How to create a ZIP file in Windows (with built-in tools)

The ZIP files have been around since 1989, and for about 10 years you had to install a third party app in your Windows to work with files that have the ".zip": extension. Starting with 1998, Windows has included the ability to create and use zipped folders and files, as a standard feature. When you need to combine several files and folders for easy and economical transfer and storage, the ZIP files are the go-to solution. They are easy to use and available in every Windows system. The Windows functionality that allows you to archive files is called a "compressed (zipped) folder". Let's find out how to create a ZIP file in Windows:

NOTE: This guide covers Windows 10, Windows 7, and Windows 8.1. If you do not know the version of Windows that you have, read this tutorial: What version of Windows do I have installed?.

What is a ZIP file?

A ZIP file is an archive that contains one more file files and folders. The concept of archiving files by combining them into a single one and compressing the space used in the process was born in the early years of the internet when people were uploading or downloading files using dial-up connections. Reducing the space used by a file on your computer was a big deal, resulting in many minutes saved in transferring files over slow dial-up internet connections. The ZIP file and the high-performance compression that it enabled, received widespread support because its specifications were made public so that anyone could create apps to work with this file archiving standard.

The icon used for ZIP files in Windows

Microsoft introduced support for the ZIP format in Windows in 1998. It is named "compressed (zipped) folder," and it does make sense to treat a ZIP file as a folder because it behaves like one. You can copy it, move it or delete it, but you can also add or delete files from it.

Although the volumes of data that can be transferred over the internet have increased exponentially over the years, the compression remains a valid topic of interest because the data we share has increased just as much. Thankfully, the compression techniques are now part of most standard formats for image and video files. For example, if you try to compress (ZIP) a JPEG image file, the result is just as large because JPEG already compresses the data.

The archiving of files and folders for transfer purposes remains a valid motivation for using the ZIP format. If you download several files from Microsoft OneDrive or several pictures from Google Photos, they are grouped and downloaded in a single ZIP file. When you email someone, it is much easier for the sender and for the receiver to handle a single ZIP attachment to the message. And the examples go on and on. Let's stop here with the background information and see how to create ZIP file archives in Windows:

How to create a ZIP file (compressed folder) in Windows

The Compressed (zipped) folder functionality in Windows is available through the File Explorer in Windows 10 and Windows 8.1 and Windows Explorer in Windows 7.

The first step is to locate the file(s) or folder(s) that you wish to compress. Open File Explorer/Windows Explorer, select the file(s) and right-click or tap and hold. In the context menu that appears, click or tap "Send to" and then on "Compressed (zipped) folder."

Send files and folders to a compressed (zipped) folder in Windows

Windows creates the new compressed folder (or ZIP file) using as a name suggestion the file that you have right-clicked. The name is ready to be edited and the file extension is ".zip." Type over any name you want or, if you are happy with the name suggested by Windows, press Enter.

Choose the name of the compressed folder

In our example, we type over the name "Example of compressed folder." Please note that the icon associated with the new folder contains a zipper to signal that it is a compressed folder.

Displaying a compressed folder in File Explorer

The compressed folder is ready to be used. For example, you can attach it to an email or upload it to a cloud service like OneDrive, Dropbox, or Google Drive.

How to add more files to a ZIP archive (compressed folder) in Windows

In case you have missed one or more files in the first step, and you want to add them to the ZIP file (compressed folder), you can do this by dragging and dropping the additional files on it.

Drag and drop new files on top of a ZIP archive, in Windows

For more complex ways to copy or move files using the clipboard, read 5 ways to Cut, Copy and Paste in Windows.

NOTE: There is one notable difference in handling the drag and drop of files into compressed folders. While for a regular folder, the drag and drop results by default in a move command when done inside the same partition, the drag and drop into a compressed folder, results in a copy command. Windows looks at the compressed folders as archives where you create copies of the current files, rather than an alternative location for the same file. You can force the move to the compressed folder with the usual pressing of the SHIFT key while you drag and drop the files.

Why do you want to ZIP your file or files?

The largest files we handle are images or videos that are usually compressed when created. We still like to combine several files and folders, especially when we share them or store them for a longer time. Before closing this tutorial, tell us what is your reason to ZIP files? Comment below, and let's discuss.