What is a CAB file?

Cabinet or CAB files are a type of compressed files which are used to store data related to various system based installations which also includes system files and device drivers. The mode of compression used is lossless to during the compression operation, no data is lost. CAB files were previously known as diamond files.

The Microsoft’s publisher program’s Pack and Go feature enables you to make CAB files which end with an extension of PUZ. Everything is included in this in the same archive format as CAB so they are treated just like any other CAB file. Some other installers (like InstallShield installer program) also makes files with CAB extension but they are unrelated to Windows cabinet file format.

How do I open CAB files?

There are two ways through which you can open and access CAB files. Either you can use Windows command line tools or you can use other system or third-party utilities. Whenever you double-click a Windows Cabinet File, the operating system will automatically open the folder and show you the contents inside. Windows treats it like any other folder and helps you access the files.

However, there are also file decompression tools which can help you open CAB files especially if you are using some other operating system (like macOS, or Linux). Some free utilities which help facilitate the opening of CAB files include the following:

  • 7-zip
  • WinZip
  • PeaZip
  • IZArc
  • cabextract
  • The Unarchiver

However, do note that InstallShield CAB files are not the same as Windows Cabinet Files. If they are being opened by the editors mentioned, you can attempt at opening them using unshield. If you have a PUZ file, you should technically be able to open them like just any other CAB file but if you aren’t, you can either unzip the contents first and then browse for the required PUZ file. You can also try changing the PUZ extension to CAB but make sure you make an additional copy beforehand (if it gets corrupt).

Now let’s shift our focus towards Windows command-line tools which are used for dealing with all the CAB files. There are basically three tools you can use:

expand.exe

The main conventions used by ‘expand.exe’ are:

expand <source> [<destination>] [-r] [–d] [–i] [-f:<files>] [/?]

You can get more detailed documentation by opening the command prompt and typing “expand /?

makecab.exe

This utility is used to compress CBS log files which usually have a huge size. Whenever Windows scans for updates whenever it boots up, it comes across these CBS logs and compresses them using this utility. There are also cases of this utility causing a high disk usage but you can use it for your tasks nonetheless.

You can execute the command “makecab.exe” in the command prompt to get more information.

extrac32

Extrac32 is another Microsoft’s cabinet extraction tool which can be used for handling CAB files. It is used by numerous people for decompressing the CAB files. You can get more information regarding extrac32 by executing the command “extrac32 |more” in the command prompt.

You can use all these utilities to extract CAB files using the command line. Let’s take a demo on how you can achieve the task using Expand utility.

Before you continue with the extraction, you have to make sure that you are in the current directory where the source file is located. For example, if the source file is present in the Desktop, you have to first change your directory to Desktop and then use the utility.

Make sure that you also list the target file location at the end of the command you are executing.

How to install a CAB file on Windows?

As mentioned earlier on, CAB files contain system drivers and other installation packages which you might feel the need to install. There two ways through which you can install the CAB files on your computer; either you can use the context menu or you can use the command prompt.

In the case of context menus, the process is quite simple. Select the cabinet file you want to install, right-click on it, and select install which will be the second option from the top in most cases. The installer will pop up and guide you through all the way.

In case of the command prompt, we will use the DISM command. Here you have to add the path of the source file which you are trying to install. Open an elevated command prompt, and execute the following command:

DISM /Online /Add-Package /PackagePath:"<PATH>"

Here, the <PATH> will be replaced by the path to the source file.

If you are prompted with a dialogue to restart your computer, press Y to proceed and the installation will be executed when Windows boots up.

Can we convert a CAB file?

There aren’t many file converter programs which are able to do a clean CAB to MSI conversion. WSP (Windows Share Point) is a type of SharePoint Solution Package files which are used by Microsoft SharePoint and are usually compressed in the CAB file format. You can easily rename the WSP to a CAB extension and try opening it like any other Windows Cabinet File.

There is also a utility named as “IExpress Wizard” owned by Windows which helps convert CAB to EXE. Press Windows + R, type “iexpress” in the dialogue box and press Enter. You can easily follow the onscreen instructions.

Should you delete the CAB files on your computer?

Although it might feel tempting to delete all the CAB files on your computer, they are most probably used for the operating system and other programs which are dependent on them. CAB files usually contain system directives or system drivers.

There ‘may’ be some CAB files which are safe for deletion but extensive research is needed to be absolutely sure. Therefore, it is safe to assume that all the CAB files are of some use to the operating system and may be used by other third-party programs as well.

Kevin Arrows
Kevin is a dynamic and self-motivated information technology professional, with a Thorough knowledge of all facets pertaining to network infrastructure design, implementation and administration. Superior record of delivering simultaneous large-scale mission critical projects on time and under budget.

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What is a CAB file?

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