Do you need to compress a bunch of files and find out which compression format is better? Which program will give you the smallest file? Well, the answer is a little more complicated.
Yes, for any given dataset, one program will always provide the best compression and smallest file size, but depending on the data, it may not be the same program every time.
In addition, there are other factors to consider in addition to file size. As you will see, sometimes the difference between the two compression utilities is quite small, but the format can make a big difference. Plus, some are free and others cost money, so if you’re saving on a budget it easily diminishes your choices.
In this article, I’ll go over four different compression tools and try to describe the advantages and disadvantages of each. Apart from these four, there are many other options, but I believe they are the most popular and well known to most people.
Real world pressure test
First, let’s just look at the compression primes, because it’s always fun. For my tests, I decided to create a test folder with a bunch of data in various formats.
I don’t like to just compress images or just compress documents because the differences are ultimately very small and it’s hard to pick a clear winner.
In my case, I took 1.47 GB of video (various formats), images (RAW and other formats), documents (PDF, Office files, etc.), and music files (MP3, M4A, etc.) and skipped them through each compression utility from the default setting.
First, let’s start with the settings and versions I have. I am using a Windows 7 PC with Service Pack 1 and I have installed the latest versions of each program as of the date of publication: 7-Zip 15.09 beta (64-bit), WinZip version 20 and WinRAR x64 5.30 beta 6.
In addition to Windows 7 built-in compression, I’m also going to run the same dataset on Windows 10 to see if there are any differences between Windows versions. Ok, let’s check the results below.
- Windows 7 ZIP – 1.21 GB (down 17.6%)
- Windows 10 ZIP – 1.21 GB (down 17.6%)
- 7-ZIP – 1.11 GB (down 24.4%)
- WinZip – 1.20 GB (Decrease 18.3%)
- WinRAR – 1.16 GB (Decrease 21.0%)
So who wins?
Well, in terms of compression capabilities, 7-Zip is the clear winner. 7-Zip has been around for a while now, and they ranked highest in the top compression utility in several third-party tests, so the numbers aren’t very surprising.
So should you go for 7-ZIP to archive your files? It depends. The only problem with programs like 7-ZIP and WinRAR, both of which have done the best at compressing, is that they use proprietary formats that are not fully supported on other systems.
In order for someone to be able to open a 7-ZIP or WinRAR file, they need to first download and install the appropriate software on their machines. If you compress data for yourself, it doesn’t matter which format you use.
However, .7z and .rar files will require additional software on Windows, Mac and Linux. If compatibility is an issue, I recommend using Windows built-in compression.
WinZip is another option, but the difference between Windows built-in compression and WinZIP is minimal. Plus, WinZip will set you back at least $ 30, so the free option makes a lot more sense.
Also, the compression algorithm in Windows 7 looks exactly the same as it does in Windows 10, as the files end up being exactly the same size. This way, no matter if you are using Windows 7, 8, or 10, you will get the same compression ratio.
Again, since the .ZIP format can be opened on Windows, Mac, Linux and even ChromeOS without any additional software, Windows built-in compression is the best choice for compatibility. If you want the smallest size, choose 7-Zip. If you have any questions, do not hesitate to comment. Enjoy!