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Apr

08

File Compression Comparison: WinRAR vs. WinZip

 PC Utilities

Files are getting bigger all the time.  Even in these days of inexpensive hard drives with enormous capacity, there are still plenty of reasons to use file compression programs.  If you are sending a file over the Internet, cutting its size by half reduces transfer time by half.  If you're putting files on a DVD or CD, size is very important.  Compression software also makes it easy to combine many files into a single archive.  It's much easier to share a single RAR or ZIP file which contains hundreds of files than to make someone download each file separately.

There are many different compression programs out there.  Undoubtedly, the two most popular PC compression formats today are Zip and RAR.  Both have the ability to greatly reduce the size of files, to store multiple files in folders in their archives, and to extract the files with several options.  The main practical difference between them is that Zip is older and not protected by a patent, so there are many different programs that can create and open Zip files. The RAR format is restricted to software approved by the creator and there is somewhat less of it available.

For this review I tested the leading Zip and Rar programs, WinZip by WinZip Computing and WinRAR by RARLAB.  I compared them in two areas:  User Interface and Performance.

1. User Interface

As you see, the two programs have a very similar interface, with a file list and colorful, easy-to-recognize icons.

  WinRAR

 

Both programs also have a Wizard to perform basic tasks (create an archive, open and extract files from an archive). I do find the WinRAR file selection interface more intuitive.  Both programs integrate with Windows Explorer and with your email in very similar ways.  Overall, the two programs are very similar in both appearance and functionality.  At least for me, WinRAR is slightly more intuitive. 

2.  Performance

For a compression program, there are two types of performance:  compression ratio (how small they can make files) and speed (how long it takes to compress files).  For this test, I compressed a folder containing a mixture of documents, images, video and audio files, and data files from different programs.  The uncompressed size of the folder is 112 mb.  I tested each program three ways:  with default settings, set for maximum compression, and set for maximum speed.  Here are the results:

Test Results
 Default Settings
 TimeCompression
WinRAR1:2617%
WinZip00:5514%
   
 Maximum Compression
WinRAR1:3118%
WinZip2:1018%
   
 Maximum Speed
WinRAR0:3015%
WinZip00:5914%

WinRAR does seem to live up to its claim to be the fastest compression software.  In the "Default" section WinZip takes less time, but it does so by giving slightly worse compression.  (All compression numbers here are low because I was working with music and image files, which do not compress very much.  Documents may compress by as much as 75%.) I didn't do formal tests, but uncompression of RAR files also appears to be slightly faster than Zip.

Interestingly, both programs support the other one's file format.  WinZip can uncompress RAR archives.  WinRAR can actually create Zip files as well as open them.  (Remember, the Zip format is not patent-protected.)  I tested WinRAR compressing the same folder using the default Zip settings.  It took 2:46 to compress by 13%, so clearly WinZip is better at Zipping than WinRAR.  Both programs can also open many other types of compressed files, including TGZ, 7Zip, and LHA.

Which one should you buy?  Both can do almost anything you need from a general file compression utility.  WinRAR does give better performance in most circumstances.  WinZip has additional features like job automation for the advanced user.  Also, if you are planning to share your files, your audience is more likely to have an unzipper than an unRAR program.  And of course, there's nothing stopping you from having both.

Why not take advantage of FindApp's try-before-you-buy philosophy?  Download them both and see which one you like the best. 

Agree?  Disagree?  Post your own reviews on the product pages!

Mar

05

Fixing PC Problems: Your Software Toolkit

 PC Utilities

What do you do when your computer starts acting up?  You could pay a professional technician to examine it, but that can be expensive and it may take days to even find out what's wrong.  Before doing that, it pays to try a few software tools that can identify and solve problems for you for far less money, without the wait. Tool Kit

One of the most likely reasons for a system slowdown is infestation by spyware.  Please read my earlier article for advice on handling this type of problem.

If you don't know what the problem is, install a tool like CompDoctor.  This program provides you with a comprehensive database of PC problems.  You can search for the exact problem your computer is having, and CompDoctor will tell you what the most probable reasons for that symptom are.  The publisher constantly updates the PC problem database, so it's always current and comprehensive.

If you (or CompDoctor) suspect a hard drive problem, you should consider using DiskCheckup.  Many hard disks include SMART monitoring sensors that can tell you about heat problems, bad sectors,and other potential failures before a catastrophe happens.  DiskCheckup constantly monitors the SMART readings, and will notify you when they reach danger levels, allowing you to replace the drive before it fails.

The Windows Registry stores information about installed programs, data files, and Windows settings.  As you use your system, the Registry gets bigger and more complicated.  Incorrect settings here can cause crashes, startup and shutdown failures, and slowness.  Luckily it's easy to fix Registry problems with software like Free Window Registry Repair.  In only a few minutes, it analyzes the Registry and fixes problems, improving both performance and stability.  It's completely safe, because you can reverse any changes the program makes by clicking Restore.

If you're experiencing a lot of problems—crashes, freezes, slowdowns—many people will advise you to install a new copy of Windows and start from scratch.  Before trying that, you may want to run System Sentry.  A host of functions in System Sentry can rejuvenate your computer, and make it as fast and healthy as when it was new.

With a few software tools, anyone can repair most computer problems in a few minutes.  Remember, though, that it is always good to have a current backup

Regards,
John M.

Feb

03

Backup Software: Because Everyone Makes Mistakes

 PC Utilities

If you've used computers for a while, you've had that terrible sinking feeling.  The one you get when you flick the switch to "On" and your computer does nothing, just sits there. 

Whether through your error or a computer failure, iimportant things can be stored on your computer, then gone the next moment.  There's a way to avoid this.  We've all been told to do it, but according to one poll, 1/3 of computer owners have never backed up, and 3/4 don't do it often enough.  Today I'm going to encourage you to back up more often, by showing you some software that makes it easy, maybe even fun. 

There are different types of backup programs.   Active Backup Expert Pro backs up your entire hard disk, or any section of it that you specify.  The backup files can be stored either on your hard disk, on a different hard disk (perhaps over a network) or on a removable medium like recordable DVDs.  If you use smaller discs like DVDs, ABE Pro will automatically split the backup to fit.  You can restore individual files if they are accidentally deleted or you need an older version, or use the backups to restore the entire disc.  You can set it to back up automatically on a schedule.  That's a big advantage for me, because otherwise I tend to forget.

ABF Outlook Backup does one specific job very well: it backs up Microsoft Outlook data.  Use Outlook Backup to save all mail, contacts, calendar entries, accounts, rules, and RSS feeds.  This information can be tricky to retrieve using a general-purpose backup program.  You can also use Outlook Backup to move or copy your Outlook information from one PC to another.

Have you ever had to reinstall software after you got a new hard drive, and you had to search through dusty files to locate the activation codes for your software?  And if you couldn't find your original packaging, the company wanted to charge you full price to get a new activation number?  Never have that problem again: use Recover Keys Single.  Recover Keys scans your hard disk and creates a file listing the activation keys for all your software.  Print a copy of this, or keep it on your USB drive, and you can easily reinstall any of your programs without wasting time, or spending more money. 

You can find many more backup programs, both general-purpose and specialized, in our PC Utilities > Data Backup Software area.

So the next time you get that sinking feeling, when the wrong file got deleted, or your computer is making funny grinding noises, don't panic!  You have a life preserver: a complete set of backups.

Regards,

John M.

Jan

26

Speed up, slim down, and stabilize your system

 PC Utilities

Feeling frustrated by your PC?  Does it ever seem to you that your computer has gotten slower since you first set it up?  Is your system freezing or crashing every few hours? Does it seem to take way too long for it to start up?

Are you thinking about buying a new multi-CPU system with huge amounts of RAM?  You may not have to.

Sometimes, computers do slow down.  There are a lot of reasons that this could happen.  Here are a few:

  1. Your computer could be infected with spyware or adware.
  2. Your hard disk may be highly fragmented.
  3. Your Windows Registry may be loading unnecessary programs and drivers.
  4. You many not have the latest, best Windows drivers for your hardware.
  5. Too many programs that you don't really need may be loaded when your PC starts up.
  6. You may have Windows services activated that you don't actually use.

It is possible for an expert to manually search through all your system's files and settings and fix these problems one at a time, but it's far easier and faster to let optimizing software do it.

The subject of removing spyware and adware is large and important enough that I will write a separate blog entry about it.

Optimizing software can be either very specific, or try to do everything.  For instance, RAM Saver Pro does one thing and does it well. It makes RAM access faster.  If your system is being slowed down by RAM shortages, especially if you run multiple applications at once, RAM Saver Pro can dramatically improve performance.

Another program that specializes in one task is Startup Booster.  If your system is taking too long to go from "Off" to "Ready to use", you should try Startup Booster.  This free program will stop the loading of unwanted programs at startup, saving you time whenever you turn your computer on or reboot.

Vista Manager is a package that brings several speedup functions together—over 30 functions, in fact.  In addition to improving startup and shutdown speeds, it removes unneeded files, defragments your hard drives, optimizes hardware settings, and much more.  

Auslogics Software has recently updated their BoostSpeed.  This award-winning software suite also speeds up hard drive and memory performance, and optimizes Internet performance.

These are only a few of the excellent programs available in our System Optimization area.  If you'd like a faster computer, try some today!

Best Regards,
John M.

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