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(I posted this first on serverfault, but then I realized it probably belongs here.)

I'm trying compress a very large text file using 7za (p7zip) 9.20. The -mmt option doesn't seem to have any effect. I've tried both -mmt=on and -mmt=2. This is an 8-core machine. One person suggested adding -m0=lzma2 as an argument, but that just gives me E_INVALIDARG. Does anybody know how to make this work?

This has no effect:

7za a -mx=9 -mmt=2 -p bigfile.txt

And this fails with an error:

7za a -m0=lzma2 -mx=9 -mmt=2 -p bigfile.txt

7-Zip (A) [64] 9.20  Copyright (c) 1999-2010 Igor Pavlov  2010-11-18
p7zip Version 9.20 (locale=en_US.UTF-8,Utf16=on,HugeFiles=on,8 CPUs)

Creating archive

System error:
share|improve this question
I believe the option is simply -mmt, not -mmt=2. Also I believe the proper syntax is -mx9, although both might work. – Breakthrough Jun 7 '12 at 17:20
Thanks, but -mmt without an option still uses only one thread. According to, you can specify the number of threads to use with, -mmt=N. – Brian L Jun 7 '12 at 17:30
I would still recommend using LZMA/Deflate even though it's only single threaded. While you might get an increased compression speed with BZip2, it's less efficient when compressing plain text, and the single-threaded variants are slower than the LZMA/Deflate equivalents. – Breakthrough Jun 7 '12 at 18:09
@Breakthrough: BZip2 usually achieves better compression than DEFLATE, as shown in your link. It's also much, much faster than LZMA (when compressing). – Dennis Jun 7 '12 at 18:17
up vote 17 down vote accepted

According to -m (Set compression Method) switch # ZipMultiThread - 7ZIP manual & documentation, mt defaults to on, so there's no need to specify it at all.

However, 7zip's implementation of the DEFLATE algorithm doesn't support multi-threading!

As you have already discovered,

7za a bigfile

only uses one core.

But .zip files compress every file individually. When compressing several files, the multi-threading option compresses one file per core at once.

Try it and you'll see that

7za a bigfile1 ... bigfileN

will use all available N cores.

If you want to speed up the compression of a single file, you have two choices:

  1. Split up bigfile in chunks.

  2. Use a different compression algorithm.

    For example, 7zip's implementation of the BZip2 algorithm supports multi-threading.

    The syntax is:

    7za a -mm=BZip2 bigfile

Also, the syntax error is caused by your attempt to use the LZM Algorithm for a .zip container. That's not possible.

The possible algorithms for .zip conatiners are DEFLATE(64), BZip2 and no compression.

If you want to use the LZM Algorithm, use a .7z container. This container also handles the following algorithms: PPMd, BZip2, DEFLATE, BCJ, BCJ2 and no compression.

share|improve this answer
Thanks, Dennis! – Brian L Jun 7 '12 at 18:01
@Dennis I thought the OP was using LZMA(2), which from the documentation, "LZMA compression uses only 2 threads." Although I agree, intuitively (due to the way Lempel-Ziv encoding works), it would be very difficult to multithread LZMA or Deflate (which is just LZMA with Huffman encoding). – Breakthrough Jun 7 '12 at 18:03
@Breakthrough: At first, so did I. (Check out the revisions of my answer.) That's what the syntax error was about. You can't use LZMA compression with a .zip container. – Dennis Jun 7 '12 at 18:05
@Dennis ah, thank you for clearing that up. Didn't see that the OP was using a .ZIP container. – Breakthrough Jun 7 '12 at 18:06
@BrianL there's a "thanks" button built in. It looks like an arrow facing upwards ;) – nhinkle Jun 7 '12 at 18:36

This is an old question, and not the answer to the specific question, but an answer to the spirit of the question (Using all cores to compress a zip format)

pigz (parallel gzip with .zip option)

pigz -K -k bigfile txt

This will give you a zip compatible file 7x faster for same compression level.

A quick comparisons of zip compatible and non-zip compressors using single and multiple cores.

wall times on i7-2600k to compress 1.0gb txt file on fedora 20

67s (120mb) 7za (zip,1 thread)
15s (141mb) 7za -mx=4 (zip,1 thread)
17s (132mb) zip (zip,1 thread)
 5s (131mb) pigz -K -k (zip,8 threads)
 9s (106mb) bsc ( (not zip,8 threads)
 5s (130mb) zhuff -c2 (not zip,8 threads)
 2s (149mb) zhuff (not zip,8 threads)

wall times to decompress

4.2s unzip -t
2.0s pigz -t
5.1s bsc d
0.5s zhuff -d
share|improve this answer
why pigz when you can pbzip2 or pixz? – nod Apr 30 '14 at 21:31

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