Compression becomes more important by the day in our data-driven world whether it’s streaming media through Netflix, photos, or files. There are hundreds of programs that can compress files on your PC, and we’re going to take a look at two popular options with WinRAR vs. 7-Zip. These file archive programs have been around since the 90s, and are still put to work by millions of users on a daily basis. So, let’s look at if you should use WinRAR or 7-Zip.
WinRAR vs. 7-Zip: Side-By-Side Comparison
|Developer||Eugene Roshal||Igor Pavlov|
|Program Type||File Archiver||File Archiver|
|Released||April 22, 1995||July 19, 1999|
|Programmed In||C++||C++, C, Assembly|
|Encryption||256-bit AES, Password||256-bit AES, Password|
|Operating Systems||Windows, Android, Linux, Mac||Windows|
WinRAR vs. 7-Zip: What’s the Difference?
WinRAR and 7-Zip are two of the older file archiving and compression programs, and both are widely used each day by people around the globe. They are comparable in a variety of ways and have features on par with WinZip and other popular file-archiving programs.
Each of these programs performs the same functions in different ways, but there are some things you’ll want to be aware of when choosing between the two.
When a developer names their software after an operating system, it’s safe to say they are a fan of the platform. We’ve seen developers name programs after Linux, macOS, and Windows, which is the operating system WinRAR is geared for.
Despite the name, this program actually works on more than one platform. If you’re running Windows, you can download 32-bit and 64-bit versions of the software. It’s also available for Android smartphones and tablets through the Play Store, but you won’t find it for the iPhone or iPad.
You can use the program on PCs that run Linux or macOS, but there are better options for Mac users considering you only get a command line interface to work with. It’s not exactly user-friendly if you’re using an Apple product for obvious reasons.
As for 7-zip, the developers took a similar approach. 7-zip works with Windows systems from Windows 2000 through current versions, but not on a Mac. It also doesn’t work with Linux, although there’s an excellent port of this program called p7zip for that.
WinRAR has a slight edge with compatibility through Android in our WinRAR vs. 7-Zip comparison, but things are closer with file formats these programs can open. The company’s software can compress files in three formats with RAR, RAR4, or Zip, but it can extract a wide range of compressed data from other containers.
RAR, ZIP, JAR, TAR, LZH, ISO, ARJ, CAB, and GZIP are just a few of the formats WinRAR supports. The company claims they support “all” popular compression formats, and while we couldn’t find a full list, rest assured, it can handle all the popular and commonly used formats.
7-Zip provides more options for packing files with GZIP, TAR, ZIP, WIM, 7z, XZ, and BZIP2. The program provides more options for compression than WinRAR and can also unpack over a dozen formats as well. ARJ, CAB, LZH, and even RAR are supported along with CramFS, EXT, FAT, MBR, SquashFS, and more.
This is a metric that can vary wildly depending on the archive you’re trying to open and the number of files you want to compress. The PC in charge of the operation plays a large part in speed as well. There have been a number of tests run over the years on each program, and one comes out the winner more often than not.
Whether you’re using the “fastest” mode or going at normal speed, 7-Zip performs at a more rapid pace. You’ll lose some compression compared to WinRAR in a few of those modes but can get more compression under normal conditions at around the same speed.
Unpacking files from an archive is speedy with both programs, although we feel WinRAR is more nimble in this area. Overall, you can expect better speed and compression from 7-zip across most settings while WinRAR has comparable speed but can unpack archives faster.
When you fire up WinRAR, you’re presented with a clean UI that’s easy to navigate and very familiar to fans of the Windows operating system. There is a row of options across the top along with navigational icons that give it a Windows Explorer feel.
You’ll get the same experience from 7-Zip’s UI, which is a bit more streamlined with smaller icons but the same general areas. Both programs are easy to navigate on Windows PCs and allow users to sort, filter, and choose the settings they need quickly.
We also found security the same with WinRAR and 7-Zip. These programs can encrypt an archive of files with AES-256 encryption and password protection. It’s a common, but critical feature when you need to back up sensitive files or send them across the internet.
While the overall features are comparable between WinRAR vs. 7-Zip, 7-Zip has an advantage with localization while WinRAR has more extras. The program supports more than 80 languages compared to WinRAR with around 50.
WinRAR and 7-Zip are handy programs, but also something that many people will only use occasionally. Unless you plan to archive and send a lot of files, this is where pricing comes into play. WinRAR is a product of RARLAB, and there are two versions of the program to choose from.
The company offers a free version of WinRAR with nagware enabled once the trial comes to an end. If you want to remove that message forever and support the developers, you can pick up the paid version for $29.00. As a nice retro touch, RARLAB also offers a physical CD with a copy of their software for $9.99.
7-Zip is free and open-source software, so you can download the program and not pay a penny. There are no ads and they don’t ask for donations although there are some licensing restrictions. That’s not something the average user should worry about, however. You can also take a deeper dive into the program through their official Sourceforge page.
WinRAR vs. 7-Zip: 4 Must-Know Facts
- WinRAR added skin support in 2005 for Windows XP.
- 7-Zip has support for 32 and 64-bit x86 ARM architecture.
- There have been versions of WinRAR for MS-DOS, Windows 3.1, and even the Pocket PC.
- The program 7-Zip has won multiple awards for its compression ratio and speed.
WinRAR or 7-Zip: Which One is Better?
Whether WinRAR or 7-Zip is the best choice for your files comes down to what you need the program for and how often you plan to use it. For casual use, either program will suffice and there’s a negligible difference in performance unless you’re dealing with gigabytes of data.
WinRAR has slightly better compatibility but can’t handle quite as many formats or compress like 7-Zip. While 7-Zip is free and supports more languages, WinRAR has a few more bells & whistles under the hood. No matter which program you choose, always remember security and set a password for your archives when dealing with sensitive data.
The image featured at the top of this post is ©A. Solano/Shutterstock.com.