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How To Unzip Files On MacOS

You're excited because your buddy just emailed you a bunch of photos from MacWorld expo of the latest Macbook Pro with it's glitzy features. However, you only receive one darn file with some kind of .zip extension? What gives?

That my friend is an archive file using the zip format! It's a conveninent way to send multiple files and compress them at the same time! Neat, eh?

Below we outline steps involved in opening a zip file on the macOS environment.

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Unzip files with MacOS Finder

The easiest way to unzip a file is to use the built-in uncompress feature that comes stock standard with macOS.

  1. With Finder, locate the zip file which you wish to decompress/unzip.
  2. Double click it.
  3. This will create a folder with the same name as the zip file in the current working directory and extract the content of zip file into it.

How to unzip using WinZip in MacOS

If you don’t want to work with zip files through MacOS built in utility, download WinZip application* and install it.

  1. Open WinZip
  2. Under the "File" menu, select "Open Zip File > From this Mac..." or press Ctrl-O. Open zip file with winzip
  3. Click on unzip button.

    Unzip with winzip
  4. From the dropdown list, choose unzip this zip file to your Mac, iCloud drive, Google Drive or Dropbox.

How to unzip using Unarchiver in MacOS

The Unarchiver is a great tool that supports dozens of archive formats, including some rather obscure ones.

  • Once you have installed the unarchiver, open it to set your preferences. This will only need to be done once.

    The unarchiver options

    The unarchiver extraction preferences

  • To extract archive file with unarchiver, select the file and right click it to activate context menu.
  • Select "Open With > The Unarchiver".

    The unarchiver extraction preferences

Unzip using Command Prompt in MacOS

If you want to unzip like a pro, then command prompt is the way to go!

  1. Open the command prompt with terminal
    • Open Applications folder followed by the Utilities folder. Double click on Terminal.
    • Alternately open spotlight. Press Command+Spacebar and type terminal.
  2. Go to the correct directory where the zip file is located. E.g. If the zip file is located in your Documents folder, enter the following command in the command prompt:
    cd ~/Documents
  3. Now type following command
    unzip zipfile.zip
  4. The contents of the zip file will decompress into your Documents folder.

Additional useful unzip command options

  • Only list the contents of the zip file. No file will be extracted.
    unzip -l zipfile.zip
  • Extract only certain files from the zip archive. E.g. Only file1.txt and file3.txt
    unzip zipfile.zip file1.txt file3.txt
  • Extract every file EXCEPT the ones listed. E.g.: Don't extract file2.txt
    unzip zipfile.zip -x file2.txt
  • The above commands accept wildcards as options too. The * is a wildcard for multiple characters. ? is a wildcard for a single character.
    unzip zipfile.zip "file*.t?"
  • Unzip the files to a different directory
    unzip zipfile.zip -d ./other-directory