How to Unzip a Password Protected Zip File

Techwalla may earn compensation through affiliate links in this story.
Image Credit: Tinpixels/E+/GettyImages

The easiest way to unzip a password protected zip file is to enter the password when prompted to do so by your operating system or other zip file utility. If you don't know the password, you may be able to bypass the zip password and open the file with a tool that can guess potential passwords until it finds one that unlocks the file.


How Zip Files Work

A zip file takes one or more files and folders on your computer, joins them into one file for convenience sake and compresses them to save storage space. Modern operating systems, including Microsoft Windows and Apple macOS, have built-in support for zip files, so you can open them and create them without any special tools.

You can also download specialized tools that can offer more flexibility and handle other compressed formats, including WinZip, WinRAR and 7-Zip.


Many programs support encrypted zip files, where the data is securely encoded so that nobody can read it without a password specified when the file is created.

Unlock Password Protected Zip File

If you try to open a password protected zip file in your operating system or another tool, you'll normally be prompted to enter the password. If you know it, you can enter it and access the files inside the zip file just as you would with a non-password-protected zip file.


If you don't know the password, try to obtain it from wherever you got the file. You may also be able to guess it, depending on the situation. If you have no way to learn the password and must still open the file, you can search for a password-cracking tool that will try dictionary words and random strings until it finds one that opens the file. This process may take some time depending on the complexity of the password and the data in the file.

PicoZip Recovery Tool and Zip Password Recovery Master (see Resources) are two free tools for this purpose, and there are many other paid ones you can try as well. Make sure to use a program you trust and that you obtain it from a reputable source to reduce the risk of malware.


Create Password Protected Zip Files

If you want to create password protected zip files, you can do so with a variety of tools.

WinZip, a common Windows zip file management tool, can create such files, as can other Windows tools.

On a Mac or Linux system, you can create an encrypted zip file using the command line. Use the "zip" command with the "-e" argument, followed by the name of the zip file you want to create and the files you want to include in it. You will be prompted to enter the desired password.


references & resources