How to Create and Use a ZIP File

Here's a handy way to send multiple files via email

What to Know

  • In Windows, right-click a blank space on the desktop. Select New > Compressed (zipped) Folder.
  • Name the folder and drag and drop files onto it to compress them.
  • On a Mac: Right-click a file or folder you want to compress. Select Compress in the pop-up menu.

This article explains how to compress files and folders into ZIP files on Windows and macOS systems. It includes information on mailing ZIP files.

How to Create a ZIP File in Windows

There are several ways to create a ZIP file. Here's one easy approach for creating a ZIP file in Windows.

  1. From your desktop, right-click a blank space and choose New > Compressed (zipped) Folder.

    Windows desktop with main menu displayed
  2. Name the ZIP file. The recipient will see this file name when receiving the ZIP file as an attachment.

    Windows desktop with new ZIP file displayed
  3. Drag and drop the files and folders that you want to include in the ZIP file into the blank area. Items can include text documents, images, videos, music files, or anything else you'd like to send.

    ZIP file folder with contents displayed
  4. The ZIP file is now ready for sending.

Another method for creating ZIP files is to use a file archive program such as 7-Zip or PeaZip.

How to Create a ZIP File on a Mac

Macs include a built-in ability for compressing and unzipping files.

  1. Right-click (or press Control while clicking) a file or folder you want to compress.

  2. Select Compress in the pop-up menu.

    Mac desktop showing the Compress option
  3. A new ZIP file appears in the same location as the original file or folder with a .zip extension.

    The ZIP file on the Mac desktop

How to Email a ZIP File

Just as every OS has its own method of creating ZIP files, each email client has its own method for sending them. However, sending a ZIP file via email involves the same steps as sending any file over email. So, if you know how to send, for example, a Word document, as an attachment, you'll follow the same steps to send a ZIP file.

As an example, here's how it's done in Gmail.

  1. Compose your email message as normal. At the bottom of the composition window, select Attach files (the paperclip icon).

    Gmail message with Attach Files button selected
  2. From your hard drive, select the ZIP file.

    Selecting a ZIP file to attach in Gmail
  3. At the bottom of your composition window, you'll see the name of your ZIP file. Select Send.

    Gmail composition window with ZIP file attached
  4. Your recipient will see the ZIP file as a normal attachment.

What's a ZIP File, Anyway?

ZIP files are folders of files that have been reduced in size—that is, compressed. This allows you to send multiple files through email efficiently and without issues, and to store large files on your drive in less space.

Why Compressing Makes Sense

Most email applications limit the size of an individual message, including the body and header, plus any attachments. If you attempt to send several large attachments that exceed the limit, the message will fail to send.

If you compress your files into a ZIP file, however, you can send the ZIP file in a single message without any problem. Many documents can be compressed to as little as 10 percent of their original size. As a bonus, combining several files into a ZIP file packs them neatly into a single attachment.

If you frequently send large attachments and create ZIP files to compress them, consider using a cloud storage service instead. These services can usually handle much larger files than what the average email provider supports.

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