Without a doubt everyone who uses a computer will have come across a compressed archive at some point, most likely in the form of a ZIP file. The ZIP archive is the most well known archive format around today even though there are other compression formats such as 7zip and RAR that give better compression ratios and smaller file sizes. Even Microsoft recognized the popularity of ZIP archives and started to include support for it in Windows starting from Windows 98/ME.
Although not as widespread, other compression formats have become very popular in recent years because they can compress large files or large numbers of files better than ZIP, and this leads to a simple problem of Windows not being able to read these files by default. If you want to convert other archives to ZIP so they can be read by just about every Windows user, you need 3rd party software. If you want to convert your ZIP files to other formats to save on space, you also have to use other methods.
To convert from one format to another isn’t difficult and you can install an archiver, extract the files and re-compress them to the new format. There are other ways to convert from one archive format to another though, here’s a few to look at.1. Convert the Archive using an Online Service
Using the internet to convert between archive formats is easy but does depend somewhat on your connection speed because you will probably need to upload the archives first, unless they are stored online already. On the plus side it does mean you don’t need to install any software to convert the files if you don’t want to.
There are several online services around to do this, each with varying degrees of support for different archive formats. One easy to use service is 2zip.org which allows you to convert 16 different archive formats to ZIP, including 7Zip, JAR, RAR, TAR and XZ etc. It has a handy feature of allowing you to view and download whatever content from the archive you want, if you only want a text file from an archive, you can download just that.
A total of 100MB in 10 files can be uploaded at once and you simply click the button to select the archive file(s) and then press Upload Queue to upload them. There is an Enter URL button but when we tried to link to a public Dropbox file, it said “Not Found”, so this option may be of limited use. The files in the archive can then be browsed and individually downloaded if you wish. The Convert to ZIP button at the bottom will create downloadable ZIP archives for you.
There are a number of other services that can convert to and from a number of different archive formats including Zamzar, Convert Files, Youconvertit, Free File Converter and Online-Convert. All of these have been mentioned in another article Online Ways to Convert Any Files Without Using Software.
2. Convert between Archive Formats Using an Archiver
You would think an archiving program itself while allowing you to extract and then compress the files has a built in option to quickly convert between different formats, and some of them do. Oddly, one of the most popular free archiver’s around 7-Zip doesn’t have a simple convert archive function, along with ZipGenius, Peazip, Hamster FREE and Bandizip.
Others like IZArc and Haozip can do this though, and Haozip is quite good because it can batch convert several different archives at once to another format such as ZIP, 7Zip, TAR and LZH. IZArc only converts 1 file at a time but supports converting to more formats (around 10).
Haozip has several useful options such as a skip ratio that will not convert the file if it’s bigger or close to the size of the original file, skip, keep or create new passwords for protected archives, and set the compression level or file split sizes etc. Haozip is a good all round choice if you’re looking for an archiver, because it also has an image viewer/converter, virtual CD mounting and a batch file rename tool.
3. Use a Standalone Archive Converter
If you don’t want to install a separate archiver or upload files to convert the occasional archive to another format, ArcConvert is a free and easy to use portable tool which converts archives into different compression formats. It can convert from around 45 different types including 7-Zip, LZH, CAB, ZIP, ARJ, ACE, RAR, TAR, UHARC and ISO.
It converts to around 20 different formats of the most popular types, and also supports WinRAR and WinACE if you own them. Just manually enter their paths into the External.CONFIG text file. If you get an error opening ArcConvert open the CONFIG file with notepad and remove the entries under [Archiver].
ArcConvert is very easy to use, just download, extract and run arc_convert.exe. Click the Open Archiv button to locate the archive file that you want to convert. Select the new archive extension that you want to convert to from the drop down and click the Convert button. There’s also a Check button for you to check your archive file. The program will offer to delete the new or the old archive depending on which file has the smallest size.