If you need to save space on your Windows PC or laptop then compressing your files is a good way to do it. But what is the best compression software to use? In this guide, we will highlight the top 5 file compression tools on the market in 2020 and tell you everything you need to know to choose the best one for you.
File compression software can help you to save space on your device, send and transfer files safely, and even bring encryption and other useful features onto the table as well.
On Windows PCs and laptops, space can be at a premium, and buying external hardware storage is not cheap.
File compression provides a solution and while Zip is the best known format, there are others out there as well. In this guide, we will explore the world of file compression software in 2020 and recommend the top 5 file compression software tools on the market today.
What you need from file compression software
What do you need from a good piece of file compression software? A user-friendly approach to file compression is a start as is the ability to work with multiple compression file types ideally. A lot of people will be wanting software that is quick and can run in the background while they are doing other things too.
Some people will think they don’t really need file compression software at all. This is an understandable opinion given the speed with which hard drive size has been growing in recent years. But with more and more people downloading and storing large media files and the high price of SSD hard drives, file compression is still the best option for a lot of people.
It is also really useful when you need to send and transfer files, especially via email. A lot of popular email services like Outlook and Gmail have attachment size limits and compressing files means you can send more files in a single email.
It is also a bit of a misnomer to think that compression software only does one thing; compress files. This might be its main function but a lot of file compression software bundles together a range of other related functions that can prove useful.
The most common of these is the ability to encrypt your files to keep them safe and secure either while you are sending them over the internet or if you are storing them in a potentially vulnerable place such as a cloud storage site.
A lot of Windows PC and laptop users will not look much further than Zip files when it comes to file compression. These work fine but there are a lot more options out there so it is worth finding out which is the best file compression software on the market for you.
Best File Compression Software 2020
- Advanced features
- Supports multiple file types
- Splits large files
- No free version
WinZip is the best known file compression tool and despite having been available for more than 30 years it remains at the top of the pile.
It is a tool that has kept up with the times and offers a user-friendly and flexible interface that works well for either mouse or keyboard users. It features a number of advanced file-sharing tools and supports all the big cloud storage providers.
WinZip supports a huge range of compression files including ZIP, ZIPX, RAR (extraction only), 7z, TAR, GZIP, VHD, and XZ. It can also be integrated with a number of existing popular online programs particularly Microsoft Office.
Handy features include the ability to break large zip files up into smaller ones either for ease of storage or to enable you to send them on email. You can also create and extract files through either the program interface or the program window as you prefer.
The big downside to WinZip is the price. It costs a cool $35 and this is non-negotiable. There is no free trial and no pared-back free version available either. At a time when there are some extremely good file compression tools available at no cost whatsoever, this is a bold move. But if you use file compression a lot, there is no denying that WinZip is the best.
- Can create RAR files
- Works with other formats too
- Fast compression tool
- Complex interface
- No free version
WinRAR is a file compression built around the RAR compression format. This format offers incredible levels of compression and while lots of file compression tools can extract RAR files, only WinRAR is able to create them.
It can create compressed files in many other file formats too and you can do this on just about the type of device you can think of.
WinRAR’s compression speeds are particularly impressive and it also offers a really good encryption tool as well. It also offers self-extracting archive creation and themes if you want to get that deep into this tool.
The downsides to WinRAR are mainly found on the interface which is not at all user-friendly and if you are completely novice can appear quite daunting. The truth is that the WinRAR interface is just far too busy and convoluted and offers far too many options and settings at once.
There is a wizard mode that is intended to make things much simpler and while this is welcome it still doesn’t take away the feeling of complexity.
WinRAR is not a free tool either. A full license will cost you around $30, which will seem fairly steep for many. If you do need to compress large files on a regular basis, the RAR format might well be attractive and the price a reasonable one. There is a free trial available too to let you see if WinRAR is the right tool for you.
- Free to use
- Works with most file formats
- Can compress huge files
- Can be slow
- Complex interface
If you are looking for a free file compression tool, then our top recommendation for you is 7-Zip. This exceptional tool works with almost every file format and is also capable of compression extremely large files with ease.
As well as supporting all the major compression file formats such as Zip and RAR, 7-Zip also has its own format known as 7z. This format has a massive file compression format and according to the team behind 7-Zip, it is capable of compression the most enormous files you can image, with sizes of up to 16 billion GB being mentioned.
This capacity is impressive and it can also compress files down to very small sizes which can be extremely handy. But if you want your files compressed fast, 7-Zip may not be the right tool for you as speeds are not amazing to say the very least.
The interface is also rather more complicated than it needs to be as well and it creates a lot of context menu entries which can make things appear even scarier to look at, especially for beginners. It is possible to customize things to get rid of some of the clutter, but this in itself is a fairly complex process for beginners.
While the appearance and usability of 7-zip do leave a bit to be desired, it is still a rock-solid tool. And the biggest advantage is that it is completely free to download and use. So, unless you are compression big files on a regular basis, 7-zip probably offers everything you need from a file compression tool.
4. Zip Archiver
- Free to use
- Nice drag and drop interface
- Supports many formats
- Only works with Windows
If usability is important to you, then Zip Archiver is a really good option to consider. It has a fantastically well designed interface and even the most novice of Windows users should be able to get to grips with this tool with ease.
The drag and drop feature means that all you have to do to either compress or decompress a file is drag it into the appropriate window and let go. Zip Archiver will do everything else for you.
This tool can handle all of the file compression formats and it is also set up to work with all the big cloud storage solutions too. It means you can create a compressed file, uploaded it to your cloud drive, and even generate a link to share it with others in just a few clicks.
The drag and drop interface is popular but it is not compulsory. If you prefer something more menu-oriented, you can customize Zip Archiver to deliver this.
It is hard to find too many downsides t Zip Archiver, but if there is one, it is the fact that this tool only works with Windows, so there is no chance of using it across several different platforms or on your mobile devices.
- Free to use
- Can create RAR files
- Strong security options
- Average speeds
Another file compression tool that is free to use, simple and straightforward, yet also powerful and impressive, is PeaZip.
PeaZip lets you choose between the type of compression format you want to use to store your files and it has a comprehensive range available. If you want to create RAR files, but don’t fancy paying up for WinRAR, the PeaZip might be what you need. It is able to create and extract RAR files, but you will need the free trial version of WinRAR installed on your device for it to be able to do this.
This free compression software also comes with some notable security options as well. It offers 256-bit AES encryption which is the type used by premium VPNs and is generally acknowledged as being unbreakable. If that isn’t secure enough for you, there is also the option to add two-factor authentication (2FA) and a password manager feature built-in as well.
The interface PeaZip uses is fairly neat and friendly and the speeds that it can compress your files in are not exactly sluggish but also not the fastest we have encountered either.
Overall, PeaZip is a pretty impressive file compressor and as a free tool, it has an awful lot going for it.
File compression is a great way to save space on your device or hard drive, store files securely, and share them quickly and easily. But finding the best file compression tool for you can be a challenge.
In this guide, we have highlighted our pick of the top five file compression software tools available in 2020. It includes both paid-for and free tools to suit every possible need.
We have profiled each one and highlighted the pros and cons they offer. While we have ranked them in order of preference for us, you might find any on this list offers the perfect file compression solution for you.
If you have any questions about any aspect of this guide or any tips for our readers about file compression and other possible software, please do share your comments with us using the comment box below.