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Definition: self-extracting archive

An executable program that contains one or more compressed files. When run, the self-extracting archive (SFX) automatically decompresses the files. The archive combines the decompression program with the compressed files and enables the distribution of compressed data without concern whether the recipient user has the required decompression utility. Although most data are compressed with the zip algorithm, and computers typically have a built-in unzip capability, the self-extracting archive is valuable for distributing compressed archives in other formats. It is also used to distribute malware (see polymorphic virus).

The decompression and folder creation performed by a self-extracting archive are part of an install program. However, an install program can perform many more functions than an SFX. See archive, data compression and install program.