What Is a Z File?

How to open, edit, & convert Z files

What to Know

  • A Z file is a UNIX Compressed file.
  • Open one with 7-Zip or the uncompress command.
  • Convert to ZIP or another format by extracting its contents first.

This article explains what a Z file is, how to open one on your computer, and how to convert one into a different format.

What Is a Z File?

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

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

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

Z files in Ubuntu

How to Open a Z File

Z files can be opened with most zip/unzip programs

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

uncompress name.z

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

gunzip -name.z

Some .Z files may have another archive file inside them that's compressed in another format. For example, a name.tar.z file is an archive 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'll 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 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 one, instead of looking for a Z to PDF converter, you can just extract the PDF out of it and then convert the document using a free document converter.

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

Still Can't Open It?

Z is a rare file extension because it's just one letter. This makes it easy to confuse for other, similar-looking file extensions like ZI or ZW.

However, just because two file extensions are similar, doesn't mean they're related or that they can be opened or converted with the same tools. ZI files, for example, are renamed ZIP files, and ZW files are either Zooper Widget Template files or Chinese Text files.

Another similar one is Z1, which is reserved for ZoneAlarm VB files and Z-machine source code files.

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