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Four Compression And Archiving Solutions Compared

Four Compression And Archiving Solutions Compared
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Data compression is a subject that most of us typically take for granted. But in fact, it surrounds us: every installation package for a new piece of software and many file formats, such as JPEG for photos and various video and audio formats, depend on heavy compression to conserve storage space or transmission time and cost.

Users touch file compression first-hand when they need to work under certain restrictions when handling files. For example, having only one file to work with instead of many is often important for instance messenger- and FTP-based transfers. And getting a high compression ratio to fit data onto a fixed medium can be a critical factor as well.

But don't forget that compression and decompression also take time, and the processing muscle required to make these processes worth waiting on can be substantial, especially when you start factoring in encryption as well. We've received a lot of feedback from our readers in response to the compression tools tested in our processor and platform benchmarks. So, today we're looking at four different compression utilities: 7-Zip, FreeArc, WinRAR, and WinZip, comparing compression ratios and processing time. Which utility turns out to be the best?

There are plenty of software options available for storing, compressing, and archiving data in different ways. These tools no longer simply reduce file size and merge your input files into a single, manageable archive. They also support automatic downsizing of images, virus-checking, content-checking to avoid unnecessary compression of files that already are compressed, splitting, encrypting, and more.

Regardless of the value-added functionality your favorite tool includes, a comparison of compression programs typically comes down to performance and effectiveness (at least, when you ask enthusiasts). It’s important to realize a high compression ratio, ideally across as many file types as possible, and quick processing time is desirable, too. Most tools are capable of handling at least the popular ZIP format, and sometimes also RAR and/or LZH. Some tools claim to be more efficient or offer more flexibility. However, which format offers the best overall value when considering compression and processing time? Do all tools provide similar performance on common containers, such as ZIP?

We can’t possibly test all available compression tools, so we decided to focus on some of the most popular ones, based on your feedback in past stories. WinRAR and WinZip dominate the field, almost without question. 7-Zip and FreeArc were our additional choices. Let’s have a look at what these can do for you.

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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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