Why do .zip files from Mac OS show up as green/encrypted?

Why do .zip files from Mac OS show up as green/encrypted?

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It’s kind of funny really. The ZIP specification mandates that a program/OS creating a zip archive include a tag informing about itself to the program trying to decompress the archive. This information is called “version made by”, and looks like this:

          0 - MS-DOS and OS/2 (FAT / VFAT / FAT32 file systems)
          1 - Amiga                     2 - OpenVMS
          3 - UNIX                      4 - VM/CMS
          5 - Atari ST                  6 - OS/2 H.P.F.S.
          7 - Macintosh                 8 - Z-System
          9 - CP/M                     10 - Windows NTFS
         11 - MVS (OS/390 - Z/OS)      12 - VSE
         13 - Acorn Risc               14 - VFAT
         15 - alternate MVS            16 - BeOS
         17 - Tandem                   18 - OS/400
         19 - OS/X (Darwin)            20 thru 255 - unused

Now, interestingly, it seems that Mac OS is tagging the zip archives it creates with the value 3 (UNIX). Ok, so far no problem, I guess.

The problem happens when Windows gets confused about how to interpret file/folder attributes. In FAT/NTFS, these values are stored according to this definition of File Attribute Constants. You’ll see that FILE_ATTRIBUTE_ENCRYPTED has a value of 0x4000.

The interesting part is how Mac OS is storing its file attributes in the zip archive. Mac OS, being a UNIX based OS, uses the UNIX file/folder attributes system (and permissions, but that’s a topic for another time…).. Well, it just so happens that in POSIX, the flag to describe a directory/folder (S_IFDIR) coincidentally also has the value 0x4000. So it turns out the zip decompression code wasn’t aware that there might be other operating systems out there that might create zip archives…

Bonus question: can you change this behavior. Answer: No; but you can clear the encryption flag from the extracted files/folders easily.

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  • interesting thing is when using 7-zip, it not only extracts un-encrypted but also removes the extra macosx folder. So part of this is a mac bug too in my opinion

  • Ian: yes, Mac OS adds that "extra" folder which apparently contains thumbnails of the items being zipped as well as some additional metadata. Most/all of this information should be recoverable from the items themselves so I'm guessing this is done for performance, so it's probably safe to ignore/remove/not extract.

  • Very helpful. I noticed that the green files were always from Macs, but didn't know why. FYI after clean installing on Windows 8, it lost the encryption certificate and couldn't open the Mac-zipped content anymore. Fortunately I had the original email with the ZIP and just re-extracted successfully. Lost a few files though since I had added some files in the "encrypted" directory.

  • Hi Jeff, thanks for reading! I haven't seen the problem you describe, I'll see if I can reproduce it.

  • I cannot believe this still happening. I sell digital products, zipped on a mac. But I now take the extra step of deleting the extra mac folder in the new zip. Any idea if that is enough to stop this problem from happening to windows users???

    Ryan

  • @Ryan Nagy: unfortunately, that won't be enough to prevent this from happening

  • Same issue here.

    I wonder why folders still get extracted correctly while the flag gets misinterpreted.

    ... not worth a bug fix from MS?

  • AxelD: If I remember correctly, this is fixed in Windows 8 so users running that release or higher should not see this problem anymore.

  • An easy worlk around is to save the encrypted ZIP file onto your computer. Then right click a (green) file and select properties. Click "Advanced" and uncheck the box for encryption. Hit okay and okay. :)

  •   I tried to reproduce this behavior on my Windows 7 system, but

    couldn't.  (My Windows Explorer shows no unusual attributes for a folder

    in a .zip archive created on a Mac using the Finder Compress option.)

      Info-ZIP UnZip (6.00, "-Zv" report) shows these attributes for the

    folder:

     Unix file attributes (040755 octal):            drwxr-xr-x

    (040755 = 0x41ED, so the 0x4000 bit is set.)

      If this problem still exists in Windows 7 (or XP), then I'd like to

    get a failing test case (because I haven't found a way to make one).

      Also, for my curiosity, ...

    > [...] the extra macosx folder. [...]

      Which "the extra folder" is that, exactly?  The "__MACOSX" folder

    (which may or may not appear, depending on how the archive was created),

    or something else?

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