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xz and 7za compression programs

xz is a lossless data compression program and file format which incorporates the LZMA compression algorithm. xz is used now for distributing patched in many Linux flavors. You can specify xz for compression in tar with option GNU tar.  For 7za you usually need to pipe tar output into the program.

7za is compatible and is much (often 10 times) faster then xz. For some reason xz does not multithread well. Decompression speeds are close as decompression is almost never multithreaded. 

xz format has almost better level of compression then dominant Gzip format and in some cases is able to produce files that half of the size of files compressed with gzip.

Recently it became standard for packages of  Debian family of systems deb (file format), openSUSE, Fedora, Arch Linux,Slackware,[FreeBSD, Gentoo, GNOME,and TeX Live, as well as being an option to compress a compiled Linux kernel.

In December 2013, the Linux kernel maintainers announced that they would use xz instead of bzip2 as their compression tool from 2014 on.

One can think of both xz and 7za as a stripped-down version of the 7-Zip program.

xz compresses single files as input, and does not bundle multiple files into a single archive. It is therefore common to compress a file that is itself an archive, such as those created by the tar or cpio Unix programs.

xz options are close to gzip so immediate "transfer of skills" is possible. 7za options are closer to original 7zip program and RAR archiver. 

Format of files used

Although the original 7-Zip program, which implements LZMA2 compression, is able to produce small files at the cost of speed, it also created its own unique archive format which was made primarily for Windows and did not support Unix functionality. xz and 7za uses thier own Linux based format as Windows 7-Zip format does not support directly Unix file system metadata). Xz and 7za are compatible with each other: each can decompress files compressed with the other program. 


An implementation of the xz file format is freely available online as XZ Utils. It is licensed under the terms of the GNU LGPL and GNU GPL, with the bulk of the software (e.g., liblzma) in the public domain. Version 1.22 of GNU tar supports using this software to handle xz files transparently.

FreeBSD tar has supported xz transparently since r191190 (released on April 17, 2009).

7-Zip has supported xz since version 9.04 beta (stable since 9.20).


7za man page

7za - A file archiver with highest compression ratio

7za [adeltux] [-] [SWITCH] <ARCHIVE_NAME>< ARGUMENTS>...

7-Zip is a file archiver with the highest compression ratio. The program supports 7z (that implements LZMA compression algorithm), ZIP, CAB, ARJ, GZIP, BZIP2, TAR, CPIO, RPM and DEB formats. Compression ratio in the new 7z format is 30-50% better than ratio in ZIP format.

7za is a stand-alone executable. 7za handles less archive formats than 7z, but does not need any others.

Function Letters

eXtract with full paths


Include archives
eXclude archives
Disable percentage indicator
Include filenames
don't store symlinks; store the files/directories they point to (CAUTION : the scanning stage can never end because of recursive symlinks like 'ln -s .. ldir')
7z format only : enables or disables archive header encryption (Default : off)
Set Output directory
Set Password
Recurse subdirectories (CAUTION: this flag does not do what you think, avoid using it)
Create SFX archive
Read data from StdIn (eg: tar cf - directory | 7za a -si directory.tar.7z)
Write data to StdOut (eg: % echo foo | 7z a dummy -tgzip -si -so > /dev/null)
Sets technical mode for l (list) command
Type of archive (7z, zip, gzip, bzip2 or tar. 7z format is default)
Create volumes
Update options
Set Working directory
Exclude filenames
Assume Yes on all queries


7-Zip returns the following exit codes:
Normal (no errors or warnings detected)
Warning (Non fatal error(s)). For example, some files cannot be read during compressing. So they were not compressed
Fatal error
Bad command line parameters
Not enough memory for operation
User stopped the process with control-C (or similar)

Backup and limitations

DO NOT USE the 7-zip format for backup purpose on Linux/Unix because : - 7-zip does not store the owner/group of the file.

On Linux/Unix, in order to backup directories you must use tar : - to backup a directory : tar cf - directory | 7za a -si directory.tar.7z
- to restore your backup : 7za x -so directory.tar.7z | tar xf -

If you want to send files and directories (not the owner of file) to others Unix/MacOS/Windows users, you can use the 7-zip format.

example : 7za a directory.7z directory

Do not use "-r" because this flag does not do what you think.

Do not use directory/* because of ".*" files (example : "directory/*" does not match "directory/.profile")

Example 1

7za a -t7z -m0=lzma -mx=9 -mfb=64 -md=32m -ms=on archive.7z dir1
adds all files from directory "dir1" to archive archive.7z using "ultra settings"
7z archive
lzma method
level of compression = 9 (Ultra)
number of fast bytes for LZMA = 64
dictionary size = 32 megabytes
solid archive = on

Example 2

7za a -sfx archive.exe dir1
add all files from directory "dir1" to SFX archive archive.exe (Remark : SFX archive MUST end with ".exe")

Example 3

7za a -mhe=on -pmy_password archive.7z a_directory
add all files from directory "a_directory" to the archive "archive.7z" (with data and header archive encryption on)


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Old News ;-)

[May 28, 2018] TIP 7-zip s XZ compression on a multiprocessor system is often faster and compresses better than gzip linuxadmin

May 28, 2018 |

TIP: 7-zip's XZ compression on a multiprocessor system is often faster and compresses better than gzip ( self.linuxadmin )

TyIzaeL line"> [–] kristopolous 4 years ago (4 children)

I did this a while back also. Here's a graph:

X axis is compression level (min to max) Y is the size of the file that was compressed

I forget what the file was.

TyIzaeL 4 years ago (3 children)
That is a great start (probably better than what I am doing). Do you have time comparisons as well?
kristopolous 4 years ago (1 child) there's the post
TyIzaeL 4 years ago (0 children)
Very nice. I might work on something similar to this soon next time I'm bored.
kristopolous 4 years ago (0 children)
TyIzaeL 4 years ago (0 children)
That's a great point to consider among all of this. Compression is always a tradeoff between how much CPU and memory you want to throw at something and how much space you would like to save. In my case, hammering the server for 3 minutes in order to take a backup is necessary because the uncompressed data would bottleneck at the LAN speed.
randomfrequency 4 years ago (0 children)
You might want to play with 'pigz' - it's gzip, multi-threaded. You can 'pv' to restrict the rate of the output, and it accepts signals to control the rate limiting.
rrohbeck 4 years ago (1 child)
Also pbzip2 -1 to -9 and pigz -1 to -9.

With -9 you can surely make backup CPU bound. I've given up on compression though: rsync is much faster than straight backup and I use btrfs compression/deduplication/snapshotting on the backup server.

TyIzaeL 4 years ago (0 children)
pigz -9 is already on the chart as pigz --best. I'm working on adding the others though.
TyIzaeL 4 years ago (0 children)
I'm running gzip, bzip2, and pbzip2 now (not at the same time, of course) and will add results soon. But in my case the compression keeps my db dumps from being IO bound by the 100mbit LAN connection. For example, lzop in the results above puts out 6041.632 megabits in 53.82 seconds for a total compressed data rate of 112 megabits per second, which would make the transfer IO bound. Whereas the pigz example puts out 3339.872 megabits in 81.892 seconds, for an output data rate of 40.8 megabits per second. This is just on my dual-core box with a static file, on the 8-core server I see the transfer takes a total of about three minutes. It's probably being limited more by the rate at which the MySQL server can dump text from the database, but if there was no compression it'd be limited by the LAN speed. If we were dumping 2.7GB over the LAN directly, we would need 122mbit/s of real throughput to complete it in three minutes.
Shammyhealz 4 years ago (2 children)
I thought the best compression was supposed to be LZMA? Which is what the .7z archives are. I have no idea of the relative speed of LZMA and gzip
TyIzaeL 4 years ago (1 child)
xz archives use the LZMA2 format (which is also used in 7z archives). LZMA2 speed seems to range from a little slower than gzip to much slower than bzip2, but results in better compression all around.
primitive_screwhead 4 years ago (0 children)
However LZMA2 decompression speed is generally much faster than bzip2, in my experience, though not as fast as gzip. This is why we use it, as we decompress our data much more often than we compress it, and the space saving/decompression speed tradeoff is much more favorable for us than either gzip of bzip2.
crustang 4 years ago (2 children)
I mentioned how 7zip was superior to all other zip programs in /r/osx a few days ago and my comment was burried in favor of the the osx circlejerk .. it feels good seeing this data.

I love 7zip

RTFMorGTFO 4 years ago (1 child)
Why... Tar supports xz, lzma, lzop, lzip, and any other kernel based compression algorithms. Its also much more likely to be preinstalled on your given distro.
crustang 4 years ago (0 children)
I've used 7zip at my old job for a backup of our business software's database. We needed speed, high level of compression, and encryption. Portability wasn't high on the list since only a handful of machines needed access to the data. All machines were multi-processor and 7zip gave us the best of everything given the requirements. I haven't really looked at anything deeply - including tar, which my old boss didn't care for.

[May 28, 2018] RPM RedHat EL 6 p7zip 9.20.1 x86_64 rpm

May 28, 2018 |
p7zip rpm build for : RedHat EL 6 . For other distributions click p7zip .
Name : p7zip
Version : 9.20.1 Vendor : Dag Apt Repository, http://dag_wieers_com/apt/
Release : 1.el6.rf Date : 2011-04-20 15:23:34
Group : Applications/Archiving Source RPM : p7zip-9.20.1-1.el6.rf.src.rpm
Size : 14.84 MB
Packager : Dag Wieers < dag_wieers_com>
Summary : Very high compression ratio file archiver
Description :
p7zip is a port of 7za.exe for Unix. 7-Zip is a file archiver with a very high
compression ratio. The original version can be found at

RPM found in directory: /mirror/

Content of RPM Changelog Provides Requires
Download p7zip-9.20.1-1.el6.rf.x86_64.rpm p7zip-9.20.1-1.el6.rf.x86_64.rpm p7zip-9.20.1-1.el6.rf.x86_64.rpm p7zip-9.20.1-1.el6.rf.x86_64.rpm p7zip-9.20.1-1.el6.rf.x86_64.rpm p7zip-9.20.1-1.el6.rf.x86_64.rpm p7zip-9.20.1-1.el6.rf.x86_64.rpm

Recommended Links

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Top articles


Free software portal
  1. XZ Utils Release Notes (Git), Tukaaani
  2. Lindholm, Linux Gazette .
  3. XZ Utils Web site
  4. GNU tar Web site: References
  5. Changelog for Tar 1.22
  6. "release history", 7-Zip .
  7. FTP), Coreutils, GNU (see version 7.1 and newer files ending in .tar.xz).
  8. "openSUSE has moved off of LZMA to xz", News, openSUSE .
  9. "XZ RPM payloads" (wiki), Features (12 ed.), Fedora .
  10. "Switching to xz compression for new packages", News, Archlinux .
  11. Entry (FTP) (changelog) (13.0 ed.), Slackware, Fri May 8 18:49:03 CDT 2009 Check date values in: |date= (help).
  12. Stable (mailing list post), Free BSD, Jan 2011 .
  13. "Remove .lzma in favor of .xz portage snapshots" (mailing list post), Dev (RFC), Gentoo .
  14. "Important: Switch of GNOME tarball compression format" (mailing list post), Devel, Gnome, Apr 2011 .
  15. tex-archive/systems/texlive/tlnet/archive (direc­tory), CTAN .
  16. xz embedded (Git), Tukaani .



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