM
    iyeWinACE used to be a very good piece of software, and quite popular too. Why is isn't included in this review?


    Because it was probably last updated around February 2008?
  • -4 Hide
    zipdrive , March 10, 2010 9:45 AM
    A point to consider when talking about multi-thread operation:
    When running a compression with 7z on a dual-core machine, wouldn't using both cores cause the entire machine to chug and be unresponsive? I find it more useful to just let it (and other software) use a single thread - it may take longer, but I can still use the computer all the while.
  • 6 Hide
    cscott_it , March 10, 2010 10:21 AM
    It makes me glad that I was a moderately early adopter of 7-zip. Although probably the nicest thing about it is that it will correctly decompress several things that aren't "supported".
  • -3 Hide
    eltoro , March 10, 2010 11:12 AM
    The review date is March 10th, and WinRAR 3.92 beta 1 was used in the review even though the final version was released enough time before the the review date.
    "Last updated: 15 February 2010
    * WinRAR and RAR 3.92 release"

    Strange...
  • 7 Hide
    randomizer , March 10, 2010 11:23 AM
    The review was originally published a month ago on the German THG. So there's nothing "suspicious" about using a beta of WinRAR, because the final did not exist when the testing was done.
  • -2 Hide
    Anonymous , March 10, 2010 11:29 AM
    The thing I hate about 7-zip is the crappy icons, but everything else is dandy.
  • 6 Hide
    Anonymous , March 10, 2010 11:51 AM
    The article is incorrect that WinRAR is the only one that supports multi-volume archives. 7-Zip has supported this for several years now (since late 2005, iirc).
  • 3 Hide
    climber , March 10, 2010 11:52 AM
    I've been hammering Corel whenever I talk to a company rep about multi-threading, all the way back to around 2001, and Corel owns Winzip now. I am a Corel user, have been since 1993, I'm a winzip user, have been since PKZip 2.5x. I hope Corel gets with the whole multi-threaded world, even though it is more complicated to program, because we all know future performance and efficiency is not through clock speeds but through parallelism.
  • 12 Hide
    Anonymous , March 10, 2010 11:53 AM
    7-zip also has the option of integrating with the OS via contextual menus, but for some reason the devs do not do this by default on installation.
    You have to open the program options and enable the contextual menus, which improve 7-zip's usability significantly.
  • -2 Hide
    ctbaars , March 10, 2010 12:09 PM
    I have IZArc. How does that fit into this?
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