Free alternative to WinRAR

Do I need an archiver now

Currently, the era of archivers has passed. Ten years ago, the archiver was one of the most important and one of the most frequently used programs because the Internet connection was slow and many files were compressed into archives. At modern data transfer rates, unpacking an archive may take longer than downloading a file. And therefore, archivers are often used simply as a way to collect many files into one, while the compression ratio is of little interest to anyone.

In addition, now out of the box Windows has a built-in archiver that allows you to create and unpack ZIP archives.

Nevertheless, the archiver continues to be a rather important program that is available on many computers - at least in order to open a downloaded or received archive.

The best archiver

In the old days, the most popular archiver was WinRAR - intuitive, with a good compression ratio, supporting many archives to decompress.

The only negative: WinRAR is and has always been paid. Downloading a cracked version can be infected with viruses.

By now, 7-Zip has evolved - it is a file archiver with a high compression ratio.

7-Zip is free and open source software. Most of the code is licensed under the GNU LGPL. Some parts of the code are licensed under the BSD three-clause license. There is also a limitation of the unRAR license for some parts of the code.

You can use 7-Zip on any computer, including a business computer. You don't need to register or pay for 7-Zip.

The main features of 7-Zip:

  • High compression ratio in 7z format with LZMA and LZMA2 compression
  • Supported formats:
  • Packing / unpacking: 7z, XZ, BZIP2, GZIP, TAR, ZIP and WIM
  • For ZIP and GZIP formats, 7-Zip provides a compression ratio that is 2-10 % better than the ratio provided by PKZip and WinZip
  • Strong AES-256 encryption in 7z and ZIP formats
  • Self-extracting capability for 7z format
  • Integration with Windows Shell
  • Powerful File Manager
  • Powerful command line version
  • Plugin for FAR Manager
  • Localizations for 87 languages

7-Zip works in Windows 10 / 8 / 7 / Vista / XP / 2019 / 2016 / 2012 / 2008 / 2003 / 2000.

p7zip - the port of the command line version of 7-Zip to Linux/Posix. The official version of 7-Zip for Linux has also been released.

Compression ratio

We compared 7-Zip with WinRAR 5.20.

FILE SET: Mozilla Firefox 34.0.5 for Windows and Google Earth for Windows.

Archiver Mozilla Firefox Google Earth
65 files
85 280 391 bytes
483 files
110 700 519 bytes
Compressed size Ratio Compressed size Ratio
7-Zip 9.35
39 357 375 100% 15 964 369 100%
WinRAR 5.20
-m5 -s -ma5 -md128m
41 789 543 106% 17 035 432 107%

Compression ratio results are highly dependent on the data used for testing. Usually 7-Zip compresses to 7z format 30-70% better than zip format. And 7-Zip compresses to zip format 2-10% better than most other zip-compatible programs.

Download 7-Zip

The 7-Zip archiver takes up very little space and is completely free, so it will not be superfluous. Thanks to 7-Zip, you can open any archives, including those created in Linux, and you can also compress files into archives with a high compression ratio.

To download 7-Zip, go to the official website of the program: https://www.7-zip.org/

How to use 7-Zip

After installing the program, you will see the 7-Zip item in the context menu. Its content will be different depending on the selected file. If it is an archive, different unpacking options will be offered.

If you have selected one or more non-archive files, you will be prompted to compress them into an archive.

Related: How to select multiple inconsistent files and other tips for selecting files

The default settings is fine, it is not necessary to change anything, or you can specify the “Archive format” (optionally 7z, XZ, BZIP2, GZIP, TAR, ZIP and WIM), “Compression level” (from "No compression" (to simply combine several files in one) to “Ultra” (maximum compression ratio, but the slowest and most expensive in terms of RAM).

You can create a self-extracting archive (SFX archive), you can set a password for unpacking, encrypt filenames in a password-protected archive, and choose other settings.

To unpack the archive, also use the context menu or open the archive in 7-Zip.

7-Zip main window

In the main window of 7-Zip you can view the properties of archives and calculate their checksums.

You can also perform the usual actions for archives: extract, test for errors, add and delete files.

7-Zip settings

To open 7-Zip settings, go to Tools → Settings.

Here you can configure the association of archives with the 7-Zip program so that files with certain extensions can be opened with a double click.

You can customize the contents of the 7-Zip context menu.

You can also change the working folder (the folder where temporary files are saved), set programs for viewing, editing and comparing files, select other settings and change the language.


So, 7-Zip is at the same time very easy to use program, but at the same time very powerful, behind which there are years of development and many technologies.

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