What is file compression?

To compress a file means to make it smaller by converting its data into a different format. Usually it is put into an archive format such as .zip, .tar, or .jar. Media, such as images, videos, and audio can be compressed as well.

How does file compression work?

Compression comes in two forms: lossy and lossless. Lossy compression removes bits it deems unnecessary to reduce file size, often resulting in lower quality music and video. Lossless keeps all the information of the original file, but usually can’t make files as small as lossy compression.

While compressed files are smaller, the stipulation that they must first be decompressed means they require more computing resources to use. A smaller video file that’s compressed requires more CPU power for a computer to play than a larger, uncompressed file, for example.

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