Understanding ZIP Folders

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated March 28, 2016)

2

It is no secret that most files and folders require more disk space than necessary. Over the years there have been many different methods proposed to "compress" those files and folders so that you can get more information into a smaller space. One of the oldest and most persistent compressed file formats is know as a "ZIP file." Introduced in 1989 by Phil Katz, the algorithms used in the format have been released to the public domain and it has become the de facto standard for simple file compression.

Why would you want to store information in a compressed file? Easy—it takes less space. Thus, if you need to send a lot of information to another person (say, over the Internet), it is faster to send a compressed file than it is to send the files in their native format.

Windows has directly supported ZIP file formats—to one degree or another—since Windows 98. (Technically Windows 98 only supported ZIP files if the Plus! pack was added. Versions of Windows since then have had the capability built in.) This means that you can place a ZIP file on your desktop and Windows treats it just like a file folder.

You can see how this works by creating a ZIP file on your desktop. Perform these steps:

  1. Right-click anywhere on the desktop. Windows displays a Context menu.
  2. Hover your mouse over the New option. A submenu should appear.
  3. Click the Compressed (Zipped) Folder option. (Don't click the Folder option; make sure you get the one that indicates you want a new compressed folder.) The folder appears on your desktop.

You can tell a compressed folder from a regular folder by looking at its icon. The compressed folder has a zipper that appears on the folder. (See Figure 1.)

Figure 1. Zipped (compressed) folders show a zipper on the folder icon.

From this point on you can treat the compressed folder the same as you would any other folder on your system. You can move files and other folders into it or out of it. The trick is to remember that the compressed folder is really a file—a ZIP file. You can easily transfer the file to someone else by copying it to a thumb drive or by sending it via e-mail as an attachment.

 This tip (5853) applies to Windows 7, 8, and 10.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He  is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...

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What is five minus 0?

2016-03-28 13:00:14

Ted Duke

This tip does not work on my Windows 10.1, latest update. The alternate method in the comment by Mr. Gregg does.


2016-03-28 12:42:13

Karl Gregg

An alternate method I use to create a zipped folder is to select all the files I want zipped and then right-click one of them, use the 'Send to' option and select 'Zipped (compressed) folder'.
Windows creates the new zipped folder with a name chosen from those you have selected, but with the '.zip' extension.
Optionally, you can rename the folder with your own new name (don't forget the '.zip' extension.
The big advantage is that another Windows user can 'unzip' the folder by simply double-clicking it.


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