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File Format
Name Archiving


(Lossless, for generic data + file archives)


Archiving only

(many files => 1 file, no compression attempted)

Compression + archiving

(Multiple files => 1 file, makes it smaller. See Compression for formats that compress single files/streams, and Disk Image Formats for formats that capture the low-level structure of a disk)

Diff files

(containing only the parts of a file that have changed, so they can be applied to an existing file to update it; used for update distribution and incremental backups)

See also Wikipedia:Data differencing.

Versioning files

(contains multiple versions of files, often just saving the differences to save space)

(often a filesystem-level capability, such as ZFS and Btrfs snapshots and Windows Shadow Copy)

See also Revision control systems / code repositories

Encrypted or cryptographically signed archives

File splitting

(1 file => multiple files. Most file splitting utilities just produce raw file fragments, and don't have a native file format. But some use a container format, and some create a separate "control" file for metadata.)

Also, the two sorts of Horcrux, Horcrux (jesseduffield) and Horcrux (kndyry), are split-and-encrypted files.

Filesystem backup and restoration

Formats designed for backing up disks, usually specifically targeted at particular filesystems (but backing it up in the form of file structures, not raw sector images like Disk Image Formats).

See also Backup.

Fake archiving

Beware of these; they purport to be archivers but aren't really; you might lose any data you entrust to them. Could be somebody's idea of humor or malware.

Institutional archiving

Metadata formats

(see also Metadata, Bibliographic data)

Program/App/Applet/Installer specialized archive formats

Self-extracting archives

(in addition, some of the other archivers are able to produce executable files for some platform which include the archived data and a program to extract them, and generally have the file extension normal for executables, such as .exe for DOS/Windows. In many cases, if you rename the extension to the appropriate one for the archive type involved, e.g., .zip, the file will open in the appropriate archiver, which is handy for extracting them on systems not compatible with the original executable.)


Refer to Compression and archiving software.

Transfer formats

(encapsulate a system-specific file structure to make it compatible with foreign systems, file transfer protocols, etc.)

For low-level transfer encodings, see Transfer Encodings.


See also


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