The Best Free Compression / ZIP program: a comparison

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6. The Tests: Extraction and Compression

The Extraction Test:  we extracted a multi part RAR archive (consisting of 35 files). The total size for these collectively was 1.58 gigs (1,700,278,272 bytes). The Compression Test: we compressed a fairly eclectic basket of files. Five folders and 456 files in all, broken down as follows

  • 2 RMVB video files @ 647 MB  (679,309,312 bytes)
  • 3 Excel files (XLS, XLSX, XLSM) @ 493 MB  (517,013,504 bytes)
  • 34 MP3’s @ 170 MB  (178,343,936 bytes)
  • 410 JPG images @ 36.9 MB  (38,727,680 bytes)
  • 7 PDF’s @ 6.88 MB  (7,217,152 bytes)
  • Total size on disk (before compression) 1.32 GB  (1,420,611,584 bytes)

Note: all sizes used in this article across the board are ‘size on disk’ metrics as displayed in file / properties in Windows explorer.


6.1. Compression ZIP: Best overall compression performance for ZIP format

By “overall performance” I mean the tradeoff between speed of compression and compression ratio, or savings. In the chart below, compression ratio is plotted alongside the Y (vertical) axis, while the time in seconds is plotted across the X (horizontal) axis. The best performing apps, therefore, can be found within the top left quadrant (high compression ratio in the least amount of time). Best overall performance can be found roughly in the area inside the pinkish oval in the top left. Click on the image to enlarge. Exhibit 1Zip ALL bitrates annotated

Performance differs for  (a) 32 bit, lower spec system, (b) 32 bit, high spec system, and (c) a 64 bit system.

  • Best ZIP overall (combining both compression saving ratio + time)

Exhibit 2 32 bit–1 (Low spec PCs) Exhibit 3 32 bit -2 (High spec PCs) Exhibit 4 64 bit
ZIP 32bit 1 annotated ZIP 32bit 2 annotated ZIP 64bit annotated
Click thumbnail above to enlarge.

Some observations:

  • Overall, irrespective of bit rate and system specs, 7-Zip, HaoZip, and PeaZip are the best, most consistent performers, but Hamster does fairly well in 64 bit and 32bit high spec systems. Also note that some of the ZIP compression profiles for Arcthemall and Iceows did well in 32 bit environments (32 bit low spec systems and 32 bit high spec systems respectively).
  • For ZIP, differences in compression ratio are minimal, and differences in the time it takes the program to perform the compression are much more significant.

Our Picks for ZIP format: 7-Zip and HaoZipwould be our top two picks for ZIP format. PeaZip and Hamster would come in as third and fourth. Here’s why

  • 7 Zip and HaoZip are both consistently found in the top performing datapoints across all bit rates
  • Although 7-Zip is faster, the difference in time is not very big, and HaoZip offers a slightly higher compression ratio that somewhat makes up for it.
  • Importantly: I like that the ‘Normal’ zip profile for both 7 Zip and HaoZip is to be found in the top performing datapoints. The reason for this is that most people will ONLY use the normal ZIP profile, from the Windows context menu, and will not go digging into compression profiles at all. This means that I can recommend 7-Zip and HaoZip to people confidently without having to add caveats and lengthy explanations.

6.2. Extraction time: multi part UnRAR

For this test, we have 64 bit and 32 bit-1 (low spec) results only (sorry, but this was the earliest test and we hadn’t realized the need for a high spec 32 bit test yet at that point)

  • Best multi part RAR extraction

As mentioned above the multi part RAR archive used in the extraction tested consisted of 35 files, with a total size of 1.58 gigs (1,700,278,272 bytes) before extraction. Exhibit 5

32 bit –1 Low spec PC 64 bit
Program Time Program Time
7-Zip
Haozip
WinRAR (*)
Peazip
IZArc
ICEOWS
Hamster
TUGZip
1:28:36
1:28:88
1:32:12
1:43:40
1:53:37
2:18:90
3:27:26
3:44:61
WinRAR (*)
Haozip
Hamster
7-Zip
Peazip
0:54:15
0:57:90
1:02:19
1:02:70
1:37:90

(*) WinRAR is not free, but is included here for the benchmarking purposes. Overall, Haozip is my first choice, and is my first choice, and 7Zip my second for RAR extraction. (HaoZip and 7-Zip are essentially tied for first place in 32 bit, with less of a second of difference; the others are much further behind, with WinRAR ignored). In 64 bit, Haozip is on top, although for all practical purposes Haozip, Hamster, and 7-Zip come within 5 seconds of each other and are essentially equivalent.


6.3. High compression ratio performance (7Z format)

Non-ZIP formats (in this case 7-ZIP and RAR for Winrar) can deliver higher compression ratios than the best ZIP compression profiles. So, for example, whereas the ZIP data showed a highest savings ratio of 15.06%, the savings ratios for non-ZIP formats is generally higher, going all the way up to 17.57%. Again, the difficulty in evaluation comes from the tradeoff between the savings ratio on the one hand, and the time it takes to create the archive on the other. In the chart below, compression ratio is plotted alongside the Y (vertical) axis, while the time in seconds is plotted across the X (horizontal) axis. We were mainly concerned with the datapoints above 15% savings ratio, in the top left area (the pinkish square). Performance differs for (a) 32 bit, lower spec system, (b) 32 bit, high spec system, and (c) a 64 bit system. Exhibit 6ALL formats All bitrates annotated

  • Best overall / ALL FORMATS (for both compression saving ratio + time)

Exhibit 7 32 bit–1 (Low spec PCs) Exhibit 8 32 bit-2 (High spec PCs) Exhibit 9 64 bit
ALL 32bit-1 annotated ALL 32bit-2 annotated ALL 64bit annotated
Click thumbnail above to enlarge.

What we learn from this data: When looking at all formats,  HaoZip, 7-Zip, and PeaZip are the three most represented and most consistent  in the optimal performance area, as in ZIP analysis. However, Hamster also does extremely well in 64 bit and 32 bit high spec PCs for its 7Z optimal profile.

  • Highest Compression ratio

These tables list all profiles with a savings ratio of 15% or above. Although it is sorted by savings ratio, a more interesting metric may be savings/seconds, which revels the efficiency of compression. The red cells represent above-average savings/second values compared with the others in the same table.

Exhibit 10 32 bit–1 (Low spec PCs) Exhibit 11 32 bit-2 (High spec PCs) Exhibit 12 64 bit
32 bit 1 table 32 bit 2 table 64 bit table
Click thumbnail above to enlarge.

What we learn from this data:

  • If you want the MAXIMUM attainable compression and you do not care about how long it takes, go for the results on the top of each relevant table. However, if you want excellent results with efficiency in terms of processing time, look at the savings/second values highlighted in red. The higher the value the more efficient the profile (i.e. in relation to the time it takes).
  • Which programs do I like best? Again the programs are PeaZip, 7-Zip, HaoZip, but the data shows that if you want the highest possible compression Hamster performs well across all bit rates, if not the most efficiently.

7. Feature Comparison:

There are a few options that you would want in a modern archive management program.  Here’s a table of comparison.

Creates Self Extracting Archives Password protects archives Creates Split Archives Context Menu on 32 bit Context Menu on 64 bit 64 bit version available
IZArc NO YES NO YES YES NO
7-Zip YES YES YES YES YES YES
Peazip YES YES YES YES YES YES
Haozip YES YES YES YES YES YES
TUGZip YES YES ZIP only YES NO NO
ArcThemAll YES YES NO * * NO
Iceows NO NO NO YES NO NO
WinRAR YES YES YES YES YES YES
Hamster NO YES YES YES YES YES

(*) The context menu for ArcThemAll is rudimentary, relegated to a mere ‘load in ArchThemAll’. Generally speaking the five programs that have a 64 bit version (rightmost column) were found to be significantly more advanced and to perform better in our tests (even when testing in a 32 bit environment).

User-friendliness and 64 bit context menu support

That is, the extent to which a program has a nice interface and good context menu integration in Windows Explorer. This is a somewhat subjective measure, in contrast to all the quantitative stuff. I will rate all of the programs on four point distribution: (1) Above average; (2) Average; (3) Less than Average, and (4) Lacking.

32 bit 64 bit (+ context menu support)
Above Average Hamster Hamster
Average HaoZip; 7-Zip; Peazip; Tugzip; Izarc HaoZip; 7-Zip; Peazip
Less than Average Iceows; ArcThemAll ArcThemAll
Lacking Tugzip; Iceows (no 64 bit context menu support)

Predictably, the 4 programs that have 64 bit support have an advantage, because they offer a context menu in Windows explorer 64 bit. Note. however, that Izarc offers a context menu in 64 bit even when it doesn’t offer a dedicated 64 bit version. Hamster has a great looking, stylish interface, but installing it is a pain (it uses a web downloader that seems to go on forever) and needs a powerful, high-spec system.


8. Formats Supported:

Can Compress Can Extract
IZArc ZIP; 7z ; BH ;BGA ;CAB; JAR ;LZH;YZ1 7-ZIP; A; ACE; ARC; ARJ; B64; BH; BIN; BZ2; BZA; C2D; CDI; CAB; CPIO; DEB; ENC; GCA; GZ; GZA; HA; IMG; ISO; JAR; LHA; LIB; LZH; MBF; MDF; MIM; NRG; PAK; PDI; PK3; RAR; RPM; TAR; TAZ; TBZ; TGZ; TZ; UUE; WAR; XXE; YZ1; Z; ZIP; ZOO
7-Zip 7z; ZIP; TAR; WIM 7z; XZ; ZIP; GZIP; BZIP2; TAR; WIM; LZMA; RAR; CAB; ARJ; Z; CPIO; RPM; DEB; LZH; SPLIT; CHM; ISO; UDF; COMPOUND; DMG; XAR; HFS; NSIS; NTFS; FAT; VHD; MBR; SquashFS; CramFS
Peazip 7Z; ARC; BZ2; GZ; PAQ; PEA; QUAD/BALZ; TAR; UPX; WIM; XZ; ZIP Extract over 130 archive types: ACE; ARJ; CAB; DMG; ISO; LHA; RAR; UDF; ZIPX and more…
Haozip ZIP; TAR; 7Z ZIP; TAR; DMG; GZ; TPZ; BZ2; TBZ; Z; XPI; LZH; WIM; ACE; XZ; RAR; ISO; HFS; GZIP; XAR; BZIP2; DEB; TAZ; LZMA; LHA; WSWM; ISZ; IMG; 7Z; CAB; ARJ; TGZ; RPM; TBZ2; CPIO; JAR; LZMA86; 001; UUE; SPLIT
TUGZip 7Z; BH; BZ2; CAB; JAR; LHA (LZH); SQX; TAR; TGZ; YZ1 and ZIP ZIP; 7Z; A; ACE; ARC; ARJ; BH; BZ2; CAB; CPIO; DEB; GCA; GZ; IMP; JAR; LHA (LZH); LIB; RAR; RPM; SQX; TAR; TGZ; TBZ; TAZ; YZ1 and ZOO archives; BIN; C2D; IMG; ISO and NRG disc-images
ArcThemAll 7Z; UPX; ZIP 7Z; UPX; ZIP; APM; ARJ; BZIP2; CAB; CHM; CPIO; DEB; DMG; FAT; GZIP; HFS; ISO; LZH; LZMA; LZMA2; MBR; MSI; MSLZ; NSIS; NTFS; RAR; RPM; SFX; TAR; UDF; VHD; WIM; XAR; XZ; Z
Iceows ICE; ZIP; ARJ ICE;ARJ; ZIP; GZIP; TAR; MS-CAB; RAR; ACE;UUE; XXE; B64; HQX;JAR; EAR; WAR;LZS; LZH; LHA; IMP; BZ2
WinRAR (not free) RAR; ZIP RAR; ZIP; CAP; ARJ; LZH; ACE; 7Z; TAR; GZIP; UUE; BZ2; JAR; ISO; Z
Hamster ZIP; 7Z ZIP; RAR ;7Z ;ARJ; ISO; GZ; TAR; LHA; LZH; ARC; BZ; CAB

Two things here:

  1. Compression: we see that most programs offer support for ZIP, 7Zip and one or two more formats, while a few programs offer a handful of other formats for compression. We are disinclined to give too much credit for a wider range of compression formats simply because 99% don’t really use them. The one exception is RAR compression; we would have liked to find support for RAR in some of these, but it is strangely absent.
  2. Extraction: again, though there are significant variations in formats extracted, support for about 7 or 8 (including RAR, ACE, GZIP, TAR, ISO, and one or two more) is enough in our opinion. Therefore, the variations in the table didn’t impress or worry us too much, or change our perception of the any program(s).

9. The Raw Data

If you want to download the raw data that we used here (in CSV format), read the following

  • By downloading the CSV file you agree to credit Freewaregenius.com and link back to this article if and when you publish anything based on this data.
  • You further agree to inform us that you have done so via Email(click on the link), so that we might marvel at your genius and possibly link to your article.
  • Click here to download the data.

10. Credits

  • Thanks go to Alaa K for doing the actual work of extracting and compressing data, and setting up virtual machines to do so.
  • Illustration credit:  ‘Crowded’ by Ward Jenkins, used with permission.

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