How to Zip and Unzip Files and Folders on a Mac

File compression is included in macOS

What to Know

  • Zip a single file or folder: Control-click or right-click it and select Compress.
  • Zip multiple files or folders: Shift-click to select them. Control-click or right-click selected files and choose Compress.
  • Unzip an archive: Double-click the archive.

This article explains how to zip and unzip files and folders on a Mac using the Archive Utility built into macOS Big Sur (11.0) through Mac OS X 10.8.

Apple hides the Archive Utility because it's a core service of the operating system. While this utility is tucked away, Apple makes zipping and unzipping files and folders extremely easy by selecting them in the Finder.

How to Make a Zip File on Mac: Zip a Single File or Folder

Compress and decompress a single file or folder using Finder to access the Archive Utility built into Macs.

  1. Open Finder and navigate to the file or folder you want to compress.

  2. Control-click or right-click the item and select Compress item name.

    Path to compress a single file in Finder
  3. Look for the compressed version of the file. It has the same name as the original file with a .zip extension.

The Archive Utility zips the selected file and leaves the original file or folder intact. The compressed version is in the same folder as the original file.

Zip Multiple Files and Folders

Compressing multiple files and folders works about the same as compressing a single item. The main difference is the name of the zip file.

Usually, you'll use the Archive Utility without launching it. However, if you have a large number of files to compress or decompress, you can launch the utility and drag and drop files and folders on it. The Archive Utility is located at System > Library > CoreServices > Applications.

  1. Open the folder that contains the files or folders you want to compress.

  2. Select the items you want to include in the zip file. Shift-click to select a range of files or command-click to select nonadjacent items.

  3. Right-click or control-click any one of the items and select Compress. This time, the word Compress comes with the number of items you selected, such as Compress 5 Items.

    Compress option in Finder drop-down menu
  4. Find compressed items in a file called Archive.zip, which is in the same folder as the originals.

    If you already have an Archive.zip, a number comes after the new archive's name. For example, Archive 2.zip, Archive 3.zip, and so on.

How to Unzip Files

To unzip a file or folder, double-click the zip file. The file or folder decompresses in the same folder as the compressed file.

If the zip file contains one file, the new decompressed item has the same name as the original. If a file with the same name exists, the decompressed file has a number appended to its name.

This same naming process applies when a zip file contains multiple items. If the folder contains an Archive, the new folder is called Archive 2.

Third-Party Apps for Zipping and Unzipping Mac Files

The built-in compression system that can zip and unzip files in macOS and OS X is relatively basic, which is why many third-party apps are also available. A quick look at the Mac App Store reveals more than 50 apps for zipping and unzipping files.

If you want more file compression features than Apple offers in its Archive Utility, these third-party apps might help.

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