Ever come across an unusual Windows file archive format that your favorite archiving utility couldn’t unpack? Most of the time one of the well-known programs like 7-Zip will do the job but there are a large number of different archive formats and sometimes you may encounter one of the rarer ones. In that case, you will probably be successful if you try the little free utility called "Universal Extractor".
Universal Extractor will decompress and extract files from just about any type of archive or installer that you are likely to encounter. It does not have the capacity to create or edit archives but only extracts so it supplements but does not replace your regular file archiver. The current version 1.6.1 is three years old but the program works in Windows 7 and 8. The developer’s web page is at this link but he does not appear to be developing it further. An unofficial update to version 22.214.171.124 has just been reported at Neowin but I have not tried it.
There are two download files. One is an installer that has an option to add the application to the Windows Explorer right-click context menu. There is also a binary package if you prefer a portable version. The interface is basic as shown in the graphic below.
One intriguing possibility is to use the utility to turn a program that ordinarily uses an installer package into a portable program. For example, Universal Extractor will unpack all the files from installers that are in the form of an MSI (Microsoft Installer) archive. This is a very common way of packaging programs for installation. You may then be able to use the unpacked files as a portable group. Whether this will work as a portable application will depend on what Registry entries, DLL libraries, and other file locations that the program references.
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This tips section is maintained by Vic Laurie. Vic runs several websites with Windows how-to's, guides, and tutorials, including a site for learning about Windows and the Internet and another with Windows 7 tips.
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