What Is a Z File?

How to open, edit, & convert Z files

Screenshot of several Z files in Ubuntu

 Tim Fisher / Lifewire

A file with the Z file extension is a UNIX Compressed file. Like other archive file formats, Z files are used to compress a file for backup/archive purposes. However, unlike more complex formats, Z files can store just one file and no folders.

GZ is an archive format a bit like Z that's more common on Unix-based systems, while Windows users often see similar archive files in the ZIP format.

Z files that have a lowercase Z (.z) are GNU-compressed files, while .Z files (uppercase) are compressed using the compress command in some operating systems.

How to Open a Z File

Z files can be opened with most zip/unzip programs

Unix systems can decompress .Z files (with an uppercase Z) without any software by using this command, where "name.z" is the name of the .Z file:

uncompress name.z

Files that use the lowercase .Z (.z) are compressed with GNU compression. You can decompress one of those files with this command:

gunzip -name.z

Some .Z files may have another archive file inside of it that's compressed in another format. For example, a name.tar.z file is a Z file that, when opened, contains a TAR file. The file unzip programs from above can handle this just like they do the Z file type - you will just have to open two archives instead of one to get to the actual file inside.

Some files may have file extensions like 7Z.Z00, .7Z.Z01, 7Z.Z02, etc. These are just pieces of a whole archive file (a 7Z file in this example) that have nothing to do with the UNIX Compressed file format. You can join these types of Z files back together using various file zip/unzip programs.

How to Convert a Z File

When a file converter converts an archive format like Z to another archive format, it's essentially decompressing the Z file to extract the file, and then compressing the file inside to another format that you want it in.

For example, you can use one of the free file extractors from above to manually convert a Z file by first unpacking the file to a folder and then compressing the extracted file to a different format like ZIP, BZIP2, GZIP, TAR, XZ, 7Z, etc.

You can go through a similar process if you need to convert the file stored inside the .Z file, and not the Z file itself. If you have, say, a PDF stored in the Z file, instead of looking for a Z to PDF converter, you can just extract the PDF out of the Z file and then convert the PDF to a new format using a free document converter.

The same is true for any format, like AVI, MP4, MP3, WAV, etc.