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What Is 'Zip' and 'WinZip'?: Understanding Zipping and Unzipping Files

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Zip file
Question: What Is 'Zip' and 'WinZip'?: Understanding Zipping and Unzipping Files
December, 2011

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?
Answer: '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:

Q1: What is a Zip File?
Ans: 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.

Q2: How Do Zip Files Work?
Ans: 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.

Q3: Is 'Zip' the same as 'WinZip'?
Ans: Although many people confuse the two, they are technically different.
    1. "Zip" is the generic file format of a compressed archive.
    2. "WinZip", like "WinRAR" or "PKZip", is specialty software that creates and manages Zip files.


Next: How to Unzip Files With the Right Software...

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