What Are Files Archives and How to Use Them

Updated on June 25, 2019
EricFarmer8x profile image

Eric has always loved to tinker with, and test software, and using computer software would become his great passion.

What Is File Compression?

Chances are you have had to use a compressed file like a .zip at least once when using a computer, smartphone, or tablet. In this article, I am going to explain what file compression is and what the benefits of using it are.

What Is File Compression?

Making Many Files One

In computing terms when you compress files together, you store them in a single archive file. Depending on the format used algorithms are also used to reduce space.

Think of compressing files as taking lots of different things and pressing them together.

Making Smaller Media Files

There is a second way to compress files as well. There are compressed audio, picture, and video formats. File compression in these cases is a way to have smaller media files without a loss in quality.

Different File Types

There Are Many Different Standards

Like with many things when it comes to computers, different standards have been made and worked on over the years. The most common file type you will see is .zip. All modern computer operating systems can use .zip files.

About Winrar

Another type I used to see often online is .rar. This format is used mostly in the WinRAR application. This application does cost money, but it works 100% for free and only it nags users to pay.

About 7Zip

Another popular option is 7zip. 7Zip is a free and open source application that works with many archive formats including .7z format. On Windows, I always download and use 7Zip. I can use it to open any other archive format I will need to use.

Other Formats

There are other formats as well. Zip, rar, and 7z, are used the most for everyday use though from my experiences.

I use 7-Zip often and I like using it.
I use 7-Zip often and I like using it. | Source

Have You Used WinRar Before?

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What Compression Format Should Be Used?

I Recommend Using .zip Files for Most People

When sending files to other people of when offering things to download I recommend only using .zip files. Everybody will be able to use them and most likely know how to open them.

Be Careful About Using Other Compression Formats

You could use other formats, but you must assume the person knows what to do with the files or can open them. When I first started using computers and encountered .rar files I originally did not know what to do with them.

For Backups Use Whatever You Want

When backing up your own personal files, the option is up to you at that point. I use whatever is available. I do not really worry about what format is the best or saves the most space.

How Do You Compress .zip Files in Windows?

In Windows you select the files you want to compress and move them a .zip folder you create. You can also select files and then right click and use the send to .zip option.

I select some documents as an example.
I select some documents as an example. | Source
I select some files on Chrome OS.
I select some files on Chrome OS. | Source

Compressing Files Saves Space

Why Compress Files to Save Space?

With big files and when compressing many files at once you start to notice the gains in free space. Often websites do this to use less disk space on a website server. Also, since the files are smaller in size, it saves users time in downloading the files.

Easier to Manage File Backups

People frequently compress files when backing them up. Compressed file archives are easy to manage and move around. Also, keep in mind since you save space there is less to move to begin with.

When I back up my important documents, music collection, and pictures I make separate archives for each and save it to my Google Drive account.

Easier to Upload Files

Uploading files on a standard home internet connection is a slow process. So, anything that speeds this up helps. Compressing files also makes it easier to send things as email attachments.

This also applies when sending files over chat programs like Discord as well.

Here are my current file backups. I am using .tar.gz files.
Here are my current file backups. I am using .tar.gz files. | Source

Why Are Some Archives Split Over Multiple Files?

Some people split files over multiple archives to save space as well. I find this somewhat annoying as it means sometimes having to download multiple files. To open an archive split over multiple files you need all of them for it to work.

I Can't Open This File Because It Has a Password

About Password Protected Files

People have the option of protecting some archive formats with passwords. I remember some download sites archiving .rar files with a password.

You Need the Password to Open the File

If you don't have the password, you really can't open the file. If downloading files from the original website, they should give the password out somehow. Some websites give passwords to archive files out if you sign up.

Why Is My Archive File Corrupted?

There are multiple reasons for an archive file to corrupt. I typically get these sorts of errors if I download a file incorrectly for some reason. If you don't let a file compress all the way and stop it, then the file will be corrupted.

Questions & Answers

    © 2018 Eric Farmer


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      • EricFarmer8x profile imageAUTHOR

        Eric Farmer 

        16 months ago from Rockford Illinois

        Thanks for the comment.

      • poppyr profile image


        16 months ago from Tokyo, Japan

        A very informative article about .zip files! My computer knowledge is limited, but once I had to send a co-worker a lot of photographs all in one .zip file and just about managed that.


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