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What are Zip Files?

Zip files are the most popular format of compressing data on a Windows operating system. You have probably downloaded some from the internet, received them in an email or even created one yourself. This article will take things from a basic level and explore exactly what Zip files are, detailing how to use them and how to get the most out of them.

On Windows, a folder is a group of files that are all collected together under one heading. Not only do folders keep your data organised, but you can also transport them around from one location to another with ease.

However, let’s take one situation as an example: you have a group of files that you’ve collected into a folder and you now want to email this to someone. The problem is, you can’t email folders, so you’d have to individually attach each file. If these files are large in size then the total will be even bigger, meaning that the email will take a while to send and receive.

This is one instance where using a Zip file can come in handy. You can create a new Zip file, put all those files inside it and then just email the single Zip. At the same time, the Zip file will compress everything inside, reducing the total file size. There’s no data loss; the Zip can simply be ‘unzipped’ and all the files inside will be available.

Other scenarios where a Zip file might come in handy include distributing files on the internet (a lot of downloads will come inside a Zip) and to save your disk space. For the latter example, you might have a large amount of data that you don’t need regular access to. As such, you can put everything in a Zip file to free up hard drive space for data in constant use.

Now, let’s turn our hand to creating and using Zip files. Windows has a built in utility that will allow you to do just that, so there’s no need to download third party programs for these basic functions (other programs are available online, like WinRar or 7Zip, which offer more advanced features).

To create a Zip file, right click on a blank area (either on the desktop or in the file explorer), navigate to ‘New’ and then ‘Compressed (zipped) Folder’. You can rename the Zip file anything you wish and move it around your computer, just as you can any other file or folder. Select the files you wish to store in your Zip and drag them into it. They’ll be copied, rather than cut, into the folder and ready for use.

If you already know which files you want to use in a Zip, you can skip the above step by selecting all the necessary files, right clicking and then selecting ‘Send to’, followed by ‘Compressed (zipped) folder’.

To open a Zip file, simply right click it and select ‘Extract All…’. You can then choose where you wish to extract the files to and a folder will be created under the same name. All the files will then be available and ready to use.

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