When compressing your files into a more portable format, it's pretty normal to go straight for the zipped folder (.zip) option. Many users find themselves happy to use the functionality that Windows ships with, but is this always the best option? What other options are there, and why turn to these if .zip is perfectly adequate? The following article will attempt to answer these questions and help improve general knowledge in this area.
Depending on how often you use the web, you may have already encountered alternate file compression formats, each with their own merits. Proponents of .rar files will often tell you that it's faster and more efficient, but is it worth the extra hassle of acquiring the software to use this file format? The RAR file is in fact the only file compression format that allows the 'splitting' of contents into different volume partitions. This is useful because it permits the saving of entire data libraries in a single file format as opposed to manually splitting the files and compressing them all separately. An example of where splitting into volumes would help is if you wanted to send a 500mb file but your email service does not permit files of that size. Using RAR, the file could be automatically split into smaller chunks and then reassembled upon extraction at the other end. ZIP does not support this approach—there is no reasonable way of splitting files and piecing them back together.
The way that the RAR splitting works is conducted simply by using "samplefile.part##.rar" syntax so that the extraction software knows the archive is split into parts and also whether or not all of these parts are available. The relatively easy method of setting up and archiving using RAR has led to it being the one of the most popular methods of preparing large media for uploading and downloading across the internet.
The main disadvantage of RAR is its own uniqueness. Many users would consider acquiring bespoke software to operate it as unwanted hassle. It can be confusing upon first encounters because you cannot view the contents of a RAR file through Windows explorer as you can with .zip files; the thumbnail appears white and the file is unrecognised unless you have software such as WinRAR to recognise it. A final but only very minor downside to RAR files is related to picture viewing. With a ZIP file, you can view all the pictures in the folder without extracting by opening them and clicking through each one, using Windows photo viewer or a similar program. With RAR however, each file will be on its own and therefore you will not be able to quickly check through them as with ZIP.
When choosing which file type is most appropriate, it really should depend on the size of what it is that is being archived. With smaller documents, ZIP is still perfectly adequate, but as files get larger, it will perform more slowly and take longer to prepare and extract the contents than with the RAR alternative.
File Compression : .ZIP vs .RAR
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