Computing 101: Packing and Unpacking a File


The ability to compress a file or group of files so that they take up less space is something that has been available for as long as consumer computers have been around. The most popular method is called ZIP, which was first introduced in 1989 and is still used today (although there are others that are equally efficient or more efficient, such as RAR and TAR).

Once upon a time, a third-party app was needed to zip or unzip files. However, that capability is now built into most, if not all, operating systems.

Compressed files are very easy to spot – just look for the .zip at the end of the file name. If you want a slightly more complete explanation of the method of zipping a file (and this is actually still a very simplistic way of describing it), it removes unnecessary data — data that is repeated within the files so that the file is much longer. can be made larger. smaller in a process known as lossless data compression. That data is then replaced when the file is rebuilt.

In this article, we explain how to compress and extract standard ZIP files in the five most popular operating systems: macOS, iOS, Windows, Android and ChromeOS.


Zip a group of files on macOS

  • Select the desired files from your Finder list using either Shift click (to choose a single group of files) or Command-click (to select multiple files individually).
  • Right-click anywhere on the marker and select Compress.
  • You now have a zip file containing those files. (The original files will still be there.) The new zip file will be titled; you can name it whatever you want (while leaving the zip designation alone, of course).

Right-click on a group of files to easily compress them.

Extract a file on macOS

  • You can extract a file directly from your Finder window.
  • Find the file and double click on it. (Or right-click and choose Open.) You may see a pop-up window saying “expand”, depending on how large the compressed file is and how fast your computer is.
  • You will then see a new folder with the same name as the compressed file. Click on that folder to find all the files that were in the zip file.


How to zip a group of files on iOS

  • open up Files app and find the files (or folder) you want to zip.
  • If you want to compress more than one file, select the menu icon (three dots) tap in the top right corner Selectand then tap the files you want to compress. If you just want to compress one file, just long press on that file.
  • Select the icon with three dots in the lower right corner and select Compress.
  • You now have a compressed file (probably named among your previous files.
Four file icons on an iPhone with a menu at the bottom that says Compress.

The menu icon at the bottom right has a Compress option.

Same four files as before, with one more labeled

Your compressed files are now contained in a compressed file called

Extract a file on iOS

  • Find the zip file you want to decompress and tap it.
  • You now have a new folder with the same name as the compressed file. Tap the folder to see your uncompressed files.


How to zip a group of files on Windows

  • Open Explorer and select the files or folders you want to compress by marking a group of them with Shift clickmark individual files using Ctrl-clickor click the check boxes to the left of each file name.
  • After choosing your files, right click on the highlighted area and select Compress to ZIP file.
  • You will find a new zipped folder in File Explorer named after one of the included files. You can give the folder any name you want.
A Windows screen with File Explorer open, three files highlighted, and a drop-down menu.

Right click on your marked files and choose Compress to ZIP file.

Extract a file on Windows

To open one of a group of compressed files:

  • In Explorerdouble-click the zipped folder to open it.
  • Double-click on the desired file and it will open in its corresponding app.

To extract all files in a zipped folder:

  • In Explorerclick the checkbox next to the list of zipped folders and then click it Unpack everything button that appears at the top of the page.
  • You can then select a destination for your files in a pop-up window. (Click on the To leaf through button if the displayed destination is not the desired one.)
  • Click the Extract knob.


How to zip a group of files on Android

Unfortunately, zipping a file using an Android phone is difficult unless you have an app that helps you do it. There are several good ones on the Play Store, including ZArchiver, WinZip (one of the oldest Zip-related apps out there), and RAR (which compresses your files using a variety of protocols, including ZIP and RAR, among others).

However, if you have a Samsung phone, you have another option besides a third-party app to zip files:

  • To zip multiple files, go to My files, and select the files you want to zip.
  • Select the three More dots at the bottom right, then tap Compress.
  • Type a name for your compressed file, check Protect with password if that’s what you want to do, then select Compress.

Extract a file on Android

You can extract a compressed file using the Files by Google app that comes with many Android phones. (If your phone doesn’t come with the app, it may download it from play store.)

  • In the Files application, select To leaf through in the bottom menu, then tap the search icon in the top right corner.
  • The easiest way to find your compressed file (if you can’t remember the exact file name) is simply to type “zip” in the search field at the top.
  • Tap the file you want to extract.
  • You will be asked if you want to extract the file or files and you will be shown what type of files they are (such as Pictures or Documents). Tap the Extract knob.
  • Another pop-up window will inform you that the files have been extracted and repeat their file types. There is also a check box in case you want to delete the original zip file. When you’re done, tap Done.
An Android screen with 'Extract Summary - Copy (8)'? at the top, and files categorized under Pictures and Documents & Other.

Android will let you know what type of files are in your compressed file.

Same Android screen as before, but with a button at the bottom

After extracting the files, you can delete the zip file if you wish.

If you are using a Samsung phone, you can also download the My files app:

  • In My filestap the file you want to extract.
  • Select the three-point More icon and then choose either one Extract or Extract to current folder.


How to zip a group of files on a Chromebook

  • You can compress files in the Files app. Find it by clicking the app launcher on the left side of your shelf. Then go to the folder where your files are (files are on the left).
  • You can select individual files by clicking in the circles next to each file name. You can also choose a group of files by clicking the first one and then using Shift-click to select the last one.
  • Right click on one of the selected files and choose zip selection from the drop-down menu.
  • The files are compressed into a file called and appear in your current folder. To rename the file, right-click on it and select Rename.

Extract a file on a Chromebook

Extracting a file on a Chromebook was once a pain, requiring you to copy any file you wanted from the compressed file and then paste it into another folder. However, in more recent versions of ChromeOS (version 102 and above), the process is a lot easier.

Files from a Chromebook screen with highlighted and a drop-down menu with several options.

To extract a file on a Chromebook, right-click the file name and choose Unpack everything.

  • Right-click on the compressed file you want to open.
  • Click on the menu choice Unpack everything.
  • The uncompressed file will appear in your To download folder as a new folder with the name of the compressed file and contains all uncompressed files. For example, if the name of the compressed file was, you now have a new folder in Downloads called Archive.


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