Sometimes you read the advice on the web to unzip a ZIP file 7 zippers wear. The program does a good job of tapping into the contents of the archive, but it’s too big for this alone: because Windows also masters this process, also known as unpacking, extracting, or unzipping. Windows XP did this, its successors could do this, and Windows 11 can too. Like its predecessors, this latest OS is picky when it comes to file formats: it basically just packs and unpacks ZIP files. For example, if you want to unzip a RAR file downloaded from the web, you need a tool like 7-Zip. It is free and open source, unlike its main competitors (shareware) WinRAR and WinZip. Unlike Windows, 7-Zip also opens RAR content, which is useful if you don’t want to unzip. There are also more settings that are useful for ambitious users. These include a selectable compression level when packing and password protection. And a benchmark running entirely in RAM explores CPU performance.
Archives is also conceivable for archiving files on hard drives and SSDs: if your drive space is low, delay buying a new replacement model or a model to install as an add-on. Compression allows more data to fit on the PC than would normally be possible. However, if you want to take full advantage of this, it is more convenient to compress the entire disk through its properties in Windows 7/8.1/10/11; this requires NTFS formatting, it does not work with FAT32 partitions. Windows 10 and Windows 11 are reserved for CompactOS technology, which was already available in Windows 10 1507 (the first release of Windows 10 came in 2015) and compresses system binaries on the drive.
Files located in archives (ZIP) can be accessed without any problem: you double-click on a file and it opens in the program associated with the format. On Windows, this is Explorer unless you have installed an alternative (un)packer such as 7-Zip; which is possibly assigned to ZIP & Co. Archived files can often be opened without unzipping them first; Common unpacking methods are drag and drop and the context menu of the archive. You can even run programs that have been compressed and not yet restored to their pure form. Sometimes this doesn’t work and an error message appears. You can also often open data other than executable programs, i.e. normal files, without unpacking them first. However, such direct access to compressed files is somewhat slower than normal disk access, because the CPU first has to decompress the reduced data. We are talking about transparent here because it is invisible. In the IT genre, the term means the opposite of what is called transparent; more information can be found in a separate article. The same applies to CompactOS. An accelerator is also not usually noticeable here.
Windows primarily packs and uncompresses ZIP files; this is intuitive because it is done through the graphical interface. To compress files, select a command under “Send To” in its context menu. Microsoft changed the name of its designation from Windows XP/Vista to Windows 7: with the previous operating system, the command was “ZIP compressed folder”, with newer systems up to and including Windows 11, it is spoken of as “ZIP compressed folder”. In Windows 11, you can also compress via the context menu without (!) the send menu. If a ZIP file already exists and you want to add a new file to the archive, drag it to the ZIP file symbol, or open the ZIP file in Explorer and move the new entry into it using drag and drop. It is also possible to create empty ZIP archives, quasi-folders: right-click on a free space on the desktop or in Explorer, then select “New > ZIP Compressed Folder”. Copy the desired content to the file as described.
In addition to ZIP files, Windows creates EXE files, which is done using an English (!) wizard (even though Windows speaks German). It can be called via Win-R and Fast. It is also possible to unzip other self-extracting EXE files; such files are sometimes encrypted and are often larger than other files because they themselves bring the decryption technology. Third-party encryption-focused software, for example, creates such self-extracting EXE objects. In addition to ZIP, Windows also unpacks MSI using its own techniques: however, it only extracts such files via the command line (ie not graphically, not very intuitive).
7-Zip (un)packer Top Tips: Compress Files Perfectly
7-Zip: What is it? Some advantages
In one respect, development on Windows is slowing down: the XP system version made it possible to provide ZIP files with a password in Windows Explorer. Files can be moved to PC systems running a newer Windows operating system; access the data, as long as the password is entered. ZIP file encryption has not been possible since Windows Vista. 7-Zip does it: it brings a level of sophistication prized by XP veterans into the modern age. Furthermore, 7-Zip offers a kind of browser of its own with an address bar, which you can use to navigate the file system and thus (un)zip it more easily. If you’re about to put a file into an archive, you can choose from a wide range of formats in a drop-down menu: 7z, bzip2, gzip (the last two are common on Linux), tar, wim, xz, and zip . Additional dropdown entries allow you to select “Compression Strength”, “Compression Method” and much more. The available options depend on the file format you choose. The encryption is also tied to the format.
Most PC compression programs are equally effective at shrinking files: As our “Zipper Test: Quick File Compressor Check” showed, the file sizes of compressed files are identical for various programs. In the test dataset used in 2017, WinRAR’s RAR format packed more efficiently than the other subjects with its ZIP method. 7-Zip beat almost all the competition with its proprietary 7z (active out of the box) format. Equally the same was Easy 7-Zip: This one is based on the namesake and is supposed to be simpler. There are no real advantages though, but 7-Zip fans might want to check it out.
Use the 7-Zip file manager
If you have 64-bit Windows installed, it’s best to use 64-bit 7-Zip, which is more modern than the 32-bit version of the tool. The latter also works with 64-bit Windows, and is only suitable for 32-bit Windows. However, it usually makes little sense to use 32-bit applications with 64-bit Windows. You can get 7-Zip from our download area as an EXE installer. The manufacturer offers in its project page also offers an MSI installation file; the MSI format is common in the corporate environment.
Do you want to unzip a ZIP file on the desktop? Navigate there in the 7-Zip File Manager: inside it, double-click “My Computer” (old Windows XP slang), “C > Users” and the folder that corresponds to your username. Double-click “Desktop” and the ZIP file. Your content will appear in 7-Zip. If you want to access one of the contained elements, double click on it. Alternatively, unzip whatever you want by holding down the mouse button and dragging it to the desktop or to a folder in Explorer.
It is also possible to compress files through the 7-Zip File Manager: in the zip program, navigate to the folder where the contents are located. Select the files by clicking on them while holding down the Ctrl key. Then select the “Add” button at the top. The “Add to archive” window opens, in which you can specify compression modes. Confirm with a click on “OK”. If opening your new 7z file later with a double click does not work, assign the 7-Zip software to the format: right-click the zip file in the Windows interface and select Windows 10/11 from the context menu ” Open with > More apps > Look for another app on this PC”, navigate to the “Program Files” folder with 7-Zip, highlight the file “7zFM.exe” (7-File Manager by Igor Pavlov) and go to ” Open “.
Extract files via context menu
For example, you may have a ZIP file on your Windows desktop that contains photos that you want to extract. This is also called unpacking: the term refers to both the archive and its files. In this regard, it is correct to speak of “uncompressing the archive”, and “uncompressing the files in the archive” is also correct. To do this, right-click the file on the desktop and select “7-Zip > Extract Here” from the context menu. The desktop is used as a storage destination. There is no consultation. An exception applies if a password is set, which must then be entered. The 7-Zip window usually closes quickly.
If the ZIP file were in a different location, for example in a subfolder on the desktop, that would serve as the unzip destination. If you want to extract the files to a specific location, you can do so via the context menu item “7-Zip > Extract Files”; In a window that opens, enter the desired folder and confirm with “OK”.
Some file formats contain multiple files, some just one file. If you check multiple files in Explorer, right-click and select “7-Zip > Add to Archive”, 7z, tar, wim and zip will be available. With only one item submitted to 7-Zip, the choice is greater. Then the “File Format” drop-down menu lists the following options: 7z, bzip2, gzip, tar, wim, xz, and zip.