What Is 'Zip' and 'WinZip'?

Understand zipping and unzipping files

Illustration of a green zip file

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So you've just finished a download, and now you have a cryptic ".zip" file sitting on your hard drive. You've heard of Zip and WinZip, but no one has ever explained it to you. What do you do now?

'Zipping' and 'unzipping' is a file management technique for packaging multiple files into a single small bundle. Zipping and unzipping are very popular for emailing file attachments, downloading, and FTP. Let's look at zipping in its smaller parts:

What Is a Zip File?

A Zip file is sometimes called an "archive" file. The Zip file itself is really just a container. It holds the real files inside it. The purpose behind the Zip file is transportation and storage. The Zip file acts like a Ziploc sandwich bag - it holds contents inside for easy transporting and storage. This makes Zip files (and their counterpart Rar files) very valuable to file sharers and downloaders.​

How Do Zip Files Work?

A Zip file achieves three things:

  1. It bundles one or more files into a single container file.
  2. It compresses (archives) its contents to be as much as 90% smaller size.
  3. It can provide an optional password padlock on its contents.

Is 'Zip' the Same As 'WinZip'?

 Although many people confuse the two, they are technically different.

  1. "Zip" is the generic file format of a compressed archive.

"WinZip", like "WinRAR" or "PKZip", is specialty software that creates and manages Zip files.

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