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Difference Between Hardware Compression and Software Compression

compressionHardware Compression vs. Software Compression

A lot of people know about software compression, but not many know about hardware compression. This is because most people really have no need for hardware compression, but software compression is required. Software compression is the cheaper, and more easily accessible solution of the two. This is because you do not need special hardware to compress the data. Hardware compression requires specialized equipment that is meant to handle this type of workload. Although expensive, it offers some advantages over software compression.

The specialized hardware makes hardware compression considerably faster than software compression, which uses a general purpose processor to do the job. This is very important for those who do ‘on the fly’ compression, where the speed at which you can compress data is equal to, or faster, than the speed your storage media is able to accept. Hardware compression doesn’t add any additional burden to the host processor, as it does the calculations within its own hardware. Software compression can degrade the performance of the host during heavy use and other operations. This can be a problem if you compress a lot of data, while using your computer at the same time.

There are upsides to software compression aside from the very obvious lower overall costs. With hardware compression, you are given very few, or no options at all, in terms of how the data is compressed before being stored into the media. This is because everything has been pre-programmed into the hardware by the manufacturer. With software compression, you have a lot more control of how your data is archived, compressed, and formatted.

Software compression can also be better if you store compressed data for long periods of time. Hardware compression is often device specific, and having your device fail without any replacement can be a big problem, especially if the manufacturer has gone out of business. Although some of the more high-end compression software are not compatible with each other, you need not worry about failing hardware.


1. Hardware compression is more expensive compared to software compression.

2. Hardware compression requires specialized hardware, while software compression does not.

3. Hardware compression is much faster compared to software compression.

4. Software compression adds more load to the host, while hardware compression does not.

5. Hardware compression often has little, or no configurable options, while you have a lot of options with software compression.

6. Software compression is better, compared to hardware compression, in terms of long term storage.

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