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Zip Files

The Best Zip Software is Free

Unless you have very unusual zip requirements, do the following and then the information on the rest of this page will work perfectly for you.

Windows XP or later:

Delete any zip software you have. Go to Control Panel, Add or Remove Programs, and uninstall WinZip or whatever else you might have. The built-in zip support of Windows XP is simpler and better than any of them.

If you need more than what windows XP can do, Install 7-Zip (described here for Windows 2000 use).

Windows 2000 or earlier:

Delete any zip software you have as described above but keep or install 7-Zip. These earlier versions of Windows have no built-in Zip support. 7-Zip is free, simple to use, and very capable. You can get it here:
Install this tiny and powerful program and read the rest of this page.


A zip file is made by copying files and an index to them into a single file. Files are often zipped for long term storage or for transmission to another place or medium. Some reasons for zipping are:

Accessing Zip Files

You can see what's in a zip file by double-clicking it. If you are using a Windows XP computer, Windows simply shows the files as though they were in a folder. If you are using Windows 2000, a 7-Zip Window will open showing you the files. In either case, keep in mind that you are not looking at files in a folder. You're looking at a presentation made to look like that.

If you copy any of these files (copy-and-paste or drag-and-drop) to another place, they get decoded out of the zip file (unzipped) and created in their new location. At that point you have normal files in the new place.

If, instead, you try to process a file in the zip file with an application (by double-clicking or dragging to a program's icon), it gets unzipped to a temporary location and the temporary copy is passed to the application. This is fine except:

Creating Zip Files

Windows XP or later:

Making a zip file with files and folders in it is about the same as making a folder with files and folders in it.
  1. In a My Computer window browse to where you want to create the zip file.
  2. Either pick FILE or right-click in empty space. Then pick New and pick Compressed (zipped) folder and give it the name you want leaving the .zip extension on it.
  3. Act as if you had just created a folder. Copy things into it as you would a folder.

Windows 2000 or earlier:

This may seem strange at first but it's simple.
  1. Start 7-Zip from your Start menu or by double-clicking any zip file and browse to where you want to create the zip file.
  2. Open a My Computer window and find one or more of the files or folders you want to zip. Drag it or them into the 7-Zip window. An Add to Archive dialog will open with many options. Just edit the top line (the Archive name) preserving the .zip extension and pick OK. You'll see the new zip file in the 7-Zip window (It will be with the files - a zip file is a file not a folder).
  3. If you want to add more to the zip file, double click it and 7-Zip will show you what's in it. At this point you can treat it like a folder - copy more things in.

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