Advantages of the "Store" compression level in 7zip

Is there an advantage of doing this rather than just leaving the files in their uncompressed form in windows folders?

As Keltari's answer notes, people may find it easier to work with one file than many. In practice, actually, if a person has a bunch of files, they can often just place the files into one folder, and then perform file operations (e.g., copy) on the folder. The general concept of an archive file that contains files, and the concept of a directory/folder that contains files, are quite similar. In fact, these concepts are so similar that Microsoft's support for ZIP files, built into the graphical interface of WinXP (and newer) and some Win9x systems with certain code added, was named "Microsoft Compressed Folders" in Microsoft's graphical interface.

Example: When I use SquirrelMail, web-based mail software, I can upload a file. I can upload multiple files, one at a time. I cannot just select a bunch of files and upload the batch. If I have 30 files to upload, I can just tell 7-Zip to compress the files using "store", so I don't waste a ton of time trying to compress the data much (if I know the data is uncompressable), and then I can just upload the one (compressed) file within SquirrelMail, easily.

Sometimes, some file extensions (e.g., .exe) might be forbidden, while archives might be permitted (by firewalls, anti-malware protection used by an E-Mail client, etc.)

However, there may be other advantages besides just apparently "ease of use" with some software.. If the file archive format contains a file integrity hash for compressed data, then file integrity can be checked when data is accessed. This can result in detecting errors that might not be detected if the file archive format wasn't used.

Of course, in theory, a filesystem could contain metadata that stores a file hash. The difference here is that filesystems don't typically contain that type of data, while archives do. So, even if filesystems could have that data, they typically don't (at least, not traditionally with many older filesystem types).

Another reason why the "store" method is commonly implemented by archive software is that it is very easy to program. So, there is little downside in making it an available option.

If data is backed up, then the archive will typically contain a timestamp which can be an easy way to note a time that the included files are older than. Directories/folders might not have the same sort of timestamps. Or, they might. With different filesystem types (e.g., NTFS vs. exFAT vs. Ext3 vs. Btrfs vs. ISO9660) and different operating systems implementing those filesystems, and sometimes filesystem types having multiple dates (creation/modification/access), people may be disinclined to trust that a directory's date actually reflects when the contents were updated (instead of some other meaning, like when the directory was created, renamed, or had permissions altered, but not necessarily data modification). An archive file's timestamp, especially if that time is part of the filename, is commonly trustworthy.

Does it help with performance at all for a HDD?

Hopefully not. After all, such stored files typically have overhead (from some data called a "header"), so the archived data is often going to be slightly slower, not faster. However, exceptions could exist: it could be faster.

Sometimes, some code would locate a file, which would take a long time (possibly because it's basically sorting through a large number of files). After performing a file operation (copy/delete/whatever), then locating the next file would take a long time. Such problems can often be avoided by using software, including filesystem drivers, which are optimized to handle such situations. However, in other cases, such situations have been known to occur. Copying one large file would often not have the exact same cost. (Then again, at least historically, sometimes dealing with a large file might have a significant cost, which could be an even greater cost.)

The biggest advantage of using store, rather than compression, is that storing is faster. This is because time is required to be taken in order to perform the calculations needed to do the data compression.

A lot of this perception was based on older technology. In reality, compression could save time, if the CPU is sufficiently fast (so that compressing data doesn't take much time) and if the data is compressed enough that less data needs to be written to / read from a disk. Fast CPU compression of larger data, plus slow writing of compressed data, may be faster than slow writing of uncompressed data.

There can be other factors too, like less usage ("wear and tear") of more fragile equipment (like hard drives).

Whether compressing (and storing compressed data) or storing (uncompressed data) is faster depends on: the speed of compressing, the effectiveness of compressing (just how much smaller does the data become after the compression is performed), and the speed of writing/reading the larger amount of data. The results tend to vary over time, based on differences in CPU speed, algorithm effectiveness (different algorithms, and possibly different options being used for those algorithms), and storage speed.

In general, decompression has often been much faster than compression (because it simply re-creates data based on known results, and doesn't involve as much exploration/guessing), so if you have to write data once and then read it many times, compression is very often worthwhile. For other cases, many people don't find benefit in using compression.

Because CPU power is sufficiently faster than historically times, store does seem to be getting used less. (People often tolerate the cost for at least the minimal/fast forms of compression.) However, archive programs (like 7-Zip) often want to keep supporting "store" so that people can still access (extract/modify) archives that use the store technique, and because it could be helpful for some people (on old systems), and because it can be useful for other tasks (creating a combination of data quickly, without wasting time trying to compress data that is unlikely to compress well), and because storing is a simple process so there is little incentive to remove it, the option tends to remain available.

Assuming that you may be occasionally accessing individual files from the external drive (say they're travel photos), there is no reason to compress them into a single archive.

These don't really apply to your case, but in general there are a few advantages to using a 'store' compression method to group multiple files into a single archive for archival or network transfer:

  • Easier to manage a single file if sending attachments via email or copying to USB for distribution. e.g. you could archive travel photos based on the trip, then its trivial to copy/mail the right archive to others on the same trip without forgetting to include some pics (or mixing in others).
  • Avoid file transfer overhead: Negotiation protocols when doing a network file transfer can add significant overhead to transferring each file.
  • Less space wastage on block devices: This was a significant issue long ago when FAT file system had 32kB block sizes (so, even a 500b icon will take 32kB on disk). Nowadays the block size should be 4kB or less, and the wastage is usually a trivial non-factor.

Storing non-compressible data into an archive won't help with HDD performance, except for mostly insignificant stuff like OS having to check individual file permissions vs a single permission for entire archive taking a bit longer etc.

I will assume that you are asking about the zip archiver.

Setting compression level to store, allows you to put all the files in to one archive (file), but not compress it.

  • The advantage over leaving in a directory hierarchy is that it is now one file, so could be easier to manage e.g. if sending via an email.
  • The advantages over compressing as well are:
    • If you store data that is already compressed (such as most image formats e.g. jpeg, png), the file may grow if you try to compress, and is a lot of processing.
    • If you store the archive in another archive / repository, it may result in better compression, if it is all compressed by the outer archive/repository.
    • If you store it in a revision control system, then being able to see changes between revisions, will result in an overall smaller repository.