How to Create Self-extracting Archives Without Installing Additional Software

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self-extracting-archive-thumbWhen your friend give you a compressed file using a relatively unknown format, for example 7z, bz2 etc, don’t you hate it when you require to install additional tool in order to be able to extract this content from the archive? This is where self-extracting archive is useful. It enables you to extract archives without additional software. All you have to do is double go through the archive and this will automatically extract the files within. While there are numerous applications that permit you to create self-extracting archive, I am going to teach you how you can undertake it with the native tool that come in your OS.

Note:

1. In this article, I will demonstrate how to generate self-extracting archive in Windows Linux (Ubuntu). The archive created in each of this OS isn't compatible with one another. You can’t create an archive in Windows and expect it to work in Linux. Even in Linux, the archive might not be appropriate for each distro. Therefore, if you are planning to send the self-extracting archive for a friend, remember to be using the same OS platform as him/her.

2. Self-extracting archive can impose a risk if you aren't sure of this content within. Unless you are expecting to receive a self-extracting archive from a trusted source, usually do not open any self-extracting archive, particularly those you downloaded from some shabby website.


Creating self-extracting archive in Windows


Windows comes with this builtin tool - iexpress.exe that enables you to create self-extracting installer. The problem with Microsoft is that it loves to hide these useful nifty tools from your public, so it's unsurprisingly to determine that not enough people have heard of this tool.

In Windows (from XP approximately Windows 8), open the “Run” menu and type “iexpress“. Select the “iexpress” program.

windows-run-iexpress

On the 1st screen, select “Create new Self-Extraction Directive file” and click on Next.

windows-express-create-new-self-extracting-archive

On the next screen, select “Extract files only”. This will create an self-extracting archive, rather than an installer.

windows-express-extract-files-only

Continue to click Next and continue with the wizard to create the archive. Once completed, you should have an EXE file which you could double-click to extract its content.

windows-self-extracting-exe-file


Creating self-extracting archive in Ubuntu


Ubuntu comes with an Archive Manager that enables you to compress files, but it doesn’t enables you to create a self-extracting archive. To do that, we're going to have to make utilisation of the “unzipsfx” command.

For this example, let’s believe that we want to make a self-extracting archive “test” that contains “test.txt”.

1. First, compress the “test.txt” to zip format (using the Archive Manager). You should will have a “test.zip” file which contains “text.txt”.

2. Open a terminal and type:

cat /usr/bin/unzipsfx /path/to/test.zip > /path/to/test

What this command does is usually to prepend “unzipsfx” to the beginning of “test.zip” and save it a new file “test”.

3. Next, we are going to change the permission from the file and do adjustment on the self-extracting archive:

chmod 755 /path/to/test zip -A /path/to/test

That’s it. Whenever you double-click “test”, it'll automatically extract the files contained within itself.


Managing self-extracting archive in Mac


There is not any native tool for you to generate self-extracting archive in Mac, simply because there isn't any need to. Mac OS X handles compressed files perfectly. The default application - Archive Utility - extracts compressed files once you double-click around the archive. In addition, the Unarchiver app supports plenty of compression format, and that means you don’t worry about compatibility issue in Mac.


Conclusion


While self-extracting archive has gained a poor name for being the top source to spread virus, that doesn’t mean it's all bad and zip good. When used properly, it can be a useful tool at the same time. In most cases, Windows users will benefit the most from self-extracting archives because the support for various compression formats remains lacking in Windows. However, the EXE extendable for the self-extracting archive is usually a big shut off for those who are very conscious about security.

Let us determine if this is helpful to you.

Image credit: Archive Of Old Probate Books In A Library by BigStockPhoto

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