Recently I was interested in finding out which compression utility does the best job. I decided to take the utilities that are most common among people I know and what people recommend on the internet. I guess it comes as no surprise that Winzip, Winrar and 7-zip topped the list. Continue reading to see my results.
Using the latest stable builds for all products as of 24.09.2012
The 64bit version was used for all compression utilities on Windows 7 x64.
Winzip 16.5 (zipx) – $29.95, evaluation available
Winrar 4.20 (rar) – $29.00, evaluation available
7-Zip 9.20 (7z) – Free
Zip2.0 (zip files created with Winzip 16.5, it is however supported by all the software packages)
Winzip 16.5: Best method (Auto detects file type and uses a corresponding compression method)
Winrar 4.20: Best
7-Zip 9.20: Ultra
Zip2.0: Enh. Deflate
Note about Winzip: “best method” will choose a compression method that suits the file(s) being compressed. It is not a specific compression format as it will choose amongst the compression formats available within the software to achieve the best compression ratio.
Please note that I did not take compression speed into account. For what it’s worth, none of them were noticeably faster than the other. Each software package completed the various tests within a decent time frame.
% Compression (Decrease from original size, higher is better)
The cells highlighted green is the “Winner” of the round.
Winrar = 0 wins
Winzip = 3 wins
7-zip = 3 wins
Zip 2.0= 1 win
As we can see from the results above Winzip and 7-Zip are tied with three “wins” each, but it’s important to keep in mind that for the most part each win was by a very small percentage. There were however two tests where a convincing lead was taken:
JPEG test: Winzip compressed 23% more data than the other software packages.
Random Files test: 7-Zip compressed 7% more data than the other software packages.
If we reflect back on those results, it’s clear that Winrar, Winzip and 7-zip are more or less as good as each other at compressing different file types with the only exceptions being those written above (JPEG and Random file tests).
It is also worthwhile noting that the old Zip 2.0 standard is showing it its age and it’s a good thing users are moving away from it. Zip 2.0 does however offer maximum compatibility. Every compression utility supports it as well as Windows XP/Vista and Windows 7 natively.
Although the tests above were simple, they clearly outline where each of the products stand and as we can see there wasn’t a clear winner. Unless you are going to be compressing JPEG files, then Winzip is by far the best choice. Also worth noting is 7-zip. As the only free alternative 7-zip achieved fantastic compression results across the board.
Which should you use?
With the results above, we can conclude that whichever utility you choose or currently use there is no major reason to jump ship to another product. If you’re on the fence I’d say the final decision will have to come down to each of the utilities feature set.
7-zip offers the least here with regards to feature set and the user interface, but Winrar and Winzip offer a complete package with very expansive feature sets. In addition to this, it’s worthwhile taking into account the security features each of the packages offer. I plan to write a small post at a later date about the security features as I think it might be interesting to have a look at.
As for me, I currently own and use Winzip and Winrar. Their feature sets are extremely well thought out and I like working with their tools. It is however worthwhile mentioning that I hadn’t tried 7-zip before I ran these tests and I was pleasantly surprised to see that it was as good, if not better than, Winrar and Winzip. Unfortunately, it just does not have the feature set I want to push Winzip and Winrar out of No.1 spot.