What is unzipping?

Unzipping is the act of extracting the files from a zipped single file or similar file archive. If the files in the package were also compressed -- as they usually are -- unzipping decompresses them.

How do you unzip files?

When users download programs from shareware or freeware companies on the web, it is highly likely that you get a zip file (the file name has a suffix of ".zip"). These are also known as compressed files.

They can decompress the file in the following ways:

  • Double-click on the zipped folder. Most systems have a "self-extracting" program that automatically unzips the folder.
  • Right-click on the zipped folder and select Extract All.

There are several popular apps and tools that exist for zipping and unzipping: PKZIP in the Disk Operating System (DOS), WinZip or 7-Zip for Windows, MacZip for macOS and Files in Android. Users can also extract files by dragging them out of the zipped folder.

unzipping, decompression, lossy compression, lossless compression
Compression is a data reduction method that reduces file size. Unzipping is decompression that restores a compressed (aka zipped) file to its larger form.

Why are folders zipped?

A zipped folder can be created in any operating system, such as Microsoft Windows or Mac.

A zip file takes less storage space than an unzipped file. This makes it easier for the file to be stored and transferred between different systems.

Further, as the zip file is smaller in size, it can be easily downloaded. This reduces the chance of the file being corrupted. Sometimes, users rely on a zip file to encrypt the data.

lossy compression, lossless compression
Diagram compares lossless and lossy compression. Zipping is a form of lossless compression.

See also: Lossless and lossy compression, image compression, LZW compression, data reduction and data deduplication.

This was last updated in February 2022

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