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

You may often have to work with ZIP file archives. Co-workers can send you ZIP files via e-mail. OneDrive and Google Photos download several files at once by grouping them in a ZIP file. The examples are numerous. The good news is, once you have your ZIP files downloaded to your Windows computer, you can open them and extract their contents without using third-party apps. Here is how to extract all the files or just one file from ZIP archives, using what Windows has to offer:

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?.

How to extract all files and folders from a ZIP file, in Windows

The tool you need to use to work with ZIP files in Windows is File Explorer in Windows 10 or Windows 8.1 and Windows Explorer in Windows 7. The first task is to locate the ZIP file (or the compressed folder as named by Windows) in File Explorer or Windows Explorer. Right-click or tap and hold on the ZIP file and click or tap "Extract All…" in the context menu.

Extract All from a compressed (zipped) folder in Windows

Windows displays an Extract window where you need to confirm or change the destination for the extracted files and folders. When you finish choosing the destination, click or tap Extract.

Extract from Compressed (Zipped) Folders in Windows

Windows creates a new regular uncompressed folder in the destination you provided, using the name of the ZIP file. If you left the checkbox "Show extracted files when complete" marked, a new window of File Explorer (Windows 10 or Windows 8.1) or Windows Explorer (Windows 7) opens showing what was extracted from the archive.

Display an extracted folder in Windows

The extracted files and folders are now ready to be used in Windows, as regular files.

How to extract a single file from a ZIP archive, in Windows

You may decide to be selective about the files or folders that you want to extract from a ZIP file (compressed folder). First, locate the ZIP file in File Explorer (Windows 10 or Windows 8.1) or Windows Explorer (Windows 7). Double click or double tap on it, to open the ZIP file and show its content. You can browse through its subfolders until you locate the single file that you want to extract. You can see in the example below in the first window the ZIP file before it was opened with a folder icon with a zipper on it. In the second window, the ZIP file is open and it is displayed just like a folder with its name added in the address bar.

ZIP file in Windows before and after it is opened by File Explorer

Then, open a new File Explorer/Windows Explorer window, and browse to the folder where you want to extract that file. In the compressed folder window, click or tap the file you want to extract and drag and drop it to its destination.

Drag and drop an item from a ZIP file in Windows

That's it! The file is extracted and ready to be used. If you want to learn about using the clipboard commands to extract the files, read 5 ways to Cut, Copy and Paste in Windows keeping in mind that Windows treats the ZIP file as a folder.

NOTE: If you want to create ZIP files in Windows, read: How to create a ZIP file in Windows (with built-in tools).

Did you manage to unzip files in Windows?

Although there are alternative tools that manage ZIP files, the native features in Windows are competent and easy to use. Did you manage to unzip the files using the tools built into Windows? Let us know in a comment below, and let's discuss.

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