Windows’ Painful Zip File Extraction

Mar 26, 2007

One "feature" of Windows XP is the built-in support of what Microsoft likes to call "compressed folders." But nothing new was introduced here; the zip file format is all that's being used. When I first learned of this feature, I was fairly excited to see that Microsoft was actually trying to make life easier. No longer would I need a zip tool like WinZip to do my extractions. Instead, I would just use the features in Windows Explorer to do my compressing and uncompressing as needed.

That was an idealistic view if there ever was one, and I'm not too surprised to say that it was grossly mistaken. The zip support offered in Windows XP is utterly horrible. My work place is fairly strict about not having shareware applications installed on our personal workstations, so WinZip isn't an option for me. As a result, I'm relegated to using the native support offered by Windows. What I'd like to know is this: what the heck are they doing when unzipping a file? We package stuff up in zip files all the time around here (since we often have tons of source code files to deal with), and unextracting them through Windows literally takes 5 to 7 minutes. Literally! WinZip could chew through these files in less than 30 seconds (I know, because I've tried it at home). Is the Windows stuff just horribly inefficient? Are they doing more complex file system stuff than WinZip? Whatever it is, it makes file extraction very slow.

I use the Cygwin package all the time at work, and so I occasionally use their command line zip utility. It's way faster than what Windows provides, but it has the occasional problems with file ownership, which is why I use it sparingly. For instance, I've encountered the case where I extracted a zip file using the Cygwin tools, then tried to open a subsequent file for viewing. Windows then tells me that "I don't have the authority to open that file." I'm the freaking administrator of the machine! I should be able to do whatever I want, right?

If anyone has tips on how to improve things in the "compressed folder" world, I'd be glad to hear them.

12:13 PM on Mar 26, 2007
Try 7Zip program. It's free.
1:27 PM on Mar 26, 2007
I really like 7-zip. I have since switched to ALtools though (, and like that even more. Don't know that helps you any, though, if you can't use shareware. I haven't really had too many problems with XP's built-in usage (other than its not really implemented well) but I try to use it sparingly. Still, I've never seen 5-7 minutes. How big are these archives you're going through?
1:53 PM on Mar 26, 2007
One of the packages I unpacked the other day has approximately 4000 files in it, totaling about 470 MB on disk (uncompressed). Compressed, the folder was 108 MB in size.
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