Four Compression And Archiving Solutions Compared

To Compress And Serve: File Archiving And Compression Utilities Compared

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.