A Zip archive file combines one or more files into a single file. It can contain an unlimited number of files and folders. It also compresses the files making the final zip file size smaller than the sum of the original individual files. Another good thing about zip files are that they can be password protected so that the files inside cannot be opened unless the password is known. For these reasons zip files are great for creating backups of important files. For example a 1GB text file can usually be reduced in size to about 50MB. That's a 95% reduction in size! Not all file types however have the same amount of compression. Some video and picture files for example are usually already compressed so you wont see any reduction in size by compressing them again. Note that Zip is just one type of archive file. Zip archive files are the most common but there are other popular formats such as RAR and 7zip archives.
So how do you create zip files? To create a zip file on Microsoft Windows you can use one of the many apps available for download from the Web. In the example below we will use the free software Zipware which you can download here. Zipware is simple and free software that supports all the major archive formats including zip, RAR and 7zip.
First download Zipware. Click here to download Zipware to your computer
Install Zipware. Double click the file you have downloaded above.
Accept or allow any prompts and click through the installation wizard accepting the defaults. Once installed you will see the Zipware icon on your desktop.
Run Zipware by double clicking the desktop icon. The following window will appear once Zipware has started.
To create a new empty zip file click the New button on the toolbar. The following Window will appear.
You can specify which format the archive will be. There are 3 choices: zip, 7zip or exe. Zip is the default because all archiving software supports this format. 7-zip is also supported by most archiving software but it is not natively supported by Microsoft's Windows Explorer. This means that if you are planning on sending the file to another person they will need to have some archiving software installed on their version of Windows that supports 7-zip. 7-zip generally has better compression than zip (i.e. will create a smaller archive file than zip) but the creation process will take longer. Exe files are self-extracting archive files. This means that the archive file will be able to extract itself without needing archive software installed on Windows. The exe file is actually a 7-zip file with the self-extracting feature built-in. Please note that when you change the format the filename's extension will be automatically changed to match the selected format.
By default the file will be saved in your documents folder with the name Archive-1.zip. To select another directory click Select Destination, then browse to the directory you want and type in your desired filename. Click Save to finish. You do not have to specify the extension. Zipware will automatically determine whether it needs to be ".zip", ".7z" or ".exe" based on the selected format above.
There are 6 levels of compression to choose from. They range from None to Ultra. Ultra gives you the smallest possible archive size while none applies no compression whatsoever which means the final archive size will be exactly the same as the combined sum of the original files inside the archive. Note that the higher the compression level the longer it will take to create the archive. Normal which is the default level of compression provides the best compromise between the time it takes to create the archive and the amount of compression and size reduction you get on the final archive file. In most cases its best to select the Normal level because the amount of time its takes to apply Ultra compression is not worth the saving in disk space you get from the added compression.
Archives can be password protected using AES-256 Encryption. This means that the archive contents cannot be viewed without knowing the password. To encrypt your archive click the Encryption tab, then tick the Encrypt Archive checkbox and type your password twice as shown below. Note that although files inside the archive cannot be opened without a password the actual filenames themselves are still visible. If you want to encrypt or hide the filenames as well then you will need to change the archive format to 7-zip as the zip archive format does not provide this functionality. The Encrypt Filenames(7z) checkbox will only become available if its a 7-zip archive type.
Once the configuration of the archive is complete click OK above to create a new empty archive. Click the Add button on the toolbar to show the built-in file explorer panes as shown in the screenshot below. To add files to the archive simply drag and drop the desired files and folders from the top pane to the bottom pane. You can select multiple files by holding down the CTRL key. You can also drag files into any folder in the archive by dropping it on top of the desired directory. Note that you can click the Options icon on the middle toolbar at any time to change the configuration of the archive before any files are added. Also note that after files are added to the archive you can only change the compression level and the update mode of the files. For more detail regarding the update modes click here
The moment you drop the files into the empty archive Zipware will open a progress window as it compresses the files as shown in the screenshot below. The progress window shows detailed information about the compression progress such as the compression ratio and the current files being processed. Note that compressing files uses a lot of your computer's CPU so it may slow down a bit. You can pause the compression at any time by pressing the pause button. The pause button is useful when you are in the middle of creating an archive but need to temporarily regain the full CPU performance of your computer. Also if you working on other application while Zipware is compressing files the background button allows you to reduce the priority of Zipware so that foreground applications may perform a little better.
There are 4 smaller buttons on the progress Windows that perform the following functions:
Once the compressing completes you should be left with a shiny new zip file as shown below. You can continue to drag and drop as many files and folders to the archive as you like. You can also delete files and folders from the archive by right clicking the item and selecting delete from the pop-up menu. Thats pretty much all there is to creating zip files. If you need any more information please refer to the Zipware documentation located here.