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7-Zip vs WinZip vs WinRAR vs Windows Comparison

Luis Silva


Every now and then you may need to compress a file or a bunch of files to copy them around or to another machine. Some people may argue that you should do a daily backup of your working files. While that's debatable, the best way to archive your backups is also compressing them. That way they are always organized in a single, compressed file.

So, it's highly unlikely you've never compressed a file before. Maybe you just haven't stopped to think wich compressing software works best for you or perhaps you had, but it was so long ago that you can't even remember when. 7-Zip is the one that works best for me. Stick around and see if that's the best for you too and you'll also get a bonus tool closer to the end.

Much more than compression ratios.

That's right. Choosing a compression tool is like buying a new car: Sometimes you'll just want the fastest car around, and that's fine. But most of the times you'll be considering if it's affordable, the mileage, safety and etc.

The same goes with compression tools. Some of them are free, some very lightweight, some are universal, some gives you that extra bit of protection and so on.

If the only thing that you can think about right now is compression ratios, don't worry, we'll get into that soon.

To get a better picture of who's best at what, I'm breaking every aspect down in a table where I sort them out and give them a score from 1 to 4, being 4 the best and 1 the worst.

I've also included a row where I score them according to my personal preferences, and I encourage you to do the same as a way to get a more personal and precise evaluation.


# Tool Price Score My Score
#1 Native Free 4 4
#2 7-Zip Free 4 4
#3 Winrar $40 3 3
#4 Winzip $40 1 1

That's a clear win for 7-zip and Windows native software because they all are free. Winrar starting price is about as much as Winzip, but there's one big difference between them: Winzip doesn't allow you to use it beyond the trial period unless you buy a license and Winrar will only start to display a "Trial period is over" kind of warning.


# Tool Size Score My Score
#1 Native "0Mb." 4 4
#2 7-Zip 5Mb. 3 2
#3 Winrar 7Mb. 2 2
#4 Winzip 256Mb. 1 1

While I'm sure it's not 0Mb, I cannot tell you how much lightweight the Windows native tool is because it's embedded on the operative system itself. At least you don't have to download or install any app, so that's clearly the best option if you value the lightweight and operating speed of an app. 7-Zip and Winrar could easily share a second place because they all have a low footprint profile, based on their installation folder size.

Unfortunately, Winrar takes a big hit on the Windows Registry, compared to 7-zip, mostly because Winrar supports lots of file decompression formats. But Windows Registry also plays a big part in the overall system performance, so that's something you shouldn't overlook at all.

Winzip is clearly sitting at the lowest ranking position here, with a folder that's at least a quarter of a gigabyte. This doesn't mean Winzip will slow your computer down much more than Winrar or 7-Zip because most of it's used disk space is related to it having lots of features but having lot's of entries on the Windows Registry doesn't help either.


# Tool Score My Score
#1 Winzip 4 4
#2 Native 4 4
#3 Winrar 2 4
#4 7-Zip 1 3

It's a little bit unfair to evaluate the universality of these tools because they all can compress in the traditional zip format, which is compatible with every known platform or operative system out there. Nevertheless, if you choose to compress using their native file format, there are some significant differences. Winrar is compatible with Windows, macOS, Linux, FreeBSD, and Android while 7-Zip is only available in Windows and Linux.

Supported compressing file types:

# Tool # File Types Score My Score
#1 7-Zip 7 4 4
#2 Winzip 3 1 3
#3 Winrar 2 2 2
#4 Native 1 1 3

While this may not be an issue to most users, it's always good to know what these tools can do. Here the clear winner is 7-Zip because it can compress in up to 7 different file types, including .wim (Windows Imaging Format File) and that can be very handy if you're dealing with windows update files and such. If you want to know more click here: https://fileinfo.com/extension/wim

Winrar can only compress to a .rar or .zip file, while the native and Winzip tools are limited to the .zip file format. Actually, you can use Winzip to create a .lha file, but unless you live in Japan, that's not really useful. The new .zipx format can also support several compression methods (file types) within itself.

Supported decompressing file formats:

# Tool # File Types Score My Score
#1 7-Zip 38 4 4
#2 Winzip 14 3 3
#3 Winrar 12 2 3
#4 Native 1 1 1

Any tool, except the native one, will enable you to decompress the most popular compression formats. 7-Zip clearly sets itself apart from the rest because it can decompress more than twice the file formats its competitors can.


# Tool Score My Score
#1 Winzip 4 4
#2 Winrar 3 2
#3 7-Zip 2 2
#4 Native 1 1

Every tool (except the native one) has it's standard compression selections, like compression level, dictionary size, split size, erase after compressing, password encryption, self-extracting archives, encryption and so on.

That doesn't mean they are all the same.

Winzip is clearly ahead of its competition here. Its feature list is crazy unbelievable. You can find it here: https://www.winzip.com/win/en/winzip-feature-comparison.html#sub-nav.

I'll name a few, just in case you can't access or don't even want to go thru it all:

Compress MP3 files by 15 - 20 % on average.
Reduce JPEG image files by 20 - 25% with no loss of photo quality or data integrity.
Encrypt/Decrypt files.
Manage files (convert image file formats; network or cloud service support; securely delete files; copy, move, delete and multi-file rename files; tablet and laptop modes and etc.)
Package & Share (IMAP support, Gmail's two-step authentication support, popular cloud support, convert to PDF, and etc.)
Backup & Automate (for the Pro or Enterprise version only).

Winrar supports user profiles (for emailing, backup, volumes and so on) and you can also add a recovery record just in case you don't fully trust your destination media/drive. You can also use background archiving for very large or slow operations.

7-Zip enables you to select a compression method, and the number of CPUs used when compressing a file.

User Interface (UI):

# Tool Score My Score
#1 Native 4 4
#2 7-Zip 3 2
#3 Winrar 2 3
#4 Winzip 1 1

For most of us, simplicity is king and the native tool reigns over the file compression world. You can do your job with just a couple of clicks.

7-Zip also has a simple and effective UI but, for some reason, I prefer the Winrar user interface. Maybe it's because of years of using it or perhaps they just got that right.


# Tool Score My Score
#1 Winzip 4 4
#2 Winrar 3 3
#3 7-Zip 2 2
#4 Native 1 1

Sometimes you just want things to be done really quickly, whether it's a manual backup job or you're just in a hurry, and compression ratio just isn't that crucial.

I've put these tools into a series of repeated tests so you can have an idea of what to expect from them. These numbers are highly dependable on your system configuration, but you get an idea.

24 Photos and 7 videos (JPG+MP4 - 1.03Gb):

# Tool Time Size
#1 Winzip 34s 1.02Gb.
#2 Native 45s 1.02Gb.
#3 7-Zip 1m26s 1.02Gb.
#4 Winrar 1m43s 1.02Gb.

Side note: Jpg and MP4 files are already compressed by nature, so it's pretty useless to try to compress them even more.

261 MP3 (1Gb):

# Tool Time Size
#1 Winzip 36s 0.98Gb.
#2 Native 54s 0.98Gb.
#3 Winrar 57s 0.98Gb
#4 7-Zip 1m26s 0.97Gb.

Side note: MP3 files are already compressed by nature, so it's pretty useless to try to compress them even more.

Book Of The Dead (installation folder - game - 1Gb):

# Tool Time Size Time* Size*
#1 Winzip 44s 669Mb. 10s 688Mb.
#2 Native 55s 686Mb. N.A. N.A.
#3 Winrar 1m20s 636Mb. 25s 679Mb.
#4 7-Zip 1m39s 571Mb. 23s 628Mb.

*Fastest speed compression option enabled.

Side note: Standard compressing options usually take a lot more time to try to remove every bit possible out of your files compared to the fastest speed compression option of these tools. Winzip clearly takes the lead here, managing to compress 1Gb down to 688Mb in just 10 seconds!

Compression ratio:

# Tool Score My Score
#1 Winzip 8 7
#2 7-Zip 6 6
#3 Winrar 5 5
#4 Native 4 4

Sometimes you just want things to be squeezed into the smallest size possible, either for an automated backup job or you're just doing a one-time sharing, and time just isn't that crucial.

24 Photos and 7 videos (JPG+MP4 - 1.03Gb):

All tools achieved the same compressed file size: 1.02Gb.

Side note: Jpg and MP4 files are already compressed by nature, so it's pretty useless to try to compress them even more. Winzip claims its new .zipx format can compress JPG files up to 25% more, and in this case, it did (20%)! 54Mb down to 43Mb, but you have to choose "best method" in the compression settings, and you have to compress the JPG files separately. At least I had to.

261 MP3 (1Gb):

All tools achieved the same compressed file size: 0.98Gb, except for 7-Zip: 0.97Gb.

Side note: MP3 files are already compressed by nature, so it's pretty useless to try to compress them even more. Winzip claims its new .zipx format can compress mp3 files up to 20% more and in this case it did! 1Gb down to 837Mb, but you have to choose "best method" in the compression settings.

Book Of The Dead (installation folder - game - 1Gb):

# Tool Compressed size Compressed size*
#1 7-Zip 571Mb. 563Mb.
#2 Winrar 636Mb. 635Mb.
#3 Winzip 669Mb. 571Mb. (.zipx)
#4 Native 686Mb. N.A.

*Maximum compression option enabled.

Side note: Maximum compression options usually even takes a lot more time to try to remove every bit possible out of your files compared to the standard compression option of these tools. One could argue if the extra time it takes is well worth it or not. In this case, it's clearly not worth it, but there may be times when the difference could be significant. It all depends on the files you're trying to compress.

Bonus tool:

Windows 10 gives you another option when it comes to compressing files. You can go to any of your folders properties, and then advanced, and choose "Compress contents to save disk space." This option automatically compresses your files, and you don't have to worry about it or wait for compression to finish. The downside is that this tool is limited to your internal storage drive and if you try to copy or move your files to a pen or a "non-compressed" folder, you'll end up having your files uncompressed.

Other than that, for backing up purposes, it's a very nice option to have.

So, what's the best tool after all?

I've always had a thing for 7-Zip because it's a free, lightweight and a powerful tool but seeing where Winzip is going, it clearly makes me rethink the whole "what's best for me" theory. If you only do a couple of file compressions per day, you're probably best served with 7-Zip or even the Windows 10 native solution. But if you're a photographer, a musician or anyone who deals with lots of music and/or pictures (or any other files) every day, Winzip is by far the best choice for you.

By the way, according to my preferences, the total score is 24 points for the native and the Winrar tools, and 29 points to 7-Zip and Winzip. In my opinion, the average user would also prefer 7-Zip (29 points) or Winzip (29 points), then there's Winrar (27 points) and, at last, the native solution (26 points).

If you want to know what's the best tool for you, go ahead and give each one a score too. Then share your thoughts and scores on the comments section below.

If you want to give WinZip a try, you can check it here: winzip.com (Standard Edition) or winzip.com (Pro Edition)

Please, don't leave with any unanswered questions because I may have an answer, and we'll probably be helping someone else too. Just leave them in a comment below or send me an email and I'll be glad to help.

Tools used in this article:

Winzip: v23

7-Zip: v19

Winrar: v5.7

Native: Windows 10 v1803

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