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What Is File Compression

File compression is an important everyday method of conserving hard disk space and archiving files. When you download files from the Internet, they'll almost always be compressed. Multiple files and folders are often compressed together in the form of an archive. This makes it easier to distribute those files, since they are all stored in one convenient package. When you download or purchase software online, for example, it will always come in the form of a compressed setup file which, when run, will install the application and all of its associated files and folders.

Understanding how to compress and decompress files is essential for most Internet users, since it's something that you're likely to come across often. There are also many different methods and formats of file compression, though the most common one is the ZIP format. The ZIP format is now natively supported in Windows and has been since Windows ME. This means that you don't need to download and install any additional software to open ZIP files and extract the contents from them. Windows also makes it possible to create your own compressed ZIP archives simply by selecting the files and folders you want to archive, right clicking on them and clicking "Send to" followed by "Compressed (zipped) folder." If you want to upload files to the Internet or email them to a friend, you're usually best off packaging them in this manner since it will make them faster and easier to send and receive.

There are many other file compression formats and, if you download a lot of content from the Internet, you're extremely likely to come across compression formats which Windows cannot natively read. Common formats unsupported by Windows itself include RAR and 7ZIP files. To be able to work with these files, you'll need to install a program such as WinRAR or 7Zip.

In Windows, entire hard disks can also be compressed. It's a good idea to avoid compressing an entire hard disk unless you're running out of disk space and you have no other option. It takes longer to open compressed files, since the data contained inside them first needs to be extracted.


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