Creating zip files on a Mac might seem daunting at first, but you have a few options — and plenty of MacOS and iOS tools — at your disposal. While you may have experience creating a zip file on a Windows-based computer, the process is slightly different on a Mac.
Thanks to this guide, you’ll become a pro at zipping and unzipping files between your Mac, iPad, and iPhone in no time. If you want to secure your zip files with a password, we have a guide for that too.
What is a zip file?
Sending big files can take a long time. Zip files are a way to compress your data to make it more compact and quicker to transfer. Compression can temporarily remove redundancies in the files, which can then be re-created (lossless). Compression can also permanently remove unnecessary bits, albeit at the cost of a perfect replica (lossy). Another popular form of compressed, or archived, data is RAR.
When you download a compressed file, you will need to extract the contents — or “unzip” them — in order to access them.
How to create a zip file on a Mac
Creating a zip file on a Mac is quick and easy, as MacOS includes a built-in tool called Archive Utility for compressing and unzipping files. You don’t need a third-party utility.
Zip a single file
Right-click or press Control + Tap on a file you want to compress and select Compress [File Name] on the pop-up menu.
As shown below, a new zip file appears in the same folder, while the original file remains.
Zip multiple files
Step 1: Hold down the mouse button or trackpad to draw a box around all the files you want to compress. Alternatively, press the Command button while tapping the trackpad or while clicking the mouse button to select specific files.
Step 2: Right-click or press Control + Tap and select Compress on the pop-up menu.
A new, single archive will appear in the folder. As before, the original files remain intact.
Step 3: To rename the default Archive.zip file name, simply right-click or press Control + Tap on the archive and select Rename. This is useful if you need to create multiple zip files or to make it easier for the recipient to know what’s in the archive.
How to unzip a file
Unzipping a zip file is about as easy as creating one. Simply double-click on the file, and it automatically unzips.
Alternatively, right-click or press Control + Tap on a zip file, hover over Open With on the pop-up menu, and then choose Archive Utility. You can also choose to use a third-party unzipping program, like The Unarchiver, if it’s not set as the default tool.
MacOS will automatically create a new folder containing the decompressed files in the same location as the zip file.
Is compression not working?
If you’re unable to compress files, you might need to adjust your file permissions. Try this solution:
Step 1: Right-click or select Control + Tap on the file you want, and choose Get Info from the resulting menu.
Step 2: Click the arrow beside Sharing & Permissions to open this choice, as displayed above.
Step 3: Check that your specific account is set as an administrator and that your permissions are Read & Write or Read Only. Any other settings may prevent you from compressing the file.
If you’re not an administrator, click the Lock button and log in with administrator credentials. Then, switch your permissions to Read & Write or Read Only and try compressing the file once more.
Sending compressed files to iOS/iPadOS
Swapping files between macOS and iOS devices is tricky but unavoidable. You’ll need to complete a few more steps to uncompress the files on your cellphone or tablet.
Step 1: Click the Files application and locate the file in question.
Step 2: Click and hold the file and choose Uncompress. You’re all done.