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How to unzip files on Mac [Checked Methods]

How to unzip files on Mac [Checked Methods]

Have you ever faced a situation where you needed to unzip files on your Mac, maybe even large files, and weren’t quite sure how to do it efficiently? Managing compressed files such as ZIP, RAR, or TAR archives is a common necessity for both personal and professional tasks. Fortunately, macOS provides several tools to help with this, ranging from built-in utilities to third-party applications. In this how-to article, I’ll share the methods I’ve personally found effective for unzipping files on Mac, including the use of Mac Terminal and the Commander One app, ensuring a smooth process whatever the size of your archives. Let’s begin by exploring different scenarios where you might need to unzip files.


Common Scenarios:

💾 Common Archiving Needs

  • Downloading multiple files from the internet which are often compressed to save bandwidth.
  • Receiving email attachments from colleagues, which could be ZIP or RAR files to ensure all documents are bundled together.
  • Sending a batch of files where you need to compress them first before sharing.

🚀 Speeding Up the Workflow

  • Developers needing to extract libraries or source code packed in compressed files.
  • Graphic designers who download resources such as fonts, templates, or stock photos that come in archives.
  • Backing up data where zipped files can significantly reduce the backup’s size, saving disk space.

🗄 Managing Large Files

  • Working with large datasets that are compressed to facilitate easier download and sharing.
  • Video editors and producers dealing with compressed archives containing high-resolution media.
  • Software distribution, where applications and games are often distributed in compressed formats.

Step-by-Step Guide. How To Unzip Large Files On Mac:

Method 1: Built-In Archive Utility 🗜

  • Locate the compressed file in the Finder.
  • Double-click the file to let the built-in macOS Archive Utility automatically extract it.
  • If the file is large, be patient as it might take some time to unzip completely.

Note: The default Archive Utility handles common formats like ZIP, but may not work with RAR or other formats without additional software.

Conclusion: This method is best for quick extractions of common file formats.

Method 2: Mac Terminal 🖥

  • Open the Terminal application from your Utilities folder or by searching for it in Spotlight.
  • Use the cd command to navigate to the directory containing the archive.
  • Type unzip, replacing ‘’ with the name of your actual file, and press Enter.

Note: For large files, the Terminal can be more efficient than the graphical interface, showing progress in the terminal window and allowing for additional options like testing the archive before extraction.Unzip in Terminal

Conclusion: The Terminal is a powerful tool for users comfortable with command-line interfaces.

Method 3: The Unarchiver App 📦

  • Download and install The Unarchiver from the Mac App Store.
  • Once installed, right-click on the archive and choose ‘Open With’ > ‘The Unarchiver’.
  • Configuring The Unarchiver for different file types can be done from its preferences in the app.

Note: The Unarchiver supports a wide range of compressed file formats and integrates seamlessly into the Finder context menu.

Conclusion: Ideal for users needing support for additional archive formats beyond what macOS offers by default.

Method 4: Commander One App 🗂

  • Download Commander One from their official website or the Mac App Store.
  • Install and open Commander One, and navigate to your compressed file using its dual-pane interface.
  • Select the file and choose ‘Extract’ from the toolbar or right-click menu.

Note: Commander One is particularly useful for managing large files due to its advanced file management features, such as built-in viewers for various file types.

Conclusion: An excellent choice for users who manage a large number of files and require a robust file management system.

Useful info: Expand your file management capabilities and upload large files to Amazon S3 via Commander One.

Method 5: Keka App 💨

  • Download Keka from the official website or the Mac App Store.
  • After installing Keka, drag and drop your archive onto the Keka window or icon in the Dock to start extraction.
  • Keka can handle various formats and allows you to adjust settings like extraction location and whether to open the folder after extraction.

Note: Keka supports extraction and creation of many compressed formats and offers a simple drag-and-drop interface.

Conclusion: Keka is a user-friendly option for those who frequently deal with different compression formats.


Precautions and Tips:

🛠 Optimizing Unzipping Performance

  • For large files, ensure that your Mac has adequate free disk space to accommodate the uncompressed data.
  • Keep your macOS updated to the latest version for best compatibility and performance with built-in and third-party utilities.
  • Consider using a dedicated SSD for unzipping and working with large files to speed up the process.

Additional Insights

When working with compressed files, especially large ones, it’s crucial to understand the benefits of various compression algorithms. Tools like gzip and bzip2 use different techniques to reduce file size, which can affect both the compression speed and the final size of the archive. For those who regularly exchange files with Windows users, being familiar with ZIP and RAR formats can help avoid compatibility issues. Additionally, data corruption can sometimes occur with large archives, so it’s wise to verify the integrity of downloaded files before attempting to unzip them.

Mac users seeking to automate their workflow can use Automator or AppleScript to create custom workflows for extracting files. This can be particularly useful for repetitive tasks involving large file sets. Security-conscious users should pay attention to encrypted archives, ensuring that sensitive information is protected when compressing and uncompressing data. Various macOS built-in utilities and third-party apps offer encryption features to maintain the confidentiality of your files.


In summary, unzipping files on Mac, including large files, can be carried out efficiently using a range of methods suited to different needs and preferences. From the convenience of the built-in Archive Utility to the versatility of command-line operations in Terminal, and the power of third-party applications like Commander One, users have ample choice when tackling compression and decompression tasks. Be sure to consider the format of your files, the size of the archives, and your level of comfort with various methods when selecting the right tool for the job. Complete the experience by staying mindful of performance optimization tips, ensuring the utmost efficiency when managing your files. With these insights, you’ll be unzipping files on your Mac like a pro in no time.


The built-in Archive Utility on a Mac can handle the unzipping of large files natively without additional software.

Right-click (or Ctrl-click) on the large zip file and select 'Open With' > 'Archive Utility' to decompress the file.

Use the command 'unzip' in the Terminal to extract the contents of a zip file on a Mac.

There aren't specific size limits, but performance may vary. Extremely large files may require third-party software for efficient unzipping.

Yes, applications like WinZip or iZip are designed to handle large files with enhanced features.

You can decompress multiple archives simultaneously by selecting all the relevant files, right-clicking, and choosing 'Open With' > 'Archive Utility'.

If you encounter errors, try a different extraction tool or check if the file is corrupted. Some files may need repairs before unzipping.

Finder's Quick Look doesn't support previewing zipped files. Third-party software is required for this functionality.

Password-protected zip files can be opened with the Archive Utility by entering the correct password when prompted.

Free up disk space by deleting unnecessary files or move the zip file to an external hard drive before decompressing it.