File compression is a great way to reduce the size of a file to take up less space on your computer. It also allows you to send and receive files faster, even on slower internet speeds. When it comes to compressing files, the choice usually comes down to the ZIP or RAR formats.
If you download and upload files on the internet on a regular basis, then you’ve seen and even use ZIP and RAR files. They’ve been the most popular file compression formats for decades. Despite their similarities, they have key differences that will help decide your choice.
In this guide, we’ll take a look at the RAR vs ZIP formats. Read on!
ZIP Format’s Background
ZIP is a compressed archive file format. It can contain more than one file or folder and uses the “.zip” file extension. It’s useful if you need to send both PDF and Word documents for a college paper submission in only 1 file.
It’s a format developed by Phil Katz released in 1989. ZIP was once part of the PKZIP utility of PKWARE. It was later supported by other software utilities.
In 1998, Microsoft included built-in support for ZIP in Windows. One common use of ZIP files is in software downloads. A single ZIP file encases all the essential components of a program before its transfer.
This makes the program efficient for storage space and time by reducing redundancy. The ZIP file will consume less space and bandwidth. It also retains the internal integrity and organization of the original file.
Besides compressing files, ZIP can encrypt your files through password protection. It also allows you to split archives with only a few clicks.
You can compress or zip multiple files using various methods. This includes LZMA, DEFLATE, PPMd, WavPack, and BZIP2, among others.
Each of the files has its own separate storage, allowing you to access and extract one at random. This means you can also add new files in the ZIP archive without re-zipping the entire archive.
ZIP files can also contain more content unrelated to the archive. This makes the ZIP format a self-extracting archive.
RAR Format’s Background
RAR stands for Roshal Archive. It’s named after its Russian developer, Eugene Roshal. It uses the “.rar” file extension.
Like the ZIP file, it’s used for storing multiple files that can be of different file types in 1 container. It’s also used for data compression to make files more efficient for storage and transfer.
As a compressed archive format, it’s common to encounter RAR files online. Users will often find these files on file-sharing sites and software downloads. RAR is also used for file scanning and error recovery.
Unlike ZIP, RAR is a proprietary format used only with the WinRAR archiver. This means you can only create and extract RAR files by using WinRAR. RAR uses a higher compression ratio than ZIP compression through its proprietary algorithm.
The WinRAR archiver is also capable of ZIP file compression and extraction. Besides ZIP, it can also operate on other non-RAR formats. It supports programmable self-extracting archives, error repairs, and embedded comments.
Operating System Support
ZIP was wider and native support across different operating systems. ZIP files are more accessible because they are open-source. On the other hand, RAR will require third-party software like WinRAR.
Windows offers native support for ZIP since Windows XP. Windows users can create and extract ZIP files with a default compress ZIP file feature. To use RAR, you need to buy and install WinRAR.
Mac OS X also supports ZIP along with other archive formats. You’ll also need to purchase WinRAR to compress file size using RAR.
Linux has support for ZIP out-of-the-box. You can use standard programs like File Roller to work with RAR files. However, you’ll first need to install the command-line utilities from the package manager.
Chrome OS supports both the ZIP and RAR format.
The basic difference is in licensing. ZIP is a format created to be standard for lossless data compression and is open-source. It uses several compression algorithms, with DEFLATE being the most common.
RAR’s proprietary compression algorithm may cause significant implications on various factors. Here are some key factors to consider when choosing between RAR vs. ZIP.
The ZIP format has an advantage when it comes to accessibility. ZIP’s wider OS support means it’s more accessible to users.
ZIP also gets its edge by being older than the RAR format. It’s still the most used and accounts for a large number of archive files on the web.
This is a crucial factor considered by software developers. They will want their files to be accessible to avoid complaints of being unable to extract files.
RAR can achieve a small file size than ZIP with the same file or set of files. The margin can be large in different cases.
The difference can vary depending on the file size and types you’re compressing. In a file compression benchmark test, experts tested WinRAR to compress a 310 MB test. They were able to compress the file by up to 71% of its original size, resulting in 90 MB.
Meanwhile, WinZIP can compress the same test file down to 125 MB. That’s a compression ratio of over 60%.
When it comes to RAR vs ZIP compression, RAR proves superior. If your main concern is storage space, then the RAR format is better than ZIP.
The ZIP format uses a less complex format structure to contain files. This makes it quick for both compression and decompression. It uses DEFLATE, an older yet common compression algorithm.
RAR compression is even faster than ZIP. This is because its compression algorithm is more efficient than ZIP’s DEFLATE compression.
The default Windows and Mac OS support does not include password protection. Meanwhile, WinRAR has native support for password encryption. This gives the RAR format a security advantage.
Which File Compression Format Is Best?
When it comes to accessibility and popularity, the ZIP format wins. If we’re talking about efficiency and security, RAR takes the crown. The answer to which file compression format is best will depend on your needs and priorities.
Whichever format you choose, check your files if they’re in the file type you need before sending them. We can convert files like PDF to JPG online for free. Convert your files with OffDrive today!