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What is a ZIP File Extractor?

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  • Written By: G. Wiesen
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 07 December 2016
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A ZIP file extractor is a type of software program that allows a user to “unzip” files that have been compressed using a similar type of program into ZIP files. ZIP files maintain the integrity and quality of an original file or files, but are compressed to allow easier transportation of the files on storage devices or across the Internet. Users typically need to use a ZIP file extractor to convert the ZIP file back into the original file or files, which can then be accessed, used, modified, and saved without the need for further extraction.

One of the greatest assets of information stored digitally is how easy it can be to transport or share that information with other people. Whether this information takes the form of text documents, pictures, or video clips, the capacity for dissemination of knowledge among large groups of people is one of the hallmarks of the digital and information age. Some files, however, can be quite large and make easy transportation and sending of the information somewhat more complex. In order to better enable the transmission of large files or many files at once, software developers have created programs that allow for the easy compression and decompression of files into a smaller single file.

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A ZIP file extractor is one of these types of programs, and will sometimes compress other files into a ZIP file as well. ZIP file extractors are available from numerous software companies and may be purchasable programs full of features allowing for a user to better manage his or her information. A ZIP file extractor can also be a shareware program with reduced effectiveness or even a freeware program with downloads available at a number of different websites.

More elaborate ZIP file programs, those that usually require purchase, allow a user to compress larger files, or multiple files, into a ZIP file. This ZIP file can then be stored on portable devices that might otherwise not have been large enough for the original file or sent through the Internet. Dozens or hundreds of files can also be compressed into a single ZIP file to make them easier to transfer as a single file, rather than ensuring each individual file was transported properly.

Most programs that can zip a file can usually also serve as a ZIP file extractor. For some users, however, the need exists only for the ability to access and decompress other people’s zipped files, and simpler standalone ZIP file extractors are usually sufficient. This functionality has even been built into some operating systems (OS) for certain file types.

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