All About ZIP Files

Last Updated: October 26, 1998

NOTE: This web site has been replaced by a new site that is designed for users of Windows 95/98/NT. The new site can be found at:

Part 1.Introduction
Part 2.Quick and Dirty Guides to Unzipping ZIP Files
Part 3.In-Depth Tutorial on ZIP Files
Part 4.Alternatives: Winzip and PKzip for Windows

Part 1. Introduction

Many files which are available for download on the internet are stored as "ZIP" files. Storing files in the ZIP format provides two advantages for the person who downloads the file: (1) Several files (e.g., all of the files associated with a particular program) can be downloaded as one file, and (2) the files stored in a ZIP file are compressed, so that the ZIP file is smaller than the size of the uncompressed files, resulting in a faster download. ZIP files are only for use on IBM computers - they do not work on Macintosh computers.

Due to the many requests I have received from internet users, I have assembled the following guides that explain how ZIP files work. If you just want to learn how to "unzip" ZIP files that you download, select the link to Quick and Dirty Guides to Unzipping .ZIP Files, provided below. If you want a more in-depth tutorial on ZIP files, including detailed instructions on how to create your own ZIP files, select the link to In-Depth Tutorial on ZIP Files, provided below. Also, check out Winzip and PKzip for Windows, two excellent programs that allow you to manage ZIP files without leaving the comfortable Windows interface.

Part 2. Quick and Dirty Guides to Unzipping .ZIP Files

Provided below are links to two quick and dirty guides that explain how to extract the stored files from a .ZIP file The process of extracting files from a .ZIP file is called "unzipping". Extracted files are then ready to setup or run. Remember, most games that you download from the Internet are provided in compressed ".ZIP" format to save download time. You must "unzip" the .ZIP file in order to get at the program and/or its setup files.

  • Unzipping .ZIP Files with PKunzip (version 2.04g for DOS)

    These quick and dirty guides to the PKunzip file decompression utility will show you how to use pkunzip to extract the stored files from a .ZIP file. The guides include a link to the "pkunzip" program so that you may download it.

    PKunzip is a DOS program and will run under DOS 5 or higher or from the MS-DOS prompt in Windows 3.x and Windows 95. PKunzip does not require Windows to run. You may wish to download the entire PKzip/PKunzip package (approx. 200K), which includes PKzip, the file compression utility. The package comes as a self-extracting file called "Pkz204g.exe.". Create a new directory for pkz204g.exe, move it to the new directory, and then run pkz204g.exe to extract the program files.

    PKunzip was written by Phil Katz, the creator of the .ZIP format.

Part 3. In-Depth Tutorial on ZIP Files

If you want to learn more about ZIP files, inlcluding
  • How to Create Your Own ZIP Files
  • How to Unzip a ZIP File
  • How to Put a Large ZIP File on Multiple Floppy Disks
  • How to Create a Self-Extracting ZIP File
then read my in-depth tutorial, Using PKzip and PKunzip - The Basics.

Part 4. Alternatives: Winzip and PKzip for Windows

  • Winzip (approx. 320K). A great file compression/decompression program for Windows that handles .ZIP files and other types. Winzip comes in a Windows 3.x version and a Windows 95 version. Download the self-extracting, self-installing file and run it by double clicking on it from the Program Manager (Windows 3.x) or the Explorer (Windows 95). Winzip installs itself!

  • PKzip for Windows. The folks at PKWARE, the creators of the ZIP format, have created a new version of PKzip for Windows. Find out more about it and/or download the shareware version from the PKWARE web site.

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