What Is an LZMA File?

This is a compressed file, similar to a ZIP file, that can store one or more files within one archive

What to Know

This article explains what an LZMA file is, how to open one, and how to convert one to a different file format.

What Is an LZMA File?

A file with the LZMA file extension is an LZMA compressed file. The suffix stands for Lempel-Ziv-Markov chain-Algorithm, and the files are mainly seen on Unix-based operating systems.

LZMA files are similar to other compression algorithms like ZIP that compress data to save on space. However, LZMA compression is known to provide faster decompression times than other algorithms like BZIP2.

LZMA files in Windows 10 that open with PeaZip

LZMA2 is a container format that can hold both LZMA data and uncompressed data. There's some more information below on their differences.

TLZ is short for a TAR file that's been compressed using LZMA. It uses the TAR.LZMA file extension and is usually called an LZMA Compressed Tarball.

How to Open an LZMA File

PeaZip and 7-Zip are two free programs for Windows and Linux that can decompress (extract) the contents of an LZMA file. The Unarchiver can open one on a Mac, and B1 Free Archiver is a similar LZMA file opener for those three operating systems as well as Android.

To open a TAR file that's tucked away in an LZMA archive might require two steps: extracting the TAR file from the LZMA and then unpacking the data from the TAR file. Some decompression programs combine these steps into one, making the process a little easier.

In a Unix terminal, you can see this two-step process in a single command execution. Data in a TAR file can be unpacked from an LZMA archive using the following command (replace file.tar.lzma with your own LZMA file):

tar --lzma -xvpf file.tar.lzma

If that doesn't work, you probably don't have lzma installed. Use this command to install it if you think that's the case:

sudo apt-get install lzma

How to Convert an LZMA File

You can convert an LZMA file to GZ, ZIP, TAR, TGZ, and some other archive formats using FileZigZag, an online and completely free file converter. Just upload the LZMA file to FileZigZag and choose which format to convert it to.

Another option is to use CloudConvert's LZMA converter to save one to RAR and other similar formats, like 7Z, TAR, and ZIP.

Still Can't Open the File?

The most common reason your file isn't opening with the programs listed above is because you're not really dealing with an LZMA file, which might happen if you're misreading the file extension.

For example, LZM files look an awful lot like LZMA, but only because their file extensions are similar. An LZM file is actually a module file used by the Slax operating system.

ZMA and ZMAP are some other examples where the file extension is reserved for SPL Tracer and the video game Zombies Ate My Neighbors Map, respectively.

If checking the file extension shows that you really have a totally different type of file, then research those letters/numbers to learn which programs are able to open or convert it.


LZMA is perfectly acceptable to use, so long as you're compressing a small archive (under 256 MB). If you're dealing with something larger, or if you're compressing already compressed data, then using a program that supports LZMA2, like 7-Zip, can provide you with faster and better compression.

However, you won't see an improvement using LZMA2 unless you're utilizing more than 4 CPU threads to perform the compression. Also, a lot more system memory is required for LZMA2 compression over LZMA.

Some similar compression algorithms are LZ77 and LZ78, which are commonly called LZ1 and LZ2. LZMA is based off of these two algorithms.

  • Is LZMA2 a lossless file format?

    Yes. LZMA is a lossless format, and LZMA2 is a considered a "container" format that includes both LZMA data and uncompressed data.

  • What's the best way to compress files in 7-Zip?

    7-Zip has its own proprietary compression format called 7z. Generally, 7z does the best job of compressing files. But, keep in mind that the person you're sending the compressed file to needs their own copy of 7-Zip to open it.

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