Node.js v12.14.1-test20200102b08601bf79 Documentation

Table of Contents


Stability: 2 - Stable

The zlib module provides compression functionality implemented using Gzip and Deflate/Inflate, as well as Brotli. It can be accessed using:

const zlib = require('zlib');

Compressing or decompressing a stream (such as a file) can be accomplished by piping the source stream data through a zlib stream into a destination stream:

const gzip = zlib.createGzip();
const fs = require('fs');
const inp = fs.createReadStream('input.txt');
const out = fs.createWriteStream('input.txt.gz');

  .on('error', () => {
    // handle error
  .on('error', () => {
    // handle error

It is also possible to compress or decompress data in a single step:

const input = '.................................';
zlib.deflate(input, (err, buffer) => {
  if (!err) {
  } else {
    // handle error

const buffer = Buffer.from('eJzT0yMAAGTvBe8=', 'base64');
zlib.unzip(buffer, (err, buffer) => {
  if (!err) {
  } else {
    // handle error

Threadpool Usage#

All zlib APIs, except those that are explicitly synchronous, use libuv's threadpool. This can lead to surprising effects in some applications, such as subpar performance (which can be mitigated by adjusting the pool size) and/or unrecoverable and catastrophic memory fragmentation.

Compressing HTTP requests and responses#

The zlib module can be used to implement support for the gzip, deflate and br content-encoding mechanisms defined by HTTP.

The HTTP Accept-Encoding header is used within an http request to identify the compression encodings accepted by the client. The Content-Encoding header is used to identify the compression encodings actually applied to a message.

The examples given below are drastically simplified to show the basic concept. Using zlib encoding can be expensive, and the results ought to be cached. See Memory Usage Tuning for more information on the speed/memory/compression tradeoffs involved in zlib usage.

// Client request example
const zlib = require('zlib');
const http = require('http');
const fs = require('fs');
const request = http.get({ host: '',
                           path: '/',
                           port: 80,
                           headers: { 'Accept-Encoding': 'br,gzip,deflate' } });
request.on('response', (response) => {
  const output = fs.createWriteStream('example.com_index.html');

  switch (response.headers['content-encoding']) {
    case 'br':
    // Or, just use zlib.createUnzip() to handle both of the following cases:
    case 'gzip':
    case 'deflate':
// server example
// Running a gzip operation on every request is quite expensive.
// It would be much more efficient to cache the compressed buffer.
const zlib = require('zlib');
const http = require('http');
const fs = require('fs');
http.createServer((request, response) => {
  const raw = fs.createReadStream('index.html');
  // Store both a compressed and an uncompressed version of the resource.
  response.setHeader('Vary: Accept-Encoding');
  let acceptEncoding = request.headers['accept-encoding'];
  if (!acceptEncoding) {
    acceptEncoding = '';

  // Note: This is not a conformant accept-encoding parser.
  // See
  if (/\bdeflate\b/.test(acceptEncoding)) {
    response.writeHead(200, { 'Content-Encoding': 'deflate' });
  } else if (/\bgzip\b/.test(acceptEncoding)) {
    response.writeHead(200, { 'Content-Encoding': 'gzip' });
  } else if (/\bbr\b/.test(acceptEncoding)) {
    response.writeHead(200, { 'Content-Encoding': 'br' });
  } else {
    response.writeHead(200, {});

By default, the zlib methods will throw an error when decompressing truncated data. However, if it is known that the data is incomplete, or the desire is to inspect only the beginning of a compressed file, it is possible to suppress the default error handling by changing the flushing method that is used to decompress the last chunk of input data:

// This is a truncated version of the buffer from the above examples
const buffer = Buffer.from('eJzT0yMA', 'base64');

  // For Brotli, the equivalent is zlib.constants.BROTLI_OPERATION_FLUSH.
  { finishFlush: zlib.constants.Z_SYNC_FLUSH },
  (err, buffer) => {
    if (!err) {
    } else {
      // handle error

This will not change the behavior in other error-throwing situations, e.g. when the input data has an invalid format. Using this method, it will not be possible to determine whether the input ended prematurely or lacks the integrity checks, making it necessary to manually check that the decompressed result is valid.

Memory Usage Tuning#

For zlib-based streams#

From zlib/zconf.h, modified to Node.js's usage:

The memory requirements for deflate are (in bytes):

(1 << (windowBits + 2)) + (1 << (memLevel + 9))

That is: 128K for windowBits = 15 + 128K for memLevel = 8 (default values) plus a few kilobytes for small objects.

For example, to reduce the default memory requirements from 256K to 128K, the options should be set to:

const options = { windowBits: 14, memLevel: 7 };

This will, however, generally degrade compression.

The memory requirements for inflate are (in bytes) 1 << windowBits. That is, 32K for windowBits = 15 (default value) plus a few kilobytes for small objects.

This is in addition to a single internal output slab buffer of size chunkSize, which defaults to 16K.

The speed of zlib compression is affected most dramatically by the level setting. A higher level will result in better compression, but will take longer to complete. A lower level will result in less compression, but will be much faster.

In general, greater memory usage options will mean that Node.js has to make fewer calls to zlib because it will be able to process more data on each write operation. So, this is another factor that affects the speed, at the cost of memory usage.

For Brotli-based streams#

There are equivalents to the zlib options for Brotli-based streams, although these options have different ranges than the zlib ones:

  • zlib’s level option matches Brotli’s BROTLI_PARAM_QUALITY option.
  • zlib’s windowBits option matches Brotli’s BROTLI_PARAM_LGWIN option.

See below for more details on Brotli-specific options.


Calling .flush() on a compression stream will make zlib return as much output as currently possible. This may come at the cost of degraded compression quality, but can be useful when data needs to be available as soon as possible.

In the following example, flush() is used to write a compressed partial HTTP response to the client:

const zlib = require('zlib');
const http = require('http');

http.createServer((request, response) => {
  // For the sake of simplicity, the Accept-Encoding checks are omitted.
  response.writeHead(200, { 'content-encoding': 'gzip' });
  const output = zlib.createGzip();

  setInterval(() => {
    output.write(`The current time is ${Date()}\n`, () => {
      // The data has been passed to zlib, but the compression algorithm may
      // have decided to buffer the data for more efficient compression.
      // Calling .flush() will make the data available as soon as the client
      // is ready to receive it.
  }, 1000);


zlib constants#

All of the constants defined in zlib.h are also defined on require('zlib').constants. In the normal course of operations, it will not be necessary to use these constants. They are documented so that their presence is not surprising. This section is taken almost directly from the zlib documentation.

Previously, the constants were available directly from require('zlib'), for instance zlib.Z_NO_FLUSH. Accessing the constants directly from the module is currently still possible but is deprecated.

Allowed flush values.

  • zlib.constants.Z_NO_FLUSH
  • zlib.constants.Z_PARTIAL_FLUSH
  • zlib.constants.Z_SYNC_FLUSH
  • zlib.constants.Z_FULL_FLUSH
  • zlib.constants.Z_FINISH
  • zlib.constants.Z_BLOCK
  • zlib.constants.Z_TREES

Return codes for the compression/decompression functions. Negative values are errors, positive values are used for special but normal events.

  • zlib.constants.Z_OK
  • zlib.constants.Z_STREAM_END
  • zlib.constants.Z_NEED_DICT
  • zlib.constants.Z_ERRNO
  • zlib.constants.Z_STREAM_ERROR
  • zlib.constants.Z_DATA_ERROR
  • zlib.constants.Z_MEM_ERROR
  • zlib.constants.Z_BUF_ERROR
  • zlib.constants.Z_VERSION_ERROR

Compression levels.

  • zlib.constants.Z_NO_COMPRESSION
  • zlib.constants.Z_BEST_SPEED
  • zlib.constants.Z_BEST_COMPRESSION
  • zlib.constants.Z_DEFAULT_COMPRESSION

Compression strategy.

  • zlib.constants.Z_FILTERED
  • zlib.constants.Z_HUFFMAN_ONLY
  • zlib.constants.Z_RLE
  • zlib.constants.Z_FIXED
  • zlib.constants.Z_DEFAULT_STRATEGY

Brotli constants#

There are several options and other constants available for Brotli-based streams:

Flush operations#

The following values are valid flush operations for Brotli-based streams:

  • zlib.constants.BROTLI_OPERATION_PROCESS (default for all operations)
  • zlib.constants.BROTLI_OPERATION_FLUSH (default when calling .flush())
  • zlib.constants.BROTLI_OPERATION_FINISH (default for the last chunk)

    • This particular operation may be hard to use in a Node.js context, as the streaming layer makes it hard to know which data will end up in this frame. Also, there is currently no way to consume this data through the Node.js API.

Compressor options#

There are several options that can be set on Brotli encoders, affecting compression efficiency and speed. Both the keys and the values can be accessed as properties of the zlib.constants object.

The most important options are:


    • BROTLI_MODE_GENERIC (default)
    • BROTLI_MODE_TEXT, adjusted for UTF-8 text
    • BROTLI_MODE_FONT, adjusted for WOFF 2.0 fonts


    • Integer value representing the expected input size; defaults to 0 for an unknown input size.

The following flags can be set for advanced control over the compression algorithm and memory usage tuning:




    • Boolean flag that decreases compression ratio in favour of decompression speed.

    • Boolean flag enabling “Large Window Brotli” mode (not compatible with the Brotli format as standardized in RFC 7932).

    • Ranges from 0 to BROTLI_MAX_NPOSTFIX.

    • Ranges from 0 to 15 << NPOSTFIX in steps of 1 << NPOSTFIX.

Decompressor options#

These advanced options are available for controlling decompression:


    • Boolean flag that affects internal memory allocation patterns.

    • Boolean flag enabling “Large Window Brotli” mode (not compatible with the Brotli format as standardized in RFC 7932).

Class: Options#

Each zlib-based class takes an options object. All options are optional.

Some options are only relevant when compressing and are ignored by the decompression classes.

See the deflateInit2 and inflateInit2 documentation for more information.

Class: BrotliOptions#

Each Brotli-based class takes an options object. All options are optional.

For example:

const stream = zlib.createBrotliCompress({
  chunkSize: 32 * 1024,
  params: {
    [zlib.constants.BROTLI_PARAM_MODE]: zlib.constants.BROTLI_MODE_TEXT,
    [zlib.constants.BROTLI_PARAM_QUALITY]: 4,
    [zlib.constants.BROTLI_PARAM_SIZE_HINT]: fs.statSync(inputFile).size

Class: zlib.BrotliCompress[src]#

Compress data using the Brotli algorithm.

Class: zlib.BrotliDecompress[src]#

Decompress data using the Brotli algorithm.

Class: zlib.Deflate[src]#

Compress data using deflate.

Class: zlib.DeflateRaw[src]#

Compress data using deflate, and do not append a zlib header.

Class: zlib.Gunzip[src]#

Decompress a gzip stream.

Class: zlib.Gzip[src]#

Compress data using gzip.

Class: zlib.Inflate[src]#

Decompress a deflate stream.

Class: zlib.InflateRaw[src]#

Decompress a raw deflate stream.

Class: zlib.Unzip[src]#

Decompress either a Gzip- or Deflate-compressed stream by auto-detecting the header.

Class: zlib.ZlibBase#

Not exported by the zlib module. It is documented here because it is the base class of the compressor/decompressor classes.

This class inherits from stream.Transform, allowing zlib objects to be used in pipes and similar stream operations.


Stability: 0 - Deprecated: Use zlib.bytesWritten instead.

Deprecated alias for zlib.bytesWritten. This original name was chosen because it also made sense to interpret the value as the number of bytes read by the engine, but is inconsistent with other streams in Node.js that expose values under these names.


The zlib.bytesWritten property specifies the number of bytes written to the engine, before the bytes are processed (compressed or decompressed, as appropriate for the derived class).


Close the underlying handle.

zlib.flush([kind, ]callback)#

  • kind Default: zlib.constants.Z_FULL_FLUSH for zlib-based streams, zlib.constants.BROTLI_OPERATION_FLUSH for Brotli-based streams.
  • callback <Function>

Flush pending data. Don't call this frivolously, premature flushes negatively impact the effectiveness of the compression algorithm.

Calling this only flushes data from the internal zlib state, and does not perform flushing of any kind on the streams level. Rather, it behaves like a normal call to .write(), i.e. it will be queued up behind other pending writes and will only produce output when data is being read from the stream.

zlib.params(level, strategy, callback)#

This function is only available for zlib-based streams, i.e. not Brotli.

Dynamically update the compression level and compression strategy. Only applicable to deflate algorithm.


Reset the compressor/decompressor to factory defaults. Only applicable to the inflate and deflate algorithms.


Provides an object enumerating Zlib-related constants.


Creates and returns a new BrotliCompress object.


Creates and returns a new BrotliDecompress object.


Creates and returns a new Deflate object.


Creates and returns a new DeflateRaw object.

An upgrade of zlib from 1.2.8 to 1.2.11 changed behavior when windowBits is set to 8 for raw deflate streams. zlib would automatically set windowBits to 9 if was initially set to 8. Newer versions of zlib will throw an exception, so Node.js restored the original behavior of upgrading a value of 8 to 9, since passing windowBits = 9 to zlib actually results in a compressed stream that effectively uses an 8-bit window only.


Creates and returns a new Gunzip object.


Creates and returns a new Gzip object. See example.


Creates and returns a new Inflate object.


Creates and returns a new InflateRaw object.


Creates and returns a new Unzip object.

Convenience Methods#

All of these take a Buffer, TypedArray, DataView, ArrayBuffer or string as the first argument, an optional second argument to supply options to the zlib classes and will call the supplied callback with callback(error, result).

Every method has a *Sync counterpart, which accept the same arguments, but without a callback.

zlib.brotliCompress(buffer[, options], callback)#

zlib.brotliCompressSync(buffer[, options])#

Compress a chunk of data with BrotliCompress.

zlib.brotliDecompress(buffer[, options], callback)#

zlib.brotliDecompressSync(buffer[, options])#

Decompress a chunk of data with BrotliDecompress.

zlib.deflate(buffer[, options], callback)#

zlib.deflateSync(buffer[, options])#

Compress a chunk of data with Deflate.

zlib.deflateRaw(buffer[, options], callback)#

zlib.deflateRawSync(buffer[, options])#

Compress a chunk of data with DeflateRaw.

zlib.gunzip(buffer[, options], callback)#

zlib.gunzipSync(buffer[, options])#

Decompress a chunk of data with Gunzip.

zlib.gzip(buffer[, options], callback)#

zlib.gzipSync(buffer[, options])#

Compress a chunk of data with Gzip.

zlib.inflate(buffer[, options], callback)#

zlib.inflateSync(buffer[, options])#

Decompress a chunk of data with Inflate.

zlib.inflateRaw(buffer[, options], callback)#

zlib.inflateRawSync(buffer[, options])#

Decompress a chunk of data with InflateRaw.

zlib.unzip(buffer[, options], callback)#

zlib.unzipSync(buffer[, options])#

Decompress a chunk of data with Unzip.