What are .xip files and how to open them?

If you use an Apple Mac with macOS, it can happen that you stumble across files with the extension XIP. But what are .xip files and how can you open them? Here you will find the most important information about this type of archive package and how to use it. I also have a current example of a .xip file ready for you.

What are .xip files on the Apple Mac and what is this archive format used for? Details about the file format, history and practical use in current macOS versions can be found here!
What are .xip files on the Apple Mac and what is this archive format used for? Details about the file format, history and practical use in current macOS versions can be found here!

XIP files are XAR archives

The .xip file format describes an archive, i.e. a package of various files, scripts, programs and / or other content that has a digital signature. This digital signature is used to verify the integrity of the archive and its contents. Unlike .zip or .rar archives, a .xip archive is first checked for security before the system begins to unpack it.

The origin of XIP files lies in the development of XAR archives, whose name stands for eXsensitive ARchive stands for expandable archives. This open source file archiving is based on Apple's OpenDarwin project in the 2000s and was first used on the Mac Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard Application. In addition to .xip, which only comes with OS X Mavericks 10.9 was used, there are also the formats .xar and .pkg for XAR archives.

What are .xip files for on the Apple Mac?

Starting with OS X 10.9, .xip archives were used to install Mac apps. In addition to Apple, other developers were also able to use this format to offer app archives with a digital signature. Away macOS 10.12Sierra However, Apple has removed the ability for third parties to use .xip archives. Since then, only .xip archives signed by Apple can be unpacked by macOS. Older .xip files from other sources will no longer be opened as of macOS 10.12.

An example of current use of .xip archives is Apple's provision of certain apps, primarily in the form of web downloads. For example, the Xcode programming aid is available on Apple's developer website as a .xip archive. If you open this downloaded archive (double-click), macOS checks its signature and, after a successful comparison, unpacks it for the installation of Xcode. In the following screenshot you will find the downloaded .xip archive from Xcode 15.2 and the window of the unpacking process as an example.

Important Apple web downloads whose security must be verifiable are offered as .xip archives. An example of this is the Xcode app.
Important Apple web downloads whose security must be verifiable are offered as .xip archives. An example of this is the Xcode app.

Archive format .xip as a reference to genuine Apple offers

You should only get apps like Xcode directly from Apple. This can be done on the one hand via the Mac App Store and on the other hand via the official developer website https://developer.apple.com/. In addition to the current App Store version, you can also get it on the website Beta versions, if new ones are available. If you find an Xcode download somewhere else that isn't in a .xip archive signed by Apple, then it's better to stay away from it. Maybe there is malware in there.

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