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Comparison of archive formats

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Title: Comparison of archive formats  
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Comparison of archive formats

There are many popular computer data archive formats for creating and maintaining archive files. The tables below compare many popular archive formats.


The table compares various features column-by-column in the table below:


Archive formats are used for backups, mobility, and archiving. Many archive formats compress the data to consume less storage space and result in quicker transfer times as the same data is represented by fewer bytes. Another benefit is that files are combined into one archive file which has less overhead for managing or transferring.

There are numerous compression algorithms available to losslessly compress archived data and some algorithms work better (smaller archive or faster compression) with particular data types.

Archive formats are also used by most operating systems to package software for easier distribution and installation than binary executables.

Filename extension

The DOS and Windows operating systems required filenames to include a three-character extension to identify the file type and use. Filename extensions must be unique for each type of file. Many operating systems identify a file's type from its contents without the need for an extension in its name. However, the use of three-character extensions has been embraced as a useful and efficient shorthand for identifying file types—both for computer software, and for humans.

Integrity check

Archive files are often stored on magnetic media, which is subject to data storage errors. Early tape media had a higher rate of errors than is expected for magnetic media today. Many archive formats contain extra data embedded in the files in order to detect data storage or transmission errors, and the software used to read the archive files contain logic to detect errors.

Recovery record

Many archive formats contain redundant data embedded in the files in order to detect data storage or transmission errors, and the software used to read the archive files contain logic to detect and correct errors.


In order to protect the data being stored or transferred from being read if intercepted, many archive formats include the capability to encrypt the data. There are multiple mathematical algorithms available to encrypt data.


Format Filename
Introduced in Based on Integrity check Recovery record Encryption supported Unicode filenames Modification date resolution
Archiving only
Archive (ar) .a CSRG ? Original No No No No 1 s
cpio .cpio Bell Labs 1983 Unix System V ? Partial, select formats only No No No 1 s
Shell Archive (shar and makeself) .shar, .run ? 1994 4.4BSD Original Yes, commonly MD5 Partial Partial Partial arbitrary (typically 1 s)
Tape Archive (tar) .tar Bell Labs 1975 Version 6 Unix ? Partial, metadata only. Full integrity providable by filters such as gzip. No No Optional 1 s
Extended TAR format (pax) .tar OpenGroup 2001 Sun proposal + TAR metadata No No Yes arbitrary (typically 1 ns)
BagIt - The Library of Congress 2007 file system Yes No No Yes No
Archiving and Compression
7z .7z Igor Pavlov 2000 LZMA Yes,
No Yes,
Yes 1 ms (maybe better?)
ACE .ace Marcel Lemke ? ? Yes Yes Yes, Blowfish Yes ?
AFA .afa Vicente Sánchez-Alarcos 2009 Original Yes Yes Yes, AES and CAST Yes ?
ARC .arc Thom Henderson (SEA) 1985 ? CRC16 No weak XOR only No 2s
ARJ .arj Robert Jung 1991 AR001 and AR002 Yes Yes weak XOR with initial constant No ?
B1 .b1 Catalina Group Ltd 2011 LZMA Yes No Yes, AES Yes ?
Cabinet .cab Microsoft 1992 Windows 3.1 DEFLATE Optional PKCS7 Authenticode signature No Optional (with SDK) Yes 2 s
Compact File Set .cfs Joe Lowe (Pismo Technic Inc.) 2008, April 1 ZIP/LZMA Yes ? Yes Yes ?
Compact Pro .cpt Bill Goodman 1990, May 5 (as "Compactor") Original Yes No Yes ? ?
Disk Archive (DAR) .dar Denis Corbin 2002 Original Yes Yes Yes Yes 1 s
DGCA .dgc Shin-ichi Tsuruta 2001 GCA Yes Yes Yes Yes ?
FreeArc .arc Bulat Ziganshin 2006 LZMA, PPMD, TTA Yes Yes Yes, AES, Blowfish, Twofish and Serpent Yes ?
LHA (also LZH) .lzh, .lha Haruyasu Yoshizaki 1988 Frozen Only on recent LHA releases No No No 1–2 s
LZX .lzx Jonathan Forbes and Tomi Poutanen 1995 LZ77 Only on recent LZX releases ? ? ? ?
Sparc .arc David Pilling 1989 ? ? ? ? ? ?
WinMount format .mou ? 2007 ? Yes Yes Yes Yes ?
Macintosh Disk Image .dmg Apple Computer 2001 Mac OS X Original Yes ? Yes ? ?
Partition Image (PartImage) ? François Dupoux and Franck Ladurelle 2000 ? ? ? ? ? ?
PAQ (Several formats) ? Matt Mahoney 2002–2006 Original ? ? ? ? ?
PEA .pea Giorgio Tani 2006 Original, Deflate based compression Yes Adler32, CRC32, CRC64, MD5, SHA1, RIPEMD-160, SHA256, SHA512, Whirlpool No Yes Authenticated Encryption, AES128 and AES256 in EAX mode Yes system dependent Yes arbitrary
PIM .pim Ilia Muraviev 2004–2008 Original Yes No No Yes No
Quadruple D .qda Taku Hayase (aka sandman) 1997 ? ? ? ? ? ?
RAR .rar Eugene Roshal 1993 Original Yes,
2 s, 1 s, 6.5536 ms, 25.6 µs or 100 ns
RK .rk M Software, Ltd. 2004 Original Yes No Yes, AES, Square, Twofish Yes 1 s
StuffIt (also SIT) .sit Raymond Lau 1987 ? ? ? Yes ? ?
StuffIt X (also SITx) .sitx Aladdin/Allume Systems 2002 ? ? Optional Yes, RC4,Blowfish,
Yes ?
UltraCompressor II .uc .uc0 .uc2
.ucn .ur2 .ue2
Nico de Vries 1992–1996 LZ77 and Huffman coding Yes Yes Yes, triple DES ? ?
Windows Image .wim Microsoft ? Original Optional ? No Yes ?
ZIP (also PKZIP) .zip Phil Katz 1989 DEFLATE Yes No Yes, AES Yes 2 s
ZPAQ .zpaq Matt Mahoney 2009 PAQ Yes, SHA-1 No Yes, AES-256 Yes ?
Software Packaging and Distribution
Debian package (deb) .deb Debian 1994 Debian 0.91 ar, tar, and gzip Yes No No Yes 1 s
Macintosh Installer .pkg, .mpkg (metapackage) NeXT 1989 NeXTSTEP 1.0 pax and gzip Yes ? ? Yes ?
RPM Package Manager (RPM) .rpm Red Hat 1995 Red Hat Linux 1.0 cpio and gzip Yes ? ? ? 1 s
Slackware Package .tgz Patrick Volkerding 1993 Slackware 1.0 tar and gzip Yes No No ? ?
Windows Installer (also MSI) .msi Microsoft 2000 Windows 2000 OLE Structured Storage, Cabinet and SQL Optional PKCS7 Authenticode Signature No No No 2 s
Java Archive (JAR) .jar Sun Microsystems 1997 JDK 1.1 PKZIP Yes ? ? Yes ?
Google Chrome extension package .crx Google 9 September 2009 (Chrome 4.0) Zip ? ? Yes[1] ? ?


^1 While the original tar format uses the ASCII character encoding, current implementations use the UTF-8 (Unicode) encoding, which is backwards compatible with ASCII.
^2 Supports the external Parchive program (par2).
^3 From 3.20 release RAR can store modification, creation and last access time with the precision up to 0.0000001 second (= 0.1 µs). [1] [2]
^4 There is also JAR the archiver by Robert K. Jung.


  1. ^

See also

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