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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.



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
 Maximum Compression
 Maximum Speed

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!

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