Windows Vista has problems handling large ZIP files

November 1st, 2007

Here's another Vista bug that's surfaced, this one relating to ZIP files:

Just today, I was trying to restore some of my files from a previous backup.  I grabbed the enormous zip file off my network drive and saved it onto the desktop.  From there, a little bit of WinZip magic grabbed me the one, 25 MB directory I really wanted out of the whole 11 GB zip file. I knew I might want to restore more files later though, so I left the file on my desktop (even transferring over gigabit, 11 GB is still 11 GB).

When I finally got back to my host desktop later that evening, I found to my utter shock that things weren't working properly.  For example, I opened up the file explorer and tried to expand a folder in the tree pane on the left-hand side.  Instead of nicely expanding, showing the sub-folders, it just started spinning its wheels. When I came back to it ten minutes later, it was still chugging away. 

I killed the explorer.exe process, restarted explorer and went on with my workflow.  At least, until WinZip started having issues.  I hit the "Extract" button on a reasonable sized archive (150 MB) and the app froze.  Just like explorer, it was eating my full cpu and doing absolutely nothing with it.

OK, 11GB ZIP files aren't the norm, but people do have big ZIP files, and given that Vista is a modern OS you'd expect it to be able to handle the workload.  Apparently, it's can't.

It seems that Windows Vista file explorer (by default) attempts to recurse into any zip archives in a direct subdirectory, allowing users to view the contents of the zip file directly in the sidebar.  Windows XP had the same "feature", but it waited to enter the zip file until you actually expanded the node in the sidebar.  In principle, Vista's method is a good idea.  XP always suffered from long delays whenever you expanded a zip file, particularly over a network connection.  Grabbing a file list in the background seems like a good idea, until you take into account extremely large archives.

How-To Geek also has a solution to the problem, which is basically to disable the built-in ZIP file handling in Vista.  I'll test this fix later, but I assume that it works.  However, we have to start seeing fixes for these issues (for example the network transfer issue) that goes beyond just disabling stuff in Vista.

This entry was posted on Thursday, November 1st, 2007 at 19:24 and is filed under PC Doctor's Thoughts, PC Doctor's Useful Links, Windows Vista. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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