How to Unzip Files on Mac

What is a ZIP file?

A ZIP file is a single file that holds one or more compressed files or folders. It provides a way to compress large files, encrypt files, split archives, and keep related files together for storage or transportation. Think of the way a Mac folder works. You drag and drop documents and files into a folder to keep your Mac's desktop uncluttered.

ZIP files work the same way. But the files inside the ZIP file are compressed to save space. It also makes it easy to send or share content online. You can't send a folder via email. If the Mac folder contains 10 files, you'll have to email 10 individual files, which is daunting. ZIP files come in handy as they allow you to ZIP up all the 10 files into one ZIP group and share it with another person. And since ZIP files are compressed, your total file size will be smaller and will take less time to upload, and the recipient will also be able to download it more quickly.

Are ZIP files dangerous?

ZIP file bundles multiple files into a single container file and also compresses them. These two features make the ZIP file format one of the most common ways people share files and collections of files online. Unfortunately, cybercriminals also use ZIP files to advance their course. Usually, ZIP files don't display their content. Unless a Mac user uses third-party software, they cannot tell what's inside the zipped folder without opening the file. So, ZIP files aren't dangerous. But they can potentially be - when cybercriminals use them to infiltrate Mac systems.

The ability to conceal content is what makes ZIP files a hacker's best friend. As much as a Mac has a built-in defense mechanism, attackers use ZIP archives to surpass the defense, infect the computer and collect information about the system. Spammers also use ZIP files as phishing bait, where they camouflage themselves as a bank, business partner, friend, or employer, and instruct the recipient to take specific action.

How to unzip a file on Mac

There are three ways to unzip files on Mac: you can double-click on the zipped file, right-click and click open with Archive Utility or use third-party software. Let's look at these ways closely:

Double click the zipped file

  1. Double-click on the zipped file to unzip any zipped file on your Mac.
  2. This will prompt the Archive Utility tool to unzip the files in the same folder the zipped file is in.
  3. Click appropriate icons to access the extracted files.

Right-click the zipped file and open it with Archive Utility

  1. Alternatively, you can right-click on the zipped folder.
  2. Select Open to unzip your file if Archive Utility is set as your default.
  3. If it's not, right-click and click Open With, and choose Archive Utility.
  4. Click appropriate icons to access the extracted files.

Use third party software

Some file formats, like Roshal Archive (RAR), need software to unzip and turn them into a folder. So, if you want to unzip such files on Mac, you'll need to get good software to help you with this. Parallels does a great job of decompressing different formats like Tar, 7z, and RAR. With such software, you can change the default extraction destination, create a new folder for extract files, and automatically open the folders once the extraction is done. So how do you unzip a file on Mac using software like Parallels?

  1. Download the software.
  2. The program will prompt you to the files you want to open.
  3. Select the RAR or 7z file you want the program to open.
  4. Click the Extraction button to specify how you want the program to manage the folder.
  5. Right-click on the file and choose Open with and Parallels. Choose the destination for your file folder.
  6. Click the extract button.

What does it mean to extract files?

Extract is the same thing as unzip and means to restore original files from a compressed archive to an alternate location. You'll need to unzip or extract files first before you can work with them.