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LRZip (lrzip) (Long Range Zip) is a compression program optimized for large files. The larger the file and the more memory you have, the better the compression advantage this will provide, especially once the files are larger than 100MB. The advantage can be chosen to be either size (much smaller than bzip2) or speed (much faster than bzip2).


Getting Lrzip

A package for lrzip is currently available in the AUR at [this] URL.

Quick lowdown of the most used options

lrztar directory This will produce an archive directory.tar.lrz compressed with lzma.
lrzuntar directory.tar.lrz This will completely extract an archived directory.
lrzip filename This will produce an archive filename.lrz compressed with lzma (best all round) giving slow compression and fast decompression
lrzip -z filename This will produce an archive filename.lrz compressed with ZPAQ giving extreme compression but which takes ages to compress and decompress
lrzip -l filename This will produce an archive filename.lrz compressed with LZO giving very fast compression and fast decompression
lrunzip filename.lrz This will decompress filename.lrz into filename 


Lrzip uses an extended version of rzip which does a first pass long distance redundancy reduction. The lrzip modifications make it scale according to memory size. The data is then either:

  1. Compressed by lzma (default) which gives excellent compression at approximately twice the speed of bzip2 compression
  2. Compressed by a number of other compressors chosen for different reasons, in order of likelihood of usefulness:
    1. ZPAQ: Extreme compression up to 20% smaller than lzma but ultra slow at compression AND decompression.
    2. LZO: Extremely fast compression and decompression which on most machines compresses faster than disk writing making it as fast (or even faster) than simply copying a large file.
    3. GZIP: Almost as fast as LZO but with better compression.
    4. BZIP2: A defacto linux standard of sorts but is the middle ground between lzma and gzip and neither here nor there.
  3. Leaving it uncompressed and rzip prepared. This form improves substantially any compression performed on the resulting file in both size and speed (due to the nature of rzip preparation merging similar compressible blocks of data and creating a smaller file). By "improving" I mean it will either speed up the very slow compressors with minor detriment to compression, or greatly increase the compression of simple compression algorithms.

The major disadvantages are:

  1. The main lrzip application only works on single files so it requires the lrztar wrapper to fake a complete archiver.
  2. It requires a lot of memory to get the best performance out of, and is not really usable (for compression) with less than 256MB. Decompression requires less ram and works on smaller ram machines. Sometimes swap may need to be enabled on these lower ram machines for the operating system to be happy.
  3. STDIN/STDOUT works fine on both compression and decompression, but larger files compressed in this manner will end up being less efficiently compressed.

The unique feature of lrzip is that it tries to make the most of the available ram in your system at all times for maximum benefit. It does this by default, choosing the largest sized window possible without running out of memory. It also has a unique "sliding mmap" feature which makes it possible to even use a compression window larger than your ramsize, if the file is that large. It does this (with the -U option) by implementing one large mmap buffer as per normal, and a smaller moving buffer to track which part of the file is currently being examined, emulating a much larger single mmapped buffer. Unfortunately this mode can be many times slower.



What encryption does lrzip use?

Lrzip uses the best current proven technologies to achieve high grade password protected encryption. It uses a combination of sha512 to multiply hash the password with random salt and aes128 to do block encryption of each block of data with more random salt. The amount of initial hashing of the password increases by the date an lrzip archive is encrypted according to Moore's law, making it harder each year to brute force attack the password to keep up with the increasing computing power each year. It is virtually guaranteed that the same file encrypted with the same password will never be the same twice. The weakest link in this encryption mode by far is the password chosen by the user. There is currently no known attack or backdoor for this encryption mechanism, and there is absolutely no way of retrieving your password should you forget it.

How do I make a static build?

./configure --enable-static-bin

I want the absolute maximum compression I can possibly get, what do I do?

Try the command line options "-Uzp 1 -L 9". This uses all available ram and ZPAQ compression, and even uses a compression window larger than you have ram. The -p 1 option disables multithreading which improves compression but at the expense of speed. Expect serious swapping to occur if your file is larger than your ram and for it to take many times longer.

I want the absolute fastest decent compression I can possibly get?

Try the command line option -l. This will use the lzo backend compression, and level 7 compression (1 isn't much faster).

How much slower is the unlimited mode

It depends on 2 things. First, just how much larger than your ram the file is, as the bigger the difference, the slower it will be. The second is how much redundant data there is. The more there is, the slower, but ultimately the better the compression. Why isn't it on by default? If the compression window is a LOT larger than ram, with a lot of redundant information it can be drastically slower. I may revisit this possibility in the future if I can make it any faster.

Can I use your tool for even more compression than lzma offers

Yes, the rzip preparation of files makes them more compressible by most other compression technique I have tried. Using the -n option will generate a .lrz file smaller than the original which should be more compressible, and since it is smaller it will compress faster than it otherwise would have.


32bit machines have a limit of 2GB sized compression windows due to userspace limitations on mmap and malloc, so even if you have much more ram you will not be able to use compression windows larger than 2GB. Also you may be unable to decompress files compressed on 64bit machines which have used windows larger than 2GB.

How about 64bit?

64bit machines with their ability to address massive amounts of ram will excel with lrzip due to being able to use compression windows limited only in size by the amount of physical ram.

Other operating systems?

The code is POSIXy with GNU extensions. Patches are welcome. Version 0.43+ should build on MacOSX 10.5+

Does it work on stdin/stdout?

Yes, it does. Compression and decompression work well to/from STDIN/STDOUT. However because lrzip does multiple passes on the data, it has to store a large amount in ram before it dumps it to STDOUT (and vice versa), thus it is unable to work with the massive compression windows regular operation provides. Thus the compression afforded on files larger than approximately 25% RAM size will be less efficient (though still benefiting compared to traditional compression formats).

I have another compression format that is even better than zpaq, can you use that?

You can use it yourself on rzip prepared files (see above). Alternatively if the source code is compatible with the GPL license it can be added to the lrzip source code. Libraries with functions similar to compress() and decompress() functions of zlib would make the process most painless. Please tell me if you have such a library so I can include it :)

What's this "Starting lzma back end compression thread..." message?

While I'm a big fan of progress percentage being visible, unfortunately lzma compression can't currently be tracked when handing over 100+MB chunks over to the lzma library. Therefore you'll see progress percentage until each chunk is handed over to the lzma library.

What's this "lzo testing for incompressible data" message?

Other compression is much slower, and lzo is the fastest. To help speed up the process, lzo compression is performed on the data first to test that the data is at all compressible. If a small block of data is not compressible, it tests progressively larger blocks until it has tested all the data (if it fails to compress at all). If no compressible data is found, then the subsequent compression is not even attempted. This can save a lot of time during the compression phase when there is incompressible data. Theoretically it may be possible that data is compressible by the other backend (zpaq, lzma etc) and not at all by lzo, but in practice such data achieves only minuscule amounts of compression which are not worth pursuing. Most of the time it is clear one way or the other that data is compressible or not. If you wish to disable this test and force it to try compressing it anyway, use -T.

I have truckloads of ram so I can compress files much better, but can my generated file be decompressed on machines with less ram?

Yes. Ram requirements for decompression go up only by the -L compression option with lzma and are never anywhere near as large as the compression requirements. However if you're on 64bit and you use a compression window greater than 2GB, it might not be possible to decompress it on 32bit machines.

Why are you including bzip2 compression?

To maintain a similar compression format to the original rzip (although the other modes are more useful).

What about multimedia?

Most multimedia is already in a heavily compressed "lossy" format which by its very nature has very little redundancy. This means that there is not much that can actually be compressed. If your video/audio/picture is in a high bitrate, there will be more redundancy than a low bitrate one making it more suitable to compression. None of the compression techniques in lrzip are optimised for this sort of data. However, the nature of rzip preparation means that you'll still get better compression than most normal compression algorithms give you if you have very large files. ISO images of dvds for example are best compressed directly instead of individual .VOB files. ZPAQ is the only compression format that can do any significant compression of multimedia.

Is this multithreaded?

As of version 0.540, it is HEAVILY multithreaded with the back end compression and decompression phase, and will continue to process the rzip pre-processing phase so when using one of the more CPU intensive backend compressions like lzma or zpaq, SMP machines will show massive speed improvements. Lrzip will detect the number of CPUs to use, but it can be overridden with the -p option if the slightly better compression is desired more than speed. -p 1 will give the best compression but also be the slowest.

This uses heaps of memory, can I make it use less?

Well you can by setting -w to the lowest value (1) but the huge use of memory is what makes the compression better than ordinary compression programs so it defeats the point. You'll still derive benefit with -w 1 but not as much.

What CFLAGS should I use?

With a recent enough compiler (gcc>4) setting both CFLAGS and CXXFLAGS to -O3 -march=native -fomit-frame-pointer

What compiler does this work with?

It has been tested on gcc, ekopath and the intel compiler successfully previously. Whether the commercial compilers help or not, I could not tell you.

On which codebase are you basing this?

rzip v2.1 and lzma sdk907, but it should be possible to stay in sync with each of these in the future.

Do we really need yet another compression format?

It's not really a new one at all; simply a reimplementation of a few very good performing ones that will scale with memory and file size.

How do you use lrzip yourself?

Three basic uses. I compress large files currently on my drive with the -l option since it is so quick to get a space saving. When archiving data for permanent storage I compress it with the default options. When compressing small files for distribution I use the -z option for the smallest possible size.

I found a file that compressed better with plain lzma. How can that be?

When the file is more than 5 times the size of the compression window you have available, the efficiency of rzip preparation drops off as a means of getting better compression. Eventually when the file is large enough, plain lzma compression will get better ratios. The lrzip compression will be a lot faster though. The only way around this is to use as large compression windows as possible with -U option.

Can I use swapspace as ram for lrzip with a massive window?

It will indirectly do this with -U (unlimited) mode enabled. This mode will make the compression window as big as the file itself no matter how big it is, but it will slow down proportionately more the bigger the file is than your ram.

Why do you nice it to +19 by default? Can I speed up the compression by changing the nice value?

This is a common misconception about what nice values do. They only tell the cpu process scheduler how to prioritise workloads, and if your application is the _only_ thing running it will be no faster at nice -20 nor will it be any slower at +19.

What is the LZO Testing option, -T?

LZO testing is normally performed for the slower back-end compression of LZMA and ZPA===The reasoning is that if it is completely incompressible by LZO then it will also be incompressible by them. Thus if a block fails to be compressed by the very fast LZO, lrzip will not attempt to compress that block with the slower compressor, thereby saving time. If this option is enabled, it will bypass the LZO testing and attempt to compress each block regardless.

Compression and decompression progress on large archives slows down and speeds up. There's also a jump in the percentage at the end?

Yes, that's the nature of the compression/decompression mechanism. The jump is because the rzip preparation makes the amount of data much smaller than the compression backend (lzma) needs to compress.

The percentage counter doesn't always get to 100%?

It's quite hard to predict during the rzip phase how long it will take as lots of redundant data will not count towards the percentage.

Tell me about patented compression algorithms, GPL, lawyers and copyright?


I receive an error "LZMA ERROR: 2. Try a smaller compression window." What does this mean?

LZMA requests large amounts of memory. When a higher compression window is used, there may not be enough contiguous memory for LZMA. LZMA may request up to 25% of TOTAL ram depending on compression level. If contiguous blocks of memory are not free, LZMA will return an error. This is not a fatal error, and a backup mode of compression will be used.

Where can I get more information about the internals of LZMA?

See and Also, see the file ./lzma/C/lzmalib.h which explains the LZMA properties used and the LZMA memory requirements and computation.

This version is much slower than the old version?

Make sure you have set CFLAGS and CXXFLAGS. An unoptimised build will be almost 3 times slower.

LIMITATIONS Due to mmap limitations the maximum size a window can be set to is currently 2GB on 32bit unless the -U option is specified. Files generated on 64 bit machines with windows >2GB in size might not be decompressible on 32bit machines. Large files might not decompress on machines with less RAM if SWAP is disabled.


Probably lots. Tell me if you spot any :) Any known ones should be documented in the file BUGS.



Thanks to Andrew Tridgell for rzip. Thanks to Markus Oberhumer for lzo. Thanks to Igor Pavlov for lzma. Thanks to Jean-loup Gailly and Mark Adler for the zlib compression library. Thanks to Christian Leber for lzma compat layer, Michael J Cohen for Darwin support, Lasse Collin for fix to LZMALib.cpp and for suggestions, and everyone else who coded along the way. Huge thanks to Peter Hyman for most of the 0.19-0.24 changes, and the update to the multithreaded lzma library and all sorts of other features. Thanks to René Rhéaume for fixing executable stacks and Ed Avis for various fixes. Thanks to Matt Mahoney for zpaq code. Thanks to Jukka Laurila for Darwin support. Thanks to George Makrydakis for lrztar. Thanks to Ulrich Drepper for his md5 implementation. Thanks to Michael Blumenkrantz for new configuration tools. Thanks to the PolarSSL authors for encryption code. Thanks to Serge Belyshev for extensive help, advice, and patches to implement encryption.

Con Kolivas <> Sat, 23 Mar 2011

Also documented by Peter Hyman <> Sun, 04 Jan 2009