Compressing files into a Zip Archive is essential if we want to send multiple files by email. It is also a good way to save bandwidth, as certain types of files can be compressed more than 90%. Let's compress files into a Zip archive, with Windows and PeaZip.
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How to create a zip file with Windows
Every version of Windows since Window XP recognizes .zip archives and can open and extract them with Windows Explorer.
Windows will also allow us to compress files into a Zip archive, without the need for a third-party program.
For the example, we gathered a little more than 1500 word documents, with an uncompressed size of 252MB.
To compress these files, we can select them all with Ctrl+A, and then right-click and select Send to -> Compressed (zipped) folder.
Windows won't give us any options regarding the degree of the compression. It will immediately start compressing the files. If we have too many large files, this can take a while.
Once the zip archive is ready, the original 252MB have been compressed down to 85.1MB, a reduction of 66,23%.
However, the file compression through Windows seems to have a problem with non-English characters.
If we have many such files, and we can't or don't want to rename them, we need to use a third-party compression utility.
How to compress files with PeaZip
There are many compression apps, free and paid. For this guide, we have selected PeaZip because it's free, open source, and supports 95 types of compressed files.
The easiest way to install PeaZip is using Ninite, a unique service that will automatically download and install the latest version for nearly 100 free utilities.
To download just PeaZip, we can visit https://ninite.com/peazip directly.
Once we run the installer, the rest of the installation is fully automated.
The easiest way to compress files with PeaZip is putting them in a folder, right-clicking, and selecting PeaZip -> Add to .ZIP.
This will use the default settings for compression.
A few seconds later, the 252MB are down to 82,6MB, with PeaZip achieving a 3% better compression than Windows.
Advanced options to compress files with PeaZip
If we want to change our compression options, we can right-click the folder and select PeaZip -> Add to archive.
This will open the main PeaZip Window. Here, we can choose one of the fifteen different compression algorithms available, or even select a custom one that we might have downloaded separately.
Zip is the best option regarding compatibility. Especially if we want to send the archive to someone else since they can open it with Windows Explorer.
We can also select the degree of the compression. "Store" won't compress the files at all, it will just store them in a 252MB Zip. The "Fastest" and "Fast" options will compress the files less than the default, in less time.
"Maximum" and "Ultra" offer better file compression but take longer.
Finally, we can choose to split the zip into multiple volumes. This makes it easier to send a large zip in a couple of emails.
With the "Ultra" setting, the final size was 81.3MB. The difference with the 82.6MB of the normal compression is small but 1,3MB counts if we have a slow upload.
To be continued: which is the best compression algorithm?
If we are looking for the best possible compression, we can find algorithms that outperform zip.
On a future guide, we will be testing the most popular algorithms to see which one performs better on which types of files.
Did you have any trouble to compress files?
If anything on the guide didn't work as described, and you weren't able to compress files with Windows or PeaZip, leave us a comment.
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