How to unzip files on Windows (with built-in tools)

If you work with ZIP file archives, it’s useful to know how to unzip files on Windows 10 and Windows 11. The good news is that both operating systems support ZIP files by default, so you don’t need third-party apps to extract them on your PC. Whether it’s work documents from a colleague or old emails you archived for safekeeping, all it takes are a few clicks or taps to access what you need. Read this guide to find out how to unzip files on Windows 10 and Windows 11 using the tools built into both operating systems:

TIP: This tutorial explains how to unzip a file on Windows 11 and Windows 10 and extract its contents. To learn more about ZIP files, read our guide on how to create a ZIP file on Windows. The steps in this guide only work for ZIP files, not for other archives like RAR or 7z. For those file types, we recommend installing 7-Zip and using it to extract what you need.

Before you unzip a file, see what’s inside

If you’re working with a large ZIP file that holds a significant number of files, or if you want to check whether you got the right archive, it’s easy to see its contents. Find the compressed file you need and double-click or double-tap it to open the folder and check out the files inside.

A ZIP folder in Windows 11

While you can freely open any file inside, you can’t save any changes you make to it unless you unzip the file first. Continue reading to learn how to unzip a file on Windows 10 and Windows 11.

How to unzip files on Windows

If you want to extract all the files and folders from a ZIP file, the process is simple in both Windows 11 and Windows 10. First, open File Explorer to find the ZIP file, right-click or press-and-hold on it, and in the subsequent contextual menu, click or tap on Extract All.

How to unzip files on Windows from their context menu

You can also select or open the ZIP file (as shown in the previous chapter) and use the tools File Explorer offers in its top menu. In Windows 11, click or tap on the Extract all button. If you can’t see it at the top of the window, first access the See more (...) menu.

How to unzip files on Windows 11 with the Extract all button

In Windows 10, you can find the Extract all button in File Explorer’s “Compressed Folder Tools” tab after selecting or opening the ZIP file.

How to unzip files on Windows 10 with the Extract all button

Regardless of the option you used and your operating system, Windows opens the “Extract Compressed (Zipped) Folders” window. Next, confirm or change the destination for the extracted files and folders in the “Files will be extracted to this folder” field - you can also use the Browse button. For immediate access to the ZIP’s contents, check the “Show extracted files when complete” box. When you’re done, click or tap on the Extract button at the bottom.

Extract Compressed (Zipped) Folders in Windows

In case the destination folder you specified does not exist, Windows creates it for you. If you checked the box discussed during the previous step, File Explorer opens the destination folder in a new window, where you can see and use the extracted files.

Windows can show the extracted files in a new File Explorer window

How to extract one or more files from a ZIP archive in Windows

Sometimes, you don’t need the entire content of a ZIP file and prefer extracting one or more files instead. To begin, open the ZIP file, as shown in the first chapter of this guide, browse through it, and select the file(s) and/or folder(s) you want to extract. Next, copy/cut and paste the selected file(s) to another location. For instance, you can drag and drop a file to another folder, as seen below.

How to unzip a file on Windows

That’s it! The file is extracted, and you are free to use it.

How do you unzip a file in Windows 10 or Windows 11?

Although there are plenty of alternative third-party apps to manage ZIP files, the built-in Windows tools are readily available and easy to use. Did you manage to unzip your file(s) using the default options? Did you extract everything or only what you need? Which option to unzip files did you use? Let us know in the comments below.

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