Coding Horror

programming and human factors

Revisiting 7-ZIP

In my previous post, I extolled the virtues of WinRAR and the RAR archive format. I disregarded 7-ZIP because it didn't do well in that particular compression study, and because my previous experiences with it had shown it to be efficient, but brutally slow.

But that's no longer true. Consider the following test I just conducted:

  • Two files: a 587 MB virtual hard disk file, and a 11 KB virtual machine file.
  • Test rig is a Dual Core Athlon X2 4800+.
  • All default GUI settings were used.
  • All extracting and archiving done from one physical hard drive to another, to reduce impact of disk contention.
WinRAR 3.70 beta 20:393:09135 MB
7-ZIP 4.20-6:04127 MB
7-ZIP 4.44 beta0:403:03125 MB

7-ZIP performance has doubled over the last two years. And it's slightly more efficient at compression, too. That's impressive.

Performance is no longer a reason to choose WinRAR over 7-ZIP. Granted, this is a sample size of one, a single test on a single machine, but it's hard to ignore the dramatic reversal of fortune.

I still like WinRAR's ultra-slick shell integration. But 7-ZIP is a viable competitor now in terms of raw clock time performance, and as always, it tends to produce smaller archives than RAR. This more than addresses my previous criticisms. Mea culpa, 7-ZIP.

Written by Jeff Atwood

Indoor enthusiast. Co-founder of Stack Overflow and Discourse. Disclaimer: I have no idea what I'm talking about. Find me here: