How to ZIP a File on Mac: Guides for Beginners and PROs

How to zip files on Mac

Wondering how to create a ZIP file on Mac? You’ll be surprised how easy it is, even with pre-installed macOS utilities. There are plenty of options, too, including password protection and other security measures.

But we can also offer advanced third-party options if that’s what you’re looking for. Apps can provide features similar to Finder and Archive Utility, with some added bonuses. Let’s begin with our guide on how to zip a file on Mac.

Using ZIP File on Mac

The ZIP archive is a file type that can contain multiple files or folders, which is usually smaller in size than the contained files would be otherwise. Packaging files in ZIPs reduces their size by up to 50%. The downside, of course, is that packing and unpacking files takes time and requires an archive utility for Mac. On the bright side, ZIP is lossless. And, for smaller archives, zipping and unzipping times are negligible.

ZIP file on Mac

Method 1. Zip Files in Mac Finder

Unsurprisingly, Apple provides a way to handle ZIP archives, which is included by default in macOS Finder, and it permits both Mac unzipping and zipping. Creating a ZIP file in Finder requires you to do the following:

Zip files in Mac Finder

Step 1: Select one or multiple files or folders.

Step 2: Control-click the selected files to open a context menu.

Step 3: Select “Compress” from the menu.

Step 4: The .zip will be created immediately. No options are presented.

The unzipping procedure is even simpler – double-click a ZIP file, and it will be extracted to the same directory. Overall, Finder is great for quick zipping and unzipping, but it provides no configurable settings. It’s an especially apparent downside if you’re looking to secure the files in the package.

Method 2. Open Archive Utility for More Options

Archive Utility can be opened separately from Finder to get more control over the zipping process. It’s one of the possible ways to compress files Mac users will find. It can run the same operations, creating or expanding (unzipping) archives, but the main difference lies in the Preferences, where several settings can be specified.

Archive Utility

For instance, unzipped packages can be automatically erased. Do the following to zip some files or folders in Archive Utility:

Step 1: Make sure that the output format is “zip archive” in Preferences.

Step 2: Click “File > Create Archive”.

Step 3: Highlight the files you want to compress.

Step 4: Confirm your choice.

It’s worth noting that Archive Utility can create “compressed archive” and “regular archive” files, which are only compatible with macOS. These formats are not recommended for file sharing, since a Windows user may find them hard to extract.

Method 3. Adding Security Options via Mac Terminal

Using a simple Terminal command will allow you to add encryption to your archive; although, if you aren’t experienced with macOS or Linux Terminals (which are similar), it can be tricky.

Mac Terminal

Step 1: Get all the needed files into a single folder, and name it something simple (like “Test”). Avoid spaces. Put it in Downloads.

Step 2: Open the Terminal (found in Applications > Utilities).

Step 3: Navigate to the right folder by using the “ls” and “cd” commands. In this case, you’ll just have to enter “cd Downloads” and press Enter.

Step 4: Use the command:zip -e Test

Step 5: Type in the password (it will be invisible) and confirm, once again, by using Enter.

You’ll get a password-protected Mac ZIP file. You don’t need to use a Terminal emulator for Mac to access it – Finder will open a password prompt when extracting.

Method 4. Use Third-Party Apps to Create ZIP Files on Mac

As you may have noticed, the standard archiving utilities provided on Mac are quite limited. They don’t allow you to configure the compression quality, they can only work with a limited amount of formats, and additional security requires you to mess around in the Terminal. That’s where other apps come into play. Our example, in this case, is Commander One.

While it’s not primarily a Mac archive utility, it knows how to zip a file on Mac with password protection, among other things. For instance, you can modify compression speed, which affects the size reduction ratio – slower is better, but sometimes, speed is preferable. And, most importantly, you get access to different archive types – RAR, TGZ, and 7zip. This is how you use the archivation feature:

Commander One

Step 1: Launch Commander One.

Step 2: Highlight the files that need to be archived.

Step 3: Press Ctrl+Alt+F5.

Step 4: Change the settings, if necessary.

Step 5: Press “OK”. The archive will appear in the same folder.

Commander One has an advantage over most zipping apps – it’s also a file manager, so all your archival operations are fully integrated into the file browsing process, and can be done on the go.


On macOS, both default and downloadable options are great, so it should be easy for you to learn how to make a ZIP file on Mac. ZIP is also one of the best and most universal archive formats, so you’ll be able to share the resulting files across most systems. Attach .zips to emails, send them through messengers, etc. – it’s your call.


It’s likely that you’re trying to compress a read-only file. Try changing its Read & Write permissions from File > Get Info > Sharing & Permissions.

Ctrl-click the file and choose “Compress”. Keep in mind – you’ll be cutting its size in half, at most. You may be unable to email larger files.

The zipping algorithm is fixed – the reduction you get is usually the same (maxing out at 50%). Even repeated zipping usually doesn’t help.

Double-click it in Finder, and nothing more needs to be done. You’ll get the extracted folder placed in the same directory.

You can zip files directly in Finder or use a third party application like Commander One.

Control-click or right-click on the file you want to zip. Then click “Compress” from the drop-down menu. The selected file will be automatically compressed.

Olga Weis
I am an internationally certified Freelance Technical Author/Embedded System Developer. I briefly studied computer science before starting a career in freelance software development. My expertise extends into Mac and iOS app development. Having worked extensively with iOS technologies, I’ve contributed… Full Bio