The best file compression software makes it simple and easy to compress files for easy storage, and also manage multiple compression file formats.
File compression software has a long history, especially for sharing big files with other users over the early internet. However, file size became less of an issue when broadband arrived and it seemed file compression might no longer be necessary.
However, fast-forward to today and file compression is becoming increasingly important again as both individuals and businesses find themselves storing larger and larger amounts of data. And as mobile computing continues to become the norm, laptops with limited storage drives also need solutions to allow user data to be properly and backed up, for example, to the cloud.
File compression software is therefore becoming more common as a part of good data management. On top of this, sharing and archiving files can be made much easier, such as when sending emails while wanting to avoid any attachment limits.
That's not all – in addition to reducing file sizes, compression software offers plenty of extra features to take into consideration. Perhaps the best feature of compression tools is the ability to encrypt files and protect them with a password – something you'll find in all the tools we've picked here. You can then keep track of them by using the best password manager.
The most commonly used compression format is ZIP, but there are various other available. You never know which type you may encounter when downloading and sharing files, so it makes sense to have a program on hand that can handle more than one type. So we'll take a look at a selection of the best tools, taking into account ones that offer the highest compression rates, and those that support the largest number of file types.
Here then, follows our list of what we think are the best file compression software options currently available.
We've also featured the best free software uninstallers.
The best file compression software in 2023 in full:
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One of the most famous names in the world of software utilities, WinZip is still going strong after nearly 30 years, and is still one of the best file compression tools around.
However, you may wonder if you can justify spending money on a compression tool when there are so many free alternatives available. Ultimately it depends on your priorities, but you do get a lot of extras for your money.
In addition to support for a wide range of archive formats (including ZIP, ZIPX, RAR (extraction only), 7z, TAR, GZIP, VHD and XZ), WinZip offers integration with a number of programs including Office for easy zipping as you work.
Other bonus features include the splitting of large zip files to fit different media, advanced file sharing options, cloud support and an advanced zip management system that rivals Windows Explorer. The interface adapts to suit mouse and keyboard setups or touchscreen devices, and there are backup and security options thrown in to protect your files.
WinZip is an incredibly useful tool to have in your software arsenal, and it's flexible enough to work in the way that suits you best – you can create and extract via the program interface, or using the program window.
And if you'd rather not pay money, we've featured the best free alternatives to Winzip.
Read our full WinZip review.
As famous as WinZip in certain circles, WinRAR created a name for itself thanks to its proprietary RAR format, which offers incredible levels of compression. Most compression programs can extract RAR archives, but only WinRAR can (officially) create them. This exclusivity comes at a price that is similar to WinZip.
Of course, WinRAR can be used to compress files into many other compressed formats, and the program benefits from the fact that it is available for just about every platform imaginable.
The interface is not the most pleasant to look at, and even if you opt to use the Explorer context menu to create or extract archives, beginners may well feel overwhelmed by the number of options and settings on display. That said, there is a wizard mode that take the hard work out of most tasks.
WinRAR's killer feature is undoubtedly full RAR support, but its encryption, speed, self-extracting archive creation and themes (if you're into that sort of thing!) mean it's well worth taking a look at the trial version to see if this is the compression tool for you.
Read our full WinRAR review.
The first free option in this roundup, 7-Zip is another program with an excellent reputation. It can handle pretty much any compressed file format you care to throw at it.
A real stalwart of the compression world, 7-Zip boasts its own compressed file format, 7z. This not only lets you compress truly gigantic files (up to 16 billion gigabytes, according to its developers), but also has an incredibly high compression rate. However, this does mean making speed sacrifices; 7z can use 'solid compression' to achieve tiny file sizes, but it can be very, very slow.
7-Zip's interface is far from attractive, and the number of context menu entries the program creates can be a little unnerving. Thankfully, if you venture into Options within the program, you'll find that it's easy enough to get rid of the options you don't need.
The look of this file compression software won't be to everyone's taste, but if you can get past this, you have a rock-steady and reliable utility on your hands.
Read our full 7-Zip review.
It might not be the first name that comes to mind when you think of file compression software, but Zip Archiver has a very healthy following thanks to its thoughtfully designed interface, excellent format support, and because it offers all this for free.
What makes this program interesting is its incredible ease of use. Even someone who is unfamiliar with the idea of file compression and decompression should find it easy to achieve the results they want.
Creating and extracting archives to one of a range of formats is reduced to a simple drag and drop process, and there's cloud support as a handy extra. What this means is that you can, in one quick and easy operation, create a compressed file, upload it to Dropbox, OneDrive, or Google Drive, and have a shareable link created automatically.
If you're compressing files to share them, this is a brilliant option. If you're not a fan of the drag-and-drop interface, you can use the Windows context menu to take care of everything – the choice is yours.
There are dozens of compressed file formats, but Zip Archiver can handle them all. The only drawback is that Zip Archiver is only available for Windows.
Read our full Zip Archiver review.
Another free compression program, PeaZip (for Windows and Linux) is simple looking but surprisingly powerful, and offers plenty of security options
In addition to regular compression and decompression options, you can also use PeaZip to convert archives between formats. For the security conscious, this file compression software also offers AES256-based encryption and two-factor authentication, as well as a password manager.
As with the other compression tools in this roundup, you can make use of the main program interface, or fall back in love with the right mouse button and use the context menu.
PeaZip is one compression tool that can, sort of, create – as well as extract – RAR files. If you have WinRAR installed (be it the full version or the trial) PeaZip can make use of the software to gain full RAR support. Although no warning message will be displayed, you're not really supposed to use WinRAR after the end of the trial period, either on its own or through PeaZip.
Read our full PeaZip review.
We've also featured the best PDF compressors.
Which file compression software is best for you?
When deciding which file compression software to download and use, first consider what your actual needs are, as sometimes free platforms may only provide basic options, so if you need to use advanced tools you may find a paid platform is much more worthwhile. Additionally, free and budget software options can sometimes prove limited when it comes to the variety of tools available, while higher-end software can really cater for every need, so do ensure you have a good idea of which features you think you may require.
How we tested the best file compression software
To test for the best file compression software we first set up an account with the relevant software platform, whether as a download or as an online service. We then tested the service to see how the software could be used for different purposes and in different situations. The aim was to push each software platform to see how useful its basic tools were and also how easy it was to get to grips with any more advanced tools.