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Published on 12.08.06 by Brent Trahan

Compress and Uncompress a Folder or File in Windows Vista

Learn how to zip and unzip files and folders with Windows Vistas built in compression function.

Compressing and uncompressing (zip and unzip) a folder or files can be done “out of the box” with Windows Vista.  You don’t need to purchase software to zip or unzip files anymore.

This is not an obvious feature in Windows Vista.  I’ve split this guide into two sections that explain how to zip and unzip files and folders using Windows Vistas compression feature.

Learn how to zip or unzip a file or folder in Windows 7.

Zip (Compress) Files and Folders

Right-click a file or folder with multiple files in it, point at Send To, then select Compressed (zipped) Folder.

Windows Vista will compress (zip) the file or folder and save the new zipped file in the same place as the original file.

Unzip (Uncompress) Files and Folders

You can unzip a file a few different ways.

Double-click the Zipped File

The easiest way to unzip a file is to double-click it.  A window with the zipped files contents will open.  You can click Extract all files or drag the files out of the window to the desired location (example: the desktop).

If you choose to click extract all files, the files will be extracted (unzipped) in the same location as the original file unless you specify a location in the Select a Destination and Extract Files box that appears when you choose to extract them.

Right-click the Zipped File

Right-click the zipped file and select Extract all.  The Select a Destination and Extract Files window will open and let you choose if you want to save the files in the same location as the original zipped file or you can choose where you want to save the unzipped files by clicking browse and choosing a new location.

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98 Responses to “Compress and Uncompress a Folder or File in Windows Vista”

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  1. Todd says:

    Please clarify the default Vista compression and whether it can be configured.

  2. Default programme has Adobe;ancestral quest and Winzip to open zipped folders,none do this and I have had to delete these folders says:

    No idea how to have the inbuilt zip folder in Windows vista or how to retrieve it

  3. Cybersupam says:

    All the above process works in XPs and others, but hardly at Vista

  4. Sebastian says:

    Wow, thank you for this advice as I can’t afford to buy WinZip and this helped me learn how to use Vista to unzip my files for the new website I’m working on.

  5. Neal Kadlec says:

    Dear Sir:
    I have had Vista almost from the start. I am really thinking about going back to XP because of the very slow starts and all the other problems like this one…
    I need to down-load electronic file codes about once/twice a month to opperate equiptment. I should seperate the code and remove the text from the number portion. Unzip the number portion with the new code and install it to bring up the electronic device. Before trying to do this (with my Dell & Vista) I had never tried to zip/unzip a file. Because I had problems try (and not knowing what I was doing) I did try to down-load one of those free zip/unzip programs. It was a mess! It was loaded with all kinds of Pop-ups and unusable, so I dumped it!
    Now that I kind-of understand what I should be doing. It looks like part of my file or shell extension is gone (or it has always been missing?). Either way, I cannot follow your directions. Please help!
    Might I be better of re-installing my Windows Vista over my existing Vista?
    When I rigt click I don’t see any Extract all Files and that menu is not there. If I go into Properties or Edit I go into a Microsoft word file ‘lingo? All I can do there is exit.
    I am my computers Administrator but I could not follow your explanation of how to try and fix the shell extension. I clicked on start and could not find where to type in the command line! I tried Search but nada! So,where do I type in a command line? And then where do I see the entry for CompressFolder? And then???
    Please respond and help!
    Thank you,

    • bill fitzpatrick says:

      start>run then type cmd the window that pops up with the black background and text is the command line or just get 7zip it’s the best windows compression/decompression tool there is

      • Chris says:

        wow… that was totally not helpful. learn to use some periods or punctuation. also, be a little more descriptive please. bring up the command prompt, and then do what??

  6. Terry Griffith says:

    Thanks for the info. I never would have found it without your help. I need to zip some video files to send them to the person on them. I, unfortunatly, have Vista but I don’t think my friend does. Before I zip them and send them to her, will she be able to unzip them if she has XP?

  7. I have tried to unzip a compressed file and still am having no luck please help

  8. Miriel says:

    I have windows vista and do not have the option to “extract all” when right-clicking on the file….any other solutions?

  9. Kimberly says:

    mee toooo! I have an assignment thats due Sunday.. cant unzip. when i double click on it, it doesn’t show the files.. it opens up in some wingding language in notepad.
    No extract option.

    hm.. guess you didn’t know what you were talkin about.. unless this isn’t really for vista.



  10. Brent Trahan says:

    I unzip files using this feature on a daily basis. Maybe there’s someting wrong with your computer.

  11. J singh says:

    When I wanted to unzip a file, I select to unzip the file using another program. Now be defualt the unzip file always selects that particluar program unzip the file. This program loads images. How can I navigate to the windows zip file to reselect this built in compression program?

  12. Brent Trahan says:

    Uninstall the program that’s trying to unzip the files.

  13. Vinay says:

    I’m using Vista. I’ve been sent a bunch of compressed folders as *.zip files. When I try to ‘extract all’ or double-click, I get this message “Windows cannot open the folder. The compressed (zipped) folder is invalid.”

    This is happening with all the zipped files I’ve received from different sources. Other people who have received the same file are able to open it, though most of them are on WinXP.

  14. Graham says:

    I have been playing with Winzip 12 and encryption. On uninstalling Winzip the zip files are no longer linked to a program so I am looking for the name of the Vista program so I can restore the default.

    The problem described by Vinay occurs when you try to open an encrypted archive with Vista that was zipped and encrypted by Winzip. That’s what I have been testing- the two methods don’t seem to be compatable.

    I have not had any problems unzipping any other type of file using Vista. I have all the patches and service packs set up for Vista.

  15. Felix says:

    IS there a keyboard shortcut for ‘Send to Compressed Folder’??

  16. wael says:

    hello body look wanna ask u plz
    i used to extract the same file many times cause this file needs extraction every time i need to use it after several times its stoped wroking and the windows tell me that it (could not extract this file cause the file destination could not be ceated) so plz can u help me fix this problem

  17. Asuquo Clergy says:

    Hi Brent, Thanks for the useful tips.
    I wish to know if compressing a file can reduce the size of
    the file. I need to reduce the file size.

  18. Nicola says:

    This advice is more or less exact instuctions found in Microsoft ‘help’…..It doesn’t work!
    There is no option for ‘Extract Files’ if there was people wouldn’t be trolling round the net trying to fix their problem would they?
    If I double click on my Zip files it opens Windows Gallery with a message saying the file format is not supported.

    Please come up with an answer not just quote what we can already find quite easily on our PC’s or laptops!


    • HEEELP! says:

      I agree. How are we supposed to open our zipped files, when the “extract” option DOES NOT EXIST????? This problem is driving me NUTS!
      I’ve just installed WinZip and the program is BLOODY USELESS! We need help!
      To describe the problem; A zipped file was sent to me via email; while downloading, there was no option to “unzip”. Even when I double clicked the file and right clicked the file, it neither opened to the files it contained, NOR did the option to unzip the damn thing appear. I am 100% certain this is a zipped file.

      • HEEELP says:

        I found out my problem. Folks, if you’re using WinZip, please do the obvious thing and click the first option on the popup screen, “Use Evaluation Version” or something.

        Also, an applause for Joseph who answered the question (read his answer further down the thread) :) THANKS!

        So…problem solved :D

    • James says:

      I got the same problem, it just opens windows photo gallery. I tried removing it like brent said but for some reason its not in my add/remove programs.

      Any help would be much appreciated.


  19. reignraven says:

    when i click the zip file , it open in notepad..

    • mysticsmkz says:

      right click, go to properties and cnange the opening command. example~ music file open with power drive 7, can change it to windows media player.

  20. reignraven says:

    i already knew how to unzip file in windows vista

    … just RIGHT CLICK to the zip files then ENCRYPT the files..

    after that, u can open the files, just enter the password that you’ve set in the ENCRYPTION then the file will open automatically..

    i discovered it by my self….

  21. John says:

    I found that when I uninstalled Winzip, I could then right click on my zipped file in Vista and the Extract option came up. Interestingly, when Winzip is installed, this Extract option is not available!


  22. Chris says:

    am getting problem to unzip my folder. there are multiple folder on the hard drive. about 1.33gbyte and am stuck. I’ve try defferent software but none work. am stuck

  23. Danielle says:

    Hi i am wanting to make a video on windows movie maker but yet i do not know how to take the movies off of the CD and put into my videos

    PLEASE help me

  24. Joseph says:

    This should help those people who can’t find the “Extract All” option. It is most likely a problem with the file type association. To fix this, click Start -> Computer -> Organize -> Folder and Search Options -> View -> Hidden Files and Folders -> Show Hidden Files and Folders -> OK. Then right click on the .zip file (and make sure it is .zip and not .7z or some other filetype that may not be compatible with the built in compression) and click Open With… -> Browse…. In the Folders pane (on the left side below the Favorite Links) navigate to Desktop -> Computer -> Local Disk (C:) and search (in the top right) for explorer.exe and select the application explorer. Then make sure you select to Always use this program to open this kind of file. Click OK and a new window should open with the files contained in the .zip file. This is not a perfect fix, it is barely a workaround. Once you do this, the icon should now look like a desktop computer. If the icon looked like a folder with a zipper, then there is most likely a problem with the file. Make try to right click and extract all with a file you are sure is a functional .zip. After following my steps you will have to double click on the zip and then click extract all in the toolbar below the address bar or just drag and drop files.

    • Thanks so much. This fixed the problem I keep having

      Thank you
      thank you
      thank you

    • Steve says:

      Thank you indeed. You rule.

    • MaryP. says:

      Joseph – THANK YOU for your complete and very helpful information… I’ve been struggling with this for 3 days.

    • Fred says:

      changing the type assocition for .zip files, from “Windows Internet Explorer” to “Windows Explorer” did the trick , thanks for posting the instructions on how to change the default assoction. how the zip files got associated with “Windows Internet Explorer” on my computer in the first place is a mystery to me.

    • Sigo says:

      Very many thanks from me too. Only slight difference to your instructions was when I ‘searched (in the top right) for explorer’ it didn’t show, I then went into C-> Windows then found explorer.exe there. But again terrific, you solved my problem.

    • Thelma says:

      So happy to be able to understand what I was suppose to do. Been racking my mind trying to figure out what was wrong. You provided complete and easy to follow steps. Thanks, so much

    • JenP says:

      I followed all your instructions and still, explorer didn’t come up in search. ?????
      I found it necessary to open the windows folder in local C: instead of searching. I found explorer just after the middle of the huge list.
      Thank you so much Joseph!!!! Yours are the only instructions that are relevant after hours of searching and dodging crap downloads. : )

    • ahmad says:

      my i cone dont change my icone stay the same wordpad. and i cant get the extract all thing can u help me out.

    • abby says:

      Thank you so much, Joseph!!!! :)

      You have been very helpful!! To think that it has been almost a year that you have posted your instructions!!!

      2 thumbs up for you!!

    • mariano says:

      Finally! after dealing with this BS for 8 months I’ve got it solved!
      Thank you!!!

    • xmark says:

      ohhhh yeeeeaaaaahhhh… nice man, thanks a lot!!

      • Lindy says:

        For some reason zip files were set up to be opened with Windows Media Center which does absolutely nothing with them. I followed your instructions and I can now see the files. It’s a miracle. Thank you so much!

    • Deepak says:

      Many thanks Joseph. It did dissociate wmp from all the zip files but how to restore back to original look of the files that looked like a folder inside a zip. Why did this other programme get associated with zip files? what i should or should not do to avoid such things happening in future? is it common with vista?

    • Kathy says:

      You know your stuff! Thank You So Very Much! I finally opened my zip files. Excellent info.


    • Kathy says:

      Thanks Joseph!
      This really worked! I finally opened my zip files using your info below. Thanks for helping!

      This should help those people who can’t find the “Extract All” option. It is most likely a problem with the file type association. To fix this, click Start -> Computer -> Organize -> Folder and Search Options -> View -> Hidden Files and Folders -> Show Hidden Files and Folders -> OK. Then right click on the .zip file (and make sure it is .zip and not .7z or some other filetype that may not be compatible with the built in compression) and click Open With… -> Browse…. In the Folders pane (on the left side below the Favorite Links) navigate to Desktop -> Computer -> Local Disk (C:) and search (in the top right) for explorer.exe and select the application explorer. Then make sure you select to Always use this program to open this kind of file. Click OK and a new window should open with the files contained in the .zip file. This is not a perfect fix, it is barely a workaround. Once you do this, the icon should now look like a desktop computer. If the icon looked like a folder with a zipper, then there is most likely a problem with the file. Make try to right click and extract all with a file you are sure is a functional .zip. After following my steps you will have to double click on the zip and then click extract all in the toolbar below the address bar or just drag and drop files.

    • Alam says:

      Thank you very much. It’s really work well and I fix up my problem. Thank you so much

    • Tammy R says:

      Thanks! Helped me too!!

    • skimbot says:

      Wow…. At last. You are the best. Thanks. It is Windows Explorer that worked for me.

    • Becket says:

      Thanks, thanks, thanks. Thousand thanks! I was lost and you turn on the light! ;) You’re the best!

    • Helen says:

      THank you so much Joseph- it worked staright away after I had spent hours trying unsuccessfully- many thanks.
      PS. Amazing instructions-easy to follow

    • Ty says:

      You are a lifesaver. I wanna kiss you right now!!!!!

  25. Beth says:

    Thanks Alot This Helped Loads

  26. Penny says:

    Helped me too – thanks.

  27. aaa says:

    I right click in vista and it doesn’t say extract or extract all. (I see the file as if it could be played in windows media…. but it doesn’t)

  28. Catrise says:

    I have I think done all this, I have the extract option and I have been able to open/unzip other compressed files, except one. Its listed with the correct association, but I still repeatedly get an error message saying that it is invalid, or that it just cannot open it. Any advice?

  29. pizazz says:

    I have been sent a zipped .exe file, an accounting program data file. When I select to extract all, it says that this is a POTENTIALLY HARMFUL PROGRAM AND WINDOWS ARE BLOCKING THE EXTRACTION. There is no option to ignore the warning. i have disabled everything I can think of and it still wont extract

  30. bill fitzpatrick says:

    get yourself some 7zip ya hooligans windows was never good at compression

  31. Asbreland says:

    I have Vista, something happened and now .zip folder are trying to be opened with adobe acrobat. In the properties the default program is selected as Acrobat. I select browse but I do not know what the original default is.

    Any suggestions?

  32. Helper says:

    To have to extract all just download 7-zip its pretty simple

  33. Linda Bullimore says:

    I am trying to download a zipped jpeg from a website. It will not open with any of the programmes that I have tried; including Photoshop, Internet Explorer, Word, Windows Photo gallery etc. I have no problem when I receive zipped Word documents as email attachments because Word can be set as the default to open them.

    When I download the jpeg it loses its .zip extension and the icon immediately displays as the icon of the program I am trying to open it with.

    Any answers out there? I’m using Vista.

  34. TechRookie says:

    I uninstalled WinZip & got as far as searching for explorer.exe. The search results yielded “Windows Web Site”, Windows Maketplace, Computer, & Windows Live Messenger. What am I doing wrong?

    Also, the file I want to unzip is a GZ Drupal module. Before I uninstalled Winzip, these were showing as Winzip files. What’s going on here?

  35. James says:

    Try going to my computer and searching the C:/ then copy the location of the file.

  36. n says:

    A few months ago I was installing iTunes. I accidentally made it as my default player.
    And since then, iTunes is now the default program for .zip & .rar files. Do you know how to change it back?
    I don’t want to buy a program for it. Is there a program for free? I don’t want evaluation/trials.
    Oh & I’m using Vista.

  37. me says:

    In case anyone missed the instructions Joseph posted to allow Windows to open .zip files again, here it is (this works in Vista and likely XP):

    1. Open any folder or drive window that displays the menu*.
    *you may need to press alt to see the menu
    2. Click on tools and select “folder options”
    3. Click the “View” tab and select “Show hidden files and folders”
    4. Click “OK” to close the window
    5. Right-click a .zip file, click “open with” and select “Choose Default Program…”
    6. Check the box that says “Always use the selected program to open this kind of file.”
    7. Click on the “browse” button and on the left are labeled “Favorite places”, click on “computer”
    8. Choose the HD that the Windows folder you are running. For most people it will be the C: Drive.
    9. In Vista, you have asearch box on the top right. Once you enter “explorer.exe” it will locate any files with that name. If it shows more than one, you want to pick the once inside your “Windows” folder. For those who want to be 100% sure, just open the “Windows” folder, locate the file and click “OK”.
    10. Doing this will open the .zip file you selected in a new window.
    11. In my PC, the icon displays as a document with a blue computer icon in it. Also, when I right click a .zip file, I do not get the extract menu, so I have to double-click the file to see and access its contents. In my situation, I always could make a new .zip file by highlighting an item(s), right-clicking, selecting “send to” and clicking “Compressed (zipped) Folder”.

    I really want to thank Joseph for posting this because it helped me out as well!

    Also, I have also used 7-zip. It is a good alternative and the link to the installers is: http://www.7-zip.org/download.html

    I usually download and install the first link on the page, but the others may be useful for other/advanced users

    Hope this helps and have a Happy 2010!

  38. Natalie says:


    I’ve tried following all of the above, but I’m unable to zip or unzip any folders. When I try to zip them the icon appears as a sheet of paper not the zipped folder and when I try to extract ones I have been sent, there’s no extract option but there’s also no ‘open with’ option…only open. I have an assignment due in this week and can’t get the comments I’ve been sent or zip my file up to submit it.

    Thanks for any help :)

    • Kevin says:

      Hi Natalie.

      When going through Joseph’s instructions above, make sure that the .zip file you selected to right click on is located somewhere other than being attached to an email. If you right click on a zip file attached to an email, the menu will not give you the option of “open with”. If you drag that file onto your desktop and right click on it, the “open with” option should be there. Once you’ve gone through the remaining steps, then you can open zip files straight from your inbox.

      • George Catlin says:

        I have Vista and can not get “Open with…” to show up even after dragging the file to the desktop. However I found that if I right click and drag the zip file a little bit and drop it in the same folder a new set of choices opens up. It includes “Extract”. Click that and it works.

        I sure dislike those zip programs that mess with Windows.

  39. Krystal says:

    So if I have to change my compressing setting I do the same thing…and even if it does not have a folder with a zipper it is still compressed…how do I know that my instructor can open it.

  40. Llana says:

    Thanks! The instructions are very clear.

  41. C.J. says:

    I am still having problems unzipping. I know I’ve done it before, but can’t remember how. I followed Joseph’s instructions but couldn’t find explorer.exe ANYWHERE. I’m about at my wit’s end here.

  42. Mindy says:

    I keep trying to unzip an compressed file and when I right click to “extract all” is keeps telling me that I already have a file with that name. I have searched my compy files and cannot find another file with that name. Seriously, its getting pretty frustrating!

  43. Shymere` says:

    Hello :)

    Can anyone help me?

    I just downloaded a mixtape from datpiff.com. Its saved on my computer but when I go to play it I cant. Says some to the nature of what just about everyone has here. I’ve tried the instructions above but none of them help. Im using windows vista with windows media player 11 (I do believe). Is there any other solution I can use?

    If you need any other information in order to help me out….Plz let me know :)

    Thanks in Advance

  44. Taylor says:

    OKAY here is the problem that I am having. I am an experienced computer user. I am 16 years old, but I have more knowledge on computers then any other teen Ive met, and most adults. Now I understand how to open my .zip files, I use different programs, and it always worked before. But down I cant open them anymore. I get an error message stating that it is invalid. I have tried reinstalling, microsoft help rooms, google searching, opening with WINRAR, opening by right clicking and selecting extract, but the file acts as if it didnt exist. Like the folder is there on my desktop as well as its contents when opened in WINRAR but they are all invalid? surely there is a fix and most likely because of some other install i ran but I cant think of anything?

  45. Uju says:

    Thanks for the information, I used to double click on the files to open zipped files but I was not aware of the compressed option so I installed winzip software in order to zip my files .

    I have removed the winzip software but can no longer open a zipped folder by double clicking on it. I get messages that winzip.chm cannot be found in the winzip folder.

    Please how do I resolve this?

    • Uju says:

      I have resolved the problem. I searched my computer and found the program was still there. I removed the program and rebooted my computer. I can now open a zipped folder by double clicking on it.

  46. siya says:

    thanks for your quick help,i happy to recived what i need from u checkd out SURFURES its helpfull in short way

  47. Carlos says:

    In Windows 7, found that if you right click file received > save as (say to my documents) > click file where you saved it and see individual files now displayed to the right > double click individual files and they seem to open in photo viewer (in my case)

  48. Roy says:

    i’m having trouble with my computer ever since i installed “stuffit” on it through another piece of software. it seems the program zipped the computer’s linkages to things like the internet, and our printer. it also zipped up several game and program files. otherwise, the computer still works for things like playing videos and a couple games. would we be able to fix this?

  49. zeer says:

    why the windows operating system cant open when i compress the c part using the windows tools

  50. 0901 says:

    please help me…my zip file has been changed to adobe program, how can i get back my zip file?please…

  51. if any of your files or folders you want to zip are open in another program then this error will come.

    close all programs using anything in the folder you want to zip and then try.

  52. Ed says:

    I downloaded some music from datpiff.com and it’s on my computer as a zip file, however when I right click to try opening it, I don’t get the option to extract files. I’m also using Vista. Can someone please help me? Thanks

  53. Rohit Singh says:

    Right Click on Win-zipped folder and go with option “open with” then select “Windows Explorer” and can extract all the documents which are zipped.

  54. helen says:

    Joseph, you rule :)

  55. ProfPikachu says:

    Ahem! My Windows Vista laptop doesn’t have the ‘Send to Compressed File’ option when I go to ‘Send To…’ thing. Why?

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