How to zip (and unzip) files using Windows 10

You probably heard the term "zip" many times before. It's one of the most popular file formats that allows you to compress files to save space on your hard drive or to make it easier to send them over the internet.

Typically, you would use zip for archiving files you rarely use, or to send documents and pictures via email. In addition, zip is also commonly used to compress files and make them available for download on websites or through FTP servers.

Nowadays, lots of third-party software can handle zip compression, but if you're running Windows 10, you don't need to install extra software, because the OS supports zip natively.

In this Windows 10 guide, we'll walk you through the easy steps to zip and unzip files and save space on your computer's hard drive or just to make it easier to send them.

How to zip files to save hard drive space

To compress files using zip and save hard drive space, do the following:

  1. Open File Explorer.
  2. Navigate to the location with the items you want to compress.
  3. Right-click on an empty space, select New, and click Compressed (zipped) Folder.

  1. Type a descriptive name for the folder and press Enter.
  2. Select the files and folders you want to compress.
  3. Right-click your selection, and choose Cut.

  1. Double-click the newly-created compressed folder.
  2. Right-click it and select Paste.

You can always add more files to the zip folder by repeating steps 5, 6 and 7.

How to zip files to share with other people

If you're only trying to compress files to make it easier to send them over the internet, you can do the following:

  1. Open File Explorer.
  2. Navigate to the location of the items you want to compress.
  3. Select the files and folders you want to share.
  4. Right-click your selection, select Send to, and click on Compressed (zipped) folder.

  1. Type a name for the compressed folder and press Enter.

Once you complete these steps, you can, for example, attach the zipped folder to email to share files with other people. After you sent the email, you can safely delete the zipped folder, because it only contains a copy of your original files.

Alternatively, you can select the items you want to send, and from the Share tab, click the Zip button to compress.

How to unzip files on Windows 10

Windows 10 supports zip natively, which means that you can just double-click the zipped folder to access its content — and open files. However, you always want to extract all the compressed files before using them.

If you don't unzip the files, you won't be able to edit and save the new content in the same document, and if you're trying to install a piece of software, the installation process won't start.

There are at least two ways to extract files from a zipped folder:

Use the Extract All wizard

To extract all the files from a zipped folder, do the following:

  1. Right-click the compressed (zipped) folder.
  2. Select Extract All from the context menu.

  1. By default, the compressed files will extract in the same location as the zipped folder, but you can click the Browse button to select an alternative location.
  2. Check the Show extracted files when complete option.

  1. Click Extract.

Using the File Explorer

To extract all or individual files from a zipped folder, do the following:

  1. Double-click the compressed (zipped) folder.
  2. Select the file or files you want to extract.
  3. Right-click your selection and click Cut.

  1. Navigate to the location you want to unzip the files to.
  2. Right-click and select Paste.

Alternatively, inside the zipped folder, you can select the items you want, and on the Extract tab, select the location to extract the files. If the location isn't listed, click the More button, and then click the Choose location button to find the correct folder.

Wrapping up

Although there are tons of third-party software options designed to compress files, which can also handle additional compression file formats, you'll find that Windows 10 includes all the necessary functionalities anyone needs to zip and unzip files.

Do you use Windows 10 or another software to handle file compression? Let us know your preferences in the comments.

More Windows 10 resources

For more help articles, coverage, and answers to common questions about Windows 10, visit the following resources:

Mauro Huculak is technical writer for WindowsCentral.com. His primary focus is to write comprehensive how-tos to help users get the most out of Windows 10 and its many related technologies. He has an IT background with professional certifications from Microsoft, Cisco, and CompTIA, and he's a recognized member of the Microsoft MVP community.

15 Comments
  • wow...
  • well I'm getting ready to dump windows 10. going back to windows 7 .. directx12 simply isnt worth all the crap win 10 throws at me.. experimenting with ubuntu and mint . most of my favorite games run on steam there. I can play xcom 2 and civ 6 and master of orion and plenty more right there with no need for windows 10. so bye bye MS..
  • Going back to windows 7, but yet you say bye bye MS...see ya buddy !
  • What does this have to do with a zip file?
  • Trolling what else..
  • no trolling. i will leave ms behind when they drop updates for win 7 pro.. If that means leaving some games behind so be it...
  • Slow news day? ;) I use 7-zip for all my compression needs.  I don't mind the built in compression with Windows, but 7-zip preserves file dates, which I really appreciate.  And it gives many more options that I prefer, including unzipping to the current directory, and support for more file types like 7z and RAR.
  • Yep, I'm with 7zip and WinRar.  Much faster than the built in zip compression.  In a pinch it will of course do.
  • I'm using 7zip. It has the ability to compress and split large files to separate smaller files. Best thing with this is when emailing these smaller file types (001, 002 etc) is it does get block as exe.
  • <p>Actually I found this very useful, I had no idea it was built in&nbsp;as I had&nbsp;WinZip installed on Windows 8&nbsp;and it had replaced explorer as the default app to open zip files but the free trial was over.&nbsp;Set it back to explorer and voila, built in unzip without buying winzip, winrar! I think the fact that it was marked "Extract All" instead of "Unzip" made me overlook it in the past... Thanks for article. :)</p>
  • Its been built into Windows for a few versions now.
  • Built in 'unzip(ping)' is quite faster and efficient on W10m, cuts the need for a third party app.
  • I can appreciate these basic help articles for the non techie but how about some to address more complex issues like resetting Windows Hello.
  • If RAR isn't WinRAR's proprietry and it's open sourced, Microsoft should add support for it too natively on Windows 10 because it's too common now that it's almost like a neccesisty now, I hate using third party apps for achiving
  • Microsoft also implemented LZH with a shell container extension, exactly like the support for ZIP. Unfortunately it seems to have been in response to its large use in Japan and seems to only gets installed along the Japanese language pack.
    ​I think they should just include it in every version, a 292KB file and a file association and ClassID entry wouldn't have any negative impact.