What is a Zip File? A Complete Guide to Zip Files

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There are times when you need to send a video to a friend or upload a packet of documents for an important purpose, but you find that you can't send a file that's so large. It might be that you're dangerously close to using up all the space on your computer's hard drive, but you don't want to get rid of all those photos, videos, and music files. 

You might need them again someday. You could save the information to a thumb drive or separate and create multiple packets of those documents, but there has to be an easier way. There is! You can create a zip file. This is your complete guide to zip files.

What is a zip file?

A zip file is a file format that archives files into a lossless compression. This makes them smaller and easier to send through email and other mediums. It can also help you archive files that you don't always use on your computer's hard drive but don't want to delete either.

You can use a zip file to archive multiple directories and files into a single one. A zip file will end with .zip, so you can easily identify a file that's already been zipped. When you use a zip file, you don't lose any of the data during the compression process.

When creating a zip file, there are many possible compression algorithms that might be used, though DEFLATE is the most common. It depends on the software or app that you decide to use when creating a zip file.

A zip file is typically easy to create and open. However, depending on your operating system, you might need specific software or an app to handle the compression of data.

When you're sending a zip file to someone else, it's a good idea to make sure that they have the means to open it. You don't want to send it only to discover the receiver still can't access the file. When you have the right software or app, creating, opening, and saving a zip file is a simple process.

How to make a zip file

The steps for making a zip file vary, depending on the operating system that you use. If you work from a Mac computer, there is a built-in app that you can use to make and open a zip file in a few clicks.

However, if you're working with a Windows operating system, you'll need software or an app to create a zip file. Here's a look at some of the most popular ones:

  • B1 Archiver: You can use this app to open more than 20 files types and create a zip file.
  • MiXplorer Silver: This is an app that can create and open your zip files and more. This software can also tag images and more. 
  • WinRAR: WinRAR is used to archive files and to zip files. However, it only works for a few file types, making its use limited.
  • WinZip: When you need flexibility, this app can create a Zip file format and open a few other types of archival formats. You can take advantage of the integration tools to make it work more smoothly on your computer or tablet.


Although the method for creating a zip file varies depending on the app or software, it's typically a straightforward process and only takes a few minutes to accomplish. The method of opening a zip file is also straightforward in most programs.

A zip file can help you archive files on your computer to make room on your hard drive. It can also compress files into small enough packets to be sent by email or some other way. WinZip offers an easy-to-use app to help make the process simple.

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