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Unzip vs. Gunzip: What's the Difference?

Edited by Janet White || By Harlon Moss || Updated on November 7, 2023
Unzip refers to extracting files from archives with the .zip format, while gunzip is used to decompress files with the .gz extension.

Key Differences

Unzip is a utility that extracts files from a .zip archive, a container for one or more compressed files. Gunzip is specifically used for decompressing .gz files, which are often a single file compressed with the gzip compression algorithm.
The unzip command is versatile, allowing not just extraction but also viewing contents of a ZIP archive without extracting them. Gunzip, on the other hand, is more straightforward, typically decompressing .gz files into their original form.
When using unzip, users can extract all or specific files within a .zip archive. Gunzip decompresses the entire .gz file and does not support extracting individual files from a multi-file archive without additional commands.
Both unzip and gunzip serve the purpose of data decompression, but they operate on different file formats and use distinct compression algorithms. While unzip is often associated with the PKZIP compression tool, gunzip is part of the GNU free software project.
Unzip and gunzip reflect the diversity of file compression tools available for managing file sizes. Each serves its purpose within different contexts, be it for personal file management or within software distribution.

Comparison Chart

File Format

Works with .zip files.
Works with .gz files.

Compression Algorithm

Uses ZIP compression algorithm.
Uses gzip compression algorithm.

Utility Availability

Common in various operating systems.
Typically found in Unix-like systems.

Command Complexity

Can include options for viewing, testing, etc.
Usually straightforward, primarily decompresses.


Can extract to multiple files and directories.
Decompresses to a single file.

Unzip and Gunzip Definitions


To extract files from a ZIP archive.
I used unzip to extract images from the downloaded archive.


The action of undoing gzip file compression.
You'll need to gunzip that archive before reading the contents.


Opening a .zip file to access its contents.
She instructed the program to unzip the project files.


Decompression of files compressed by gzip.
Gunzip reduced the file back to its original size.


To release the compressed data into a specified directory.
Unzip the documents into the 'Reports' directory.


A command to decompress .gz files.
To view the log, first gunzip the file.


A command or action to decompress files in .zip format.
After downloading, unzip the folder to install the software.


Extracting the contents of a gzip-compressed file.
She used gunzip on the dataset before analysis.


The process of reversing the file compression.
Use the unzip command to revert the files to their original size.


A Unix command for decompressing .gz files.
Use gunzip to decompress the downloaded .gz file.


To open or unfasten by means of a zipper or become unzipped.


To decompress using the gzip program.


What does unzip do?

Unzip extracts files from a .zip compressed archive.

Is unzip available on Linux?

Yes, unzip is available on Linux and other operating systems.

What does gunzip do?

Gunzip decompresses files with a .gz extension.

Can gunzip extract files from a .zip archive?

No, gunzip is specific to .gz files.

Can unzip extract single files from an archive?

Yes, unzip can extract specific files from a .zip archive.

Does gunzip work on Windows?

Gunzip can work on Windows but is native to Unix-like systems.

What command lists contents of a .zip archive?

Unzip with the -l option lists the contents without extracting them.

What's the difference in the compression algorithm between unzip and gunzip?

Unzip uses the ZIP algorithm, while gunzip uses the gzip algorithm.

Can unzip handle .gz files?

No, unzip is designed for .zip files.

Can gunzip compress files?

No, gunzip only decompresses; gzip is used for compression.

What is a common use for unzip and gunzip?

Both are commonly used to decompress downloaded files or archives.

How do you specify the output directory with unzip?

Use unzip with the -d option followed by the directory name.

Can I use unzip to create .zip files?

No, unzip is for extraction; use a tool like zip to create .zip files.

How can I see the content of a .gz file without decompressing?

Use the gzip tool with the -l option to list contents.

Can gunzip decompress multiple files at once?

No, gunzip decompresses one .gz file at a time.

Does gunzip keep the original .gz file after decompression?

No, by default, it deletes the original .gz file.

How do I unzip a file in Unix?

Use the command unzip filename.zip.

Are unzip and gunzip interchangeable?

No, they are used for different file formats.

Can unzip handle password-protected .zip files?

Yes, with the -P option followed by the password.

Is gunzip the same as gzip?

No, gzip compresses files, while gunzip decompresses them.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.

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