Buried among the AI announcements and minor Windows 11 feature tweaks that Microsoft announced yesterday was an addition that will solve a minor but longstanding headache for Windows users: The operating system is finally moving beyond .zip archive support and will soon be gaining the ability to work with RAR, 7-zip, .tar, and many other kinds of archives.
Built-in support for these different archive types will be especially relevant for developers and people who use the Windows Subsystem for Linux, both instances where non-zip compressed archives are more commonly used.
Microsoft told The Verge that the feature would be added “later this week” to a “work-in-progress” build; it may or may not be exclusive to Windows Insider preview builds before rolling out to the general public.
Microsoft added native support for .zip files—then and now, the most common type of compressed archive—to Windows Me back in the year 2000, though most people encountered it in 2001’s Windows XP. But other kinds of archives still required downloading and installing a separate app like 7-Zip or WinRAR and its endless “40-day” trial.
Microsoft’s compressed file support will be handled by the open source libarchive project, and the list of file types that can be compressed and extracted will presumably match the list on libarchive’s GitHub page. It seems like libarchive will be handling zip files in Windows, too—the company promised “improved performance of archive functionality during compression” along with the support for additional file formats. Decompressing large zip archives with Windows’ native tools has always been a bit slower than in some third-party apps.
There will still be room in the Windows world for apps like 7-Zip, which still supports a ton of file formats and has more flexible and customizable menu shortcuts, among other features. After all, WinZip is apparently still a thing, even two decades after Microsoft added native .zip support to Windows.