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

Are you wondering how to zip a file in Windows 10 or Windows 11? While ZIP files have been around since 1989, you had to install a third-party app in Windows to work with files that have the “.zip” extension for the first ten years. However, starting with 1998, Windows included the ability to create a ZIP file as a standard feature. If you want to transfer files or save disk space, ZIP files are the go-to solution because they’re easy to use and available in every Windows system. Let’s find out how to create a ZIP file on Windows 10 and Windows 11:

What is a ZIP file?

A ZIP file is an archive used to compress one or more files and folders to make them more manageable and save storage space. The concept of archiving files by combining them into a single one (which usually takes up less space) was born in the early years of the internet, when PC hard drives were but a fraction of what you get on today’s low-end smartphones and transferring a file was done using dial-up connections, after listening to their oh-so-soothing soundtrack. When you zip a file, you can sometimes reduce its size by a significant amount, which, at the time, was a big deal, saving precious time when transferring files over slow dial-up internet connections. The ZIP file (and the high-performance compression that came with it) also received widespread support because its public specifications allowed anyone to create apps that worked with this file archiving standard.

A ZIP file in Windows 11

Microsoft introduced support for the ZIP format in Windows in 1998. It was initially named “Compressed (zipped) folder” - a name still used in Windows 10 and the old right-click menu from Windows 11. And it does make sense to treat a ZIP file as a folder because it behaves like one: you can copy, move, or delete it, but you can also add or remove files from it.

Although the volumes of data one can transfer on the internet have increased exponentially over the years, compression remains a valid topic because we need to share more and more information. Thankfully, compression techniques are now part of most standard image and video file formats. For example, if you zip a JPEG image file, the result is just as large because JPEG already compresses the image data. On the other hand, when we turned a PDF into a ZIP file, the archive was about 12% smaller than the original document, and an ICO file was reduced to just 5% of its original size when compressed! We could go on, but it’s best to test for yourself to figure out which of your files are worth zipping.

The archiving of files and folders to transfer them or simply conserve space on your hard drive remains a valid reason 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 transfer files over email, it is much easier for both the sender and the receiving party to handle a single ZIP archive that one can attach to the message like any other file. Furthermore, zipping files is a great idea when it comes to your collection of photos, videos, and games: compress any files you don’t open too often to free up storage space without deleting anything.

Now that we covered the basics, let’s see how to create a ZIP file on Windows 10 and Windows 11.

How to zip a file in Windows 10 and Windows 11

To figure out how to zip a folder or a file in Windows as fast as possible, look no further than its right-click menu. To begin, open File Explorer and locate the file or folder you want to archive. Next, right-click or press-and-hold on it to open its contextual menu. In Windows 11’s right-click menu, click or tap on the “Compress to ZIP file” option, as seen below.

How to make a ZIP file in Windows 11 from the contextual menu

If you’re using Windows 10, access Send to in the contextual menu and then click or tap on “Compressed (zipped) folder.

How to zip a file in Windows 10 using the right-click menu

Alternatively, for this first step, you can also select the file and use the tools offered in File Explorer to archive it.

In Windows 11, access the See more (...) menu and click or tap on “Compress to ZIP file.

How to create a ZIP file in Windows 11 with File Explorer

The Zip option in Windows 10 can be found in File Explorer’s Share tab.

How to create a ZIP file on Windows 10 using File Explorer

Regardless of your operating system or the method you used, Windows immediately creates the new ZIP folder. By default, the suggested name is the one of the original file, but you can type another one instead. When you are happy with the result, press the Enter key or click/tap anywhere on your screen.

Choose a name for your ZIP file or go with the default one

As you can see in the image above, the new archive uses a zipped folder as its icon and has the ZIP extension.

TIP: Did you know you can also create a password-protected ZIP file in Windows?

How to create a ZIP file with multiple documents in Windows 10 and Windows 11

If you want to make a ZIP file that contains more than one item, there are two methods. To create it from scratch, select multiple files and/or folders and follow the instructions in the previous chapter.

However, if you already have your archive and it’s just missing a couple of files, you can just copy and paste them into the ZIP folder. An easy way to do this is by dragging and dropping them onto the archive, as seen below.

Add more files to a ZIP archive

After you drop them onto the archive, the items are added to the existing ZIP file.

TIP: Now that you know how to zip files, you might be interested to find out more about unzipping them in Windows.

Why do you want to zip files?

Whether you want to share them or store them for a long time, zipping files helps you considerably reduce their size, while also keeping things organized. We use ZIP files mostly when it comes to file transfers, but they can also come in handy if you need to free up space on your hard drive. Before you close this guide, we’re curious to know your reasons for learning how to make a ZIP file. Tell us your story in the comments section.

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