The Best File Archive Utility For Windows

Windows has a number of good file archiving and unarchiving utilities, and which one you use generally depends on what you'll be using it for. For most users, we recommend the simple, fast and powerful 7-Zip.


Platform: Windows Price: Free Download Page

  • Supports packing and unpacking of 7z, XZ, BZIP2, GZIP, TAR, ZIP and WIM formats, as well as unpacking of ARJ, CAB, CHM, CPIO, CramFS, DEB, DMG, FAT, HFS, ISO, LZH, LZMA, MBR, MSI, NSIS, NTFS, RAR, RPM, SquashFS, UDF, VHD, WIM, XAR and Z.
  • Supports creating archives with the very high-compression 7z format
  • AES-256 encryption support for 7z and ZIP formats
  • Integration with the Windows context menu
  • Powerful, lightweight command line version available (and cross-platform)

7-Zip excels in its simplicity and minimalism. If you come across an archive on the internet, 7-Zip will more than likely open it in the blink of an eye and extract it anywhere you want. You can also compress files with 7-Zip right from the Windows context menu, and the 7z format is one of the best file compression formats around. Encryption for 7z and ZIP is a nice touch as well, and the command-line utility is great if you want to compress big files and move them across platforms.

While 7-Zip is pretty powerful, if you need a bit more security in your archive creation, it doesn't offer a ton of options. Encryption is great, but only supports two formats and doesn't have some of the other features that programs like PeaZip do. Also, while we love its minimal UI, it isn't exactly the prettiest, and some people may prefer a more filled-out interface. Again, it's all in how you use it - most users will be more than content with it, and users that want more can move on to one of the other programs below.

Windows has quite a few good file compression programs, so if you don't like 7-Zip, you have quite a few choices. PeaZip is a very popular option, mostly for its good-looking interface and its numerous security options, like two-factor authentication, secure file deletion, and comparison of files using hashes. It can pack into a few more file formats too. PeaZip's biggest downside is that it often seems a bit overwhelming for those that just want a simple file compression utility, and the UI can be a bit quirky at times.

Similarly, TUGZip is a very powerful tool for those that need it. It can not only handle a ton of different formats, but you can create scripts that allow for things like automated backups, which is pretty cool. On the other side of the coin, Universal Extractor is super simple and integrates with Windows Explorer, but can only uncompress archives - not create them.

Lastly, if you're only compressing and uncompressing files on Windows, some people prefer WinRAR to 7-Zip, though it does cost money to use. However, the RAR compression is pretty great, and even better than 7z in some cases.

Got a particular compression utility that we didn't mention? Be sure to let us know about it in the comments.

Lifehacker's App Directory is a new and growing directory of recommendations for the best applications and tools in a number of given categories. This week, we're focusing on file archive utilities.


    I've tried 7Zip before and it's just plain ugly, I probably shouldn't be so picky, but I'll stick with WinRar for now thanks. #]

      Umm who cares? In my experience, 90% of general zipping/unzipping can be done with the right click context menu without even having to open 7-zips UI.

        Umm, Like I said, I probably shouldn't be so picky!!

      You can make it look a lot nicer with 7-Zip Theme Manager:

    I have to agree with this.. 7zip seems to be the way to go for the moment. I still prefer WinRar but only because of my history, going back over a decade, with RAR in general and its ability to compress better in some cases. WinRar doesn't handle 7zip files, since the last time I checked, so obviously the 7zip application has a leg up on WinRar.

    "7-Zip excels in its simplicity and minimalism." - and isn't that what you really want, for most things?

      Oh, cool, thanks #]

        Sorry, reply meant for Matt!

    I use 7Zip for everything except RAR files. WinRar for those.

    7zip for me. it even extracts winrar. and I hardly ever see the GUI. Note: there are also some 7zip clients for Mac as well.

    WinRar supports 7zip un-compression
    WinRar has a stronger cli interface then 7zip.

    Best answer use both!

    I am using 7zip from long and I feel that this is the best compression tool ever. I admire this utility for its great performance and speed. The unmatched quality and free of cost feature make its tremendous.

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