Software

Five mostly free apps for compressing archive files in Windows

There are some application gems out there for handling archives in Windows with great power and flexibility.

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When you need to save disk space, backup data or send files back and forth to others quickly and efficiently, the best way is through file compression. You can use the ZIP archive utility which is baked right into the Windows operating system to get the job done. However, the ZIP file format is fairly limited in compression capability and is lacking in extra options. If you are looking for a power user style replacement that can support multiple archive types, there are some gems out there for handling archives in Windows with great power and flexibility.

This article is also available as a TechRepublic Screenshot Gallery.

Five Apps

1. 7-Zip

Created by Russian programmer Igor Pavlov, 7-Zip has set the gold standard for file archive utilities. Although the user interface is probably not the most intuitive for novices, the settings are quite customizable and the ability to really take full control over 7z output settings really helps you wring out every last bit of savings possible in your archives. The software is licensed under an LGPL 2.1 license, making this suitable for home and commercial use.

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2. ALZip

Unlike the aforementioned 7-Zip tool, ALZip aims to deliver a very easy user interface that is more straightforward and WinZip-like in its arrangement, yet supporting more archive formats in the process. ALZip used to be a commercial product with a price tag, but it was recently re-released as a free utility, simply by using the free product key provided on the download site.

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3. PeaZip

This utility supports over a dozen different archive formats for opening and creating, just like the other tools I mentioned. An interesting stand out feature, however, is the password manager, which allows you to keep track of passwords for archives without the need to memorize them. PeaZip is licensed under the LGPLv3 and is available as freeware.

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4. WinRAR

Though this product isn't freeware, however, the trial mode is quite generous and lets you test out all the features of the utility. Also, I find the SFX (self-extracting archive) creator to be one of the better ones available, allowing you to go all out in customizing destination path, package icon, and a command run area for setup programs. If you do decide to register your copy of WinRAR, it's only $29.99, with prices that go down as you purchase additional licenses.

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5. Universal Extractor

Though not designed to create any archives, Universal Extractor extracts from many kinds of packages, including InstallShield archives and binary blobs as well as more exotic formats, using handy deep filescan technology. The tight integration with the Windows right-click context menu is superb and you are always just a few clicks away from dumping your files to a directory.

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An avid technology writer and an IT guru, Matthew is here to help bring the best in software, hardware and the web to the collective consciousness of TechRepublic's readership. In addition to writing for TechRepublic, Matthew currently works as a Cus...

7 comments
bhwong1
bhwong1

The new version of 7-zip can be executed thru command line interface (cmd) with many useful options. This mean you can schedule a backup job thru batch file and have the date inserted as filename etc. Extremely useful!

iposner
iposner

Shame you left out the serious high-speed compression programs Gnu Gzip and (fastest of all) LZOP.

kraken_
kraken_

There's also IZarc that is pretty good, I used it until I switched to 7zip, and I still use IZarc from time to time. (http://www.izarc.org/)

It contains a very decent set of compression algorithms and archive formats, and some CD/DVD image types.

jm09
jm09

The download link for AlZip does not work. We were going to try it but cannot get to it.

marcdw
marcdw

That's kind of nit-picky don't ya think? The article is about apps (that handle various compression schemes) not command-line utils. Shame he left out xz, or bsdtar, or... 

That said, I too make use of gzip, xz, bsdtar, and others from the prompt quite regularly. Plus, since my file manager of choice is FAR I probably use that (and it's arclite plugin) more than anything when dealing with compressed files (no clickety mouse clicks).

I do think PowerArchiver would've been a good app to include in the list. Features galore in that one. Sadly though I don't use it much.

marcdw
marcdw

Yeah, I see what you mean. I've downloaded their programs in the past but right now they're linked to an advert url that's being blocked by my browser or something right now.

marcdw
marcdw

I had a smiley face after that first paragraph that got lost but the system wouldn't let me re-edit. Don't take the comment too serious.  (^_^)

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