Why can’t I unzip files in Vista?

September 12, 2007 at 9:29 am 48 comments

In Windows XP, you can unzip files by double-clicking on it or by right-clicking on it and using the context menu. When I tried this on Vista, the menu was not visible? Did Microsoft remove that feature?

Apparently, I installed ZipGenuis 6 recently but uninstalled it quickly after it had difficulty with some self-extracting archives. When the program uninstall, it did not restore the default association for Zip files. As a result, I can no longer unzip files!

In most cases, you can restore associations by selecting open and the picking the program you want to associate with that file type. Unfortunately for you, the Windows zip file is not a program, but a shell extension. If you type in a command line:

ftype | more

You will see an entry for CompressFolder and it calls a shell extension dll.

To restore the functionality, you need to do the following:

  1. Select the Start Menu, select Start->Accessories. Right click on the Command Prompt and select Run As Admin. You need to be admin to change the association. You will be prompted to enter your admin password. Enter it and press return.
  2. In the command line window, type in the following command

assoc .zip=CompressedFolder

Now when you right-click on a zip file, you should see the familar extract menu again.


Entry filed under: Vista, Windows.

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48 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Scott Munroe  |  February 6, 2008 at 3:39 am

    Thanks loads for the help you gave on this page with the question “Why can’t I unzip files in Vista.” It worked magnificently.

  • 2. ken k  |  February 29, 2008 at 1:30 pm

    I accidentally associated zip files with my paint program using the “open with” command.

    I’ve tried the fix you recommend but the file is still associated with my paint program.

    How do I re-assign these files to be opened with Vista?

  • 3. Wayne  |  May 4, 2008 at 10:27 am

    Thank you so much for your assistance on this. It works perfectly!!!!!!!! I searched Microsoft, Vista, and several OEM sites before I came across your site.

    Wished I had forund it sooner. But, better later than never.

    Again, many thanks.

  • 4. Bob  |  July 21, 2008 at 6:55 pm

    Thanks! ZipitFree hosed mine as well.

  • 5. Martin  |  July 22, 2008 at 9:14 pm

    Didn’t work for me – it remains associated with a programme that can’t open it (Adobe Reader) and I can find no way to un-associate it with this programme which keeps trying to open it when I click on a zip file.

  • 6. paulsiu  |  July 23, 2008 at 11:26 pm

    Martin, I think this is a totally different problem. The problem describe occur because when the zip program is uninstall, it does not put the OS unzip back. In your case, you probably associated the zip file with adobe reader. To fix the problem, rightclick on the zip file and select open with, then select your zip program (such as 7zip) and check the box “always use selected program…”

  • 7. Swe Brinin  |  August 10, 2008 at 7:00 pm

    Hi i Just tried your solution to the zip problem but it isn’t working. I still cannot unzip compressed folders or even make a compressed folder. This is a big problem for me so does anyone know another solution that will work??

  • 8. Kay C  |  October 12, 2008 at 5:42 am

    Thank you so much for your advice on how to unzip files in Vista! I was facing the prospect of purchasing a popular unzip programme when I found your post.
    Keep up the good work!

  • 9. jess  |  November 4, 2008 at 3:01 am

    I can’t unzip my file either. I have a compressed zip folder but there’s no “extract all “option. I tried your solution but it didn’t work. Can anyone offer any solution? Thanks in advance.

  • 10. Eric  |  November 9, 2008 at 6:29 pm

    Thank you, your fix worked perfectly for a problem that had been causing me much frustration.

  • 11. Kris  |  December 29, 2008 at 12:47 pm

    that worked great, I installed winrar, and then uninstalled it, and had the same, but this fix did it! Thanks!

  • 12. winzips new enemy  |  December 30, 2008 at 5:18 am

    i do not have an association problem, but i cannot uncompress any files or folders thanks to winzip, i found a key genrator and am about ready to use it and pass it around, and file a class action suit against winzip for corrupting willfully my vista, they have escentially done exactly what MALWARE does, and SCAMWARE…. at this point the only fixt is buy their program or unlock it myself, I had a legitimate program, now they took it, and they owe me FUCK YOU WINZIP!!!!’

    pass it on… thanks….

  • 13. Elysia  |  January 8, 2009 at 10:29 am

    Thanks so much. My version of Vista (Premium) required me to follow these steps: 1.) click Start; 2.) click Accessories File Folder; 3.) Click Command Prompt Program; 4.) Type in: assoc .zip=CompressedFolder (as you posted above) and hit return.

    My unzip feature worked immediately. I am grateful for your help. Have a great day. : )

  • 14. William Striblilng  |  January 28, 2009 at 3:03 am

    I need to do this – if I follow 13 (I am vista premium,the proceedure seems simpler without runing or using passwords – no right click on Command Prompt, just the left click – but, when you say hit return, what is that? Thanks …. looks like I’m getting close to unzipping some videos – believe me, Vista help was no help –


  • 15. Rick Henderson  |  February 4, 2009 at 10:41 am

    I tried this on a student’s laptop and it didn’t work either. The problem program had been removed.

    I noticed that after trying the ftype command it lists CompressedFolders being associated with Explorer.exe

    So using the old (Windows XP) way, I simply chose the file, right-click and choose “Open With…” and choose the Windows folder and find “explorer” (or “explorer.exe”)

    This will let you open the zipfiles by double-clicking… but it seems not to restore the Compressed Folder icon. But at least it works.

  • 16. Rabble  |  February 4, 2009 at 3:15 pm

    Number 15, you are a life saver…I have spent the past hour trying to get my compressor/unzipper to work with no luck. I clicked open with, c drive, windows, and then exporer…worked like a charm, thanks a bunch!

  • 17. Ron Francis  |  February 13, 2009 at 10:39 am

    Thank you from me as well.
    assoc .zip=CompressedFolder worked for me.
    I don’t know why Vista doesn’t have a restore facility for this.

  • 18. Sherry  |  February 25, 2009 at 10:25 pm

    About number 12. I just downloaded Win Zip before receiving this information.
    Am I in trouble now?
    What is the best thing to do now?
    Thank You!

    • 19. paulsiu  |  March 1, 2009 at 11:32 pm


      Unless you plan to uninstall winzip, you probably don’t have a problem. This problem were a while back, so I am guessing that they fixed the install issue by now.

  • 20. M  |  March 16, 2009 at 11:38 pm

    THANK YOU SO MUCH!! seriously, thank you so much for this!!

  • 21. Juan  |  March 20, 2009 at 10:26 am

    go to this site and look for the zip download in the BOX. Download it to you documents and run it. it will fix your zip file association automatically……………..If you have fixed it already, Take note of it and maybe you can help some one else that may have a similar problem—————-http://www.winhelponline.com/articles/105/1/File-association-fixes-for-Windows-Vista.html

  • 22. Pat  |  March 22, 2009 at 6:22 pm

    Thank you to No. 21, Juan, your idea was the one that worked
    for me after hours of trying to unzip on a NEW computer with
    Vista Premium.

  • 23. Opal  |  April 4, 2009 at 1:53 pm

    No. 15 Thanks a million. The command prompt didn’t work for me, maybe because I have Vista Basic , so I tried your “Windows XP way and it works like a charm. Thats why I love XP it has a fax console in the home edition and working with it is not as confusing as the upgrade Vista. Thank you Rick.

  • 24. Crystal  |  April 5, 2009 at 10:24 pm

    Number 21!!!!! You are a life saver THANK YOU!!!!! I have taken my computer to a tech and they couldnt figure it our either. They had me convinced that it was spyware and I would need to wipe my entire computer clean. I cant thank you enough!!!!!!

  • 25. Genie Malone  |  April 11, 2009 at 1:39 pm

    Thank you soooooo much for your help! I cannot tell you how many hours and frustration I have experienced trying to download files. Apparently, the zip feature was never set up correctly on my computer initially. You’ve saved my life!

  • 26. Mallory  |  May 5, 2009 at 8:43 pm

    Thank you Juan!!! I can’t even tell you how frustrated I was. This was the best help!

  • 27. Dianne  |  May 5, 2009 at 9:35 pm

    #21 Thank you, thank you, thank you. I’ve just spent 3 hours trying to find a fix on the web. Your solution worked like a charm. Persistence is the key.

  • 28. Trish  |  May 8, 2009 at 7:10 am

    #21 Juan Thank you so much you are an absolute genius!!! Thank God for people that really know what they are talking about & are willing to share Thank you so much again

  • 29. Farside  |  June 15, 2009 at 4:09 pm

    I have Vista (Business). First I used 21. Juan solution. Next, I used assoc .zip=CompressedFolder. That combination worked for me. The zip icon came back. Thanks for help!!!

  • 30. Sharyn  |  August 11, 2009 at 1:00 pm

    I have tried to do this but neither solution works. I used to be able to double click on the FF downloaded file in the little window and it would bring up the extract screen. Now it says application not found. Any more ideas? – running vista Home Premium.

  • 31. Helena  |  August 17, 2009 at 10:29 pm

    No 21, you are my hero! Thank you for a quick and easy solution after hours of frustration bordering on rage. Thank you.

  • 32. Michelle  |  September 2, 2009 at 10:47 pm

    #21, THANK YOU!!! That worked perfectly!

  • 33. Dave  |  November 2, 2009 at 5:27 pm

    HAHA! I found it! For vista users who could only get zip files to open through windows explorer, find a zip file, right click on it, open with, select “Choose default program”. Now, set the file you are looking for from program to “all files”. Now, for the location at the top, type “%systemroot%” and hit enter. Open the folder “system32”, and scroll all the way to the bottom, select “zipfldr.dll” and then hit open. The highlighted program should be “Compressed (Zipped) Folders”. Hit ok, and your pc is back to normal! Good luck!

  • 34. Simon  |  December 15, 2009 at 9:08 am

    Re 21
    Many many!! thanks solution worked for me after days of frustation, just kept opening IE

  • 35. Katarina  |  January 3, 2010 at 12:27 am

    Thank you so much. I did the same thing and instantly uninstalled it. You’ve saved me hours of trouble. 😛

  • 36. okra  |  January 30, 2010 at 10:40 pm

    so frustrated. I tried all the solutions above. None works!

    #33 might work. I found the file “zipfldr.dll”, but I cannot open it.

    then I hit a link to PC MightyMax 2010. If found 304 errors in my vista. Unbelievable!

    Just so frustrated!

  • 37. Dave  |  January 31, 2010 at 8:05 am

    @ Okra

    Sorry to hear about your problem. You can’t just open it. You need to find a zip (or compressed) folder. Right Click, Open With, Choose Default program, and follow the rest of the instructions from 33. When all else fells, this should work. If not, get a mac!

  • 38. Rebecca  |  April 1, 2010 at 6:15 am

    I’ve tried all of these, and none work. The command line doesn’t I can’t find an explorer folder and I don’t have the zip folder dll either. ;(

  • 39. Elizabeth  |  April 12, 2010 at 4:39 am

    Works just like #21’s solution did, but with my ZIP problem, it was easier to figure out how to get the download to work properly.

    I suspect that the above is a fairly new fix. It worked brilliantly.

    Make sure to restart your computer. When you do restart, your files should be zipped if they had originally been zipped!

  • 40. Jay  |  April 23, 2010 at 2:37 pm

    Thank you for this! you are a genius!

  • 41. Max  |  May 9, 2010 at 5:06 am

    I finally managed to get the right-click menu to display the ‘extract all’ option, and then got the message: “the compressed zip folder is empty. Before you can extract files you must copy files to this compressed (zipped) folder.”
    There is no way that the folder is empty – it’s 1.5 Mb in size. I’ve tried it on antoher computer running XP – same result.
    What now?

    • 42. lolakerry  |  July 21, 2011 at 10:13 am

      thanks so much no 21 – worked a charm

  • 43. Steve  |  December 19, 2011 at 12:36 pm

    Would like to THANK everyone here for thier input to fix the zip problem! I especially want to THANK #( (Elizabeth) for the download address that fixed my problem! Greatly appreciate it and thank you again Elizabeth!


  • 44. mlerlie  |  February 6, 2012 at 8:59 pm

    Worked perfectly! Thank you so very much for your very clear and precise instructions!!

  • 45. www.lebanon-vc.de  |  December 17, 2012 at 1:39 am

    Nice replies in return of this issue with genuine
    arguments and describing everything regarding that.

  • 46. Owen  |  June 28, 2013 at 8:15 am

    I know this is old but I just had the same problem. Only thing that worked for me was #33, although the instructions did not exactly match up, but the basic concept worked: Right click a zip file-open with-choose default program-choose zipfldr.dll (which was hard to find, was not located in System32 folder, or at least not visible….search is your friend) and now compressed folder icon is available as a choice!

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