The need to transfer files is constantly growing. But some files are extremely large and takes ages to transfer, particularly the ones containing software. This challenge has brought about the wide usage of archive file formats like CAB. You've probably received or downloaded a file with the extension .cab. Considering how rare this format is, many are afraid to extract such files because they suspect they might be malicious, which is not the case.

What is a CAB file?

CAB file, short for Windows cabinet file, is an archive file format used in the Windows platform. These files support different compression methods such as Quantum and LZX, allowing you to store multiple files and folders and package them into one file. CAB files typically contain various Windows installations that might involve device drivers or system files. The installation engine extracts these files to use them to set up various software and hardware. Given such sensitive data, features like embedded digital certificates ensure file integrity. The reason for using the CAB file format is it reduces file size and the associated download time for Web content.

Windows treat CAB files as a folder, allowing you to open and view them. All you have to do is:

  •  Click the start button and select computer to launch Windows default file manager.
  • Open the drive and folder with the compressed file
  • Find and select the CAB file(s) you wish to view
  • Right-click on the file and open it to view its contents on Windows Explorer

That being said, in current Windows configurations, you'll no longer be able to extract these files with the default win archive software. Since this archive format is not as popular as RAR or ZIP, many users don't know how to extract it.

How to extract CAB files

There are several methods to extract CAB files on a computer running Windows OS. One of the most popular tools is using WinZIP.

  1. Start by downloading and saving the file to your computer. If the CAB file was downloaded from the internet, it might be saved in the Documents or Downloads folder.
  2. Next, launch WinZip and open the CAB file by right-clicking File > Open or simply double-clicking on the file.
  3. Browse through and select the .cab file(s) you wish to extract by holding the CTRL key and left-clicking on them.
  4. Click Unzip at the top of the window.
  5. Select a destination folder (where you want the extracted files to go to) and click extract.
  6. Wait for the extraction to complete and find your extracted CAB files/folders in your chosen destination folder.

In some instances, especially if the file is too large, the process might be unsuccessful because the file is corrupted. You'll need reliable recovery software in such a case. The above procedure is simply a guide. Due to the differences in the various versions of Windows, it's important to follow the extraction tool's instructions for your version of Windows.

Alternative methods for extracting CAB files include using:

  • The Command Prompt on Windows
  • WinRAR

Extracting CAB files is pretty simple, but if you want to extract and manage these files like a pro, the WinZip software is your best bet. WinZip is well-known file archive software, and it offers native support for CAB files and other popular archive formats such as RAR, ZIP, 7Z, ISO, TAR, and IMG. WinZip can compress any file; plus, there's an encryption option available to keep your files protected.


CAB files store important sensitive data; as such, it's best to extract them only when necessary. Secondly, it's also important to view the archived file first to inspect its contents before considering the need for real extraction.

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