What are, and how to create, Self Extracting Archives (SFX files)         

How to create Self Extracting Archives (SFX)

How to create Self Extracting Archives (SFX)

What are self-extracting archives?
How to create self-extracting 7Z or ARC files




what are sfx files

Self-extracting archives (briefly referred as SFX files) are computer executable programs containing both an (usually compressed) archive of files and the routines needed to extract the content (SFX module), usually packed as Microsoft Windows EXE executable file.

what are self extracting archives

WinRar, WinZip, 7-Zip, PeaZip, and other file archiver software are capable of creating self extracting archives, usually employing 7Z, RAR and ZIP compression for the archival part - learn more: what is a compressed archive file - and minimal sfx modules suitable for basic tasks of deployment of content as autonomous packages, not needing external  dedicated decompression software and capable of auto-unpacking themselves.

sfx files software

While an auto-extracting archive is potentially a simple, basic form of installer, most software for creation of installation packages extends the idea further providing formats capable of advanced scripting features to generate more complex and flexible autoextraction modules to unpack the content and perform other related operations, suc as conditional extraction of appropriate data, automatic output path detection, registration of shared files, interaction with registry etc.

SFX archives: advantages and disadvantages

Principle behind self extracting archives is providing the end user of the appropriate extraction executable instructions without the need of installing any software, which brings those advantages over non self extracting archives:
  • content and extraction tools are passed as atomic information
  • in order to extract the content, end user needs to run only a simple subset of instructions, through a minimal user interface requiring little or no feedback, rather than having to install and learn to operate a full general purpose archive manager software

Drawbacks of self extracting archives are:

  • being the extraction module embedded in the archive itself, it represents an overhead (usually some 10s or 100s of KB), which makes it a noticeable disadvantage in the case of small  archives
  • the sfx archive can be executed only on operating system platforms capable to run the sfx module - it can still be operated as a standard archive on other platforms, if suitable software is available
  • being the self extracting archive an executable file, some file sharing platforms - cloud service  providers, e-mail servers - may consider it a security risk and block the file, preventing it to reach the intended end users.

To create a SFX archive with PeaZip, select desired files and folders and click "Add" button for archive creation screen. Supported SFX formats can be selected directly in archive format dropdown menu, simply selecting "Self-extracting 7Z" or "Self-extracting ARC" entries.
In "Advanced" tab of archive creation screen it is possible to select one of the available SFX modules, the routine that will be embedded in the archive and will handle the extraction of the content on recipient's machine without requiring external software.

how to create self extracting archives

Recipient will not need a suitable unarchiver to open those files (as the sfx module itself is autonomous for extraction of package content), alternatively some archive managers, as PeaZip, can open sfx files as standard archives for custom content extraction without running the sfx module.
Please note, anyway, recipient will at least need the right to execute binary files (the sfx module) on the target system to proceed with (auto)extraction of the SFX archive.

how to create sfx files

To add a password to prevent unauthorized decopression of the self-extracting archive, click on the padlock icon button "Enter password / keyfile" - also the encryption options are customizable in "Advanced" tab.
Please note that when a self-extracting archive is created, only the password (if provided) will be used for encrypting the data, and only the password will be needed to extract & decrypt it, this because available SFX modules does not support two factor authentication and would be unable to parse the keyfile, failing decryption.

Custom sfx modules with different sets of features and user interaction interfaces are available in PeaZip add-ons section Custom SFX modules.

Read more: Self-extracting archivessfx module Wikipedia page

Synopsis: What are self extracting archives, what are advantages and disadvantages in using sfx files. Create sfx files with PeaZip free archiver software. How to create self extracting archives, and work with sfx archives.

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