How to make a zip file on a Mac

Erika Rawes
·4-min read

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 recreated (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.

MacOS Compress Single File
MacOS Compress Single File

As shown below, a new zip file appears in the same folder, while the original file remains.

MacOS New Zip File
MacOS New Zip File

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 pressing the mouse button to select specific files.

Step 2: Right-click or press Control + Tap and select Compress on the pop-up menu.

MacOS Compress Multiple Files
MacOS Compress Multiple Files

A new, single archive will appear in the folder. As before, the original files remain intact.

Step 3: To rename the default 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.

Rename Archive
Rename 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.

Mac Open Zip Files Third Party
Mac Open Zip Files Third Party

MacOS will automatically create a new folder containing the decompressed files in the same location as the zip file.

Is compression not working?

Fix Archive Permissions
Fix Archive Permissions

If you can’t successfully compress files, your file permissions could be the problem. Here’s a possible fix:

Step 1: Right-click or Control + Tap on the file in question and select Get Info on the pop-up menu.

Step 2: Select the arrow next to Sharing & Permissions to expand this option, as shown above.

Step 3: Ensure that your specific account is logged on as an administrator and that your permissions are Read & Write or Read Only. With any other setting, you may not be able to compress the file.

If you’re not signed in as an administrator, click the Lock icon and log in with administrator information. After that, change the permissions to Read & Write or Read Only and try to compress the file again.

Sending compressed files to iOS/iPadOS

iPadOS Unzip Archive
iPadOS Unzip Archive

Swapping files between your macOS and iOS devices is a task, but it’s something that many people need to know how to do. It requires a few additional steps, but it’s not that hard.

There are a couple of simple steps to follow to uncompress the files on your phone or tablet.

Step 1: Locate the file in the Files app.

Step 2: Long-press the file and click the Uncompress button. This will uncompress the file, and you’re good to go.