Dev who created Zip file support in Windows is part of the shadowy cabal of people who have actually paid for WinRAR

WinRAR logo on website
(Image credit: WinRAR)

In the tech world, sometimes you come across a little tale that's simply a great read. Nothing shocking or revelatory, just… well… nice. And one perfect example of this is a brief post on X by Dave Plummer, a programmer who worked at Microsoft for many years. While there, though unrelated to his job, he wrote the code that enabled Zip file support in Windows, and somewhat ironically, he also paid the licence fee for WinRAR.

The proof for this seemingly unlikely tale was presented by Plummer himself and he indicates that the email receipt comes from around 2003, which is roughly when he finished his ten-year career at Microsoft. During that time, he worked on a variety of projects within the software giant, with his most notable contribution being something he actually developed as a side project at home: Task Manager.

Yes, that's right: The Windows app that you probably fire up the most as a PC gamer, trying to figure out what's eating up all your CPU usage or RAM, was created by Plummer as something to do in his spare time. He donated his work to Microsoft in 1995, with it appearing in Windows a year later.

Something else that Plummer developed as a personal project was his own compressed file shareware tool, VisualZip. Microsoft bought it and added a watered-down version of it to Windows, initially as an add-on for Win98 and then as a permanent feature in WinME.

So the fact that he bought a licence key for WinRAR, the evergreen competitor to Zip, is both funny and rather heartwarming to me. I like the fact that the timing of the purchase of WinRAR ties in with Plummer leaving Microsoft, though it's probably entirely coincidental. It's almost like it's one shareware dev saying to another one 'I got you, fam.'

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But I also have a bit of a soft spot for companies that make really good shareware and WinRAR is a classic example of this, especially since it's 'nagware.'

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This is a product that gives you a free trial period but then never locks you out of using it once the period is over; it just keeps reminding you to buy it and in the case of WinRAR, hardly anyone ever does. And that's because you get pretty much all the features you want for a file compression system, whether you buy the licence key or not.

In his X post, Plummer also reveals why Microsoft's compressed file system was (and still is, to a certain extent) just so basic compared to most third party programs: "...it's gotta be simple to be on everyone's machine. They backed out more advanced features like encryption and so on because they just wanted to hit the base case. And they probably rightly assumed power users would likely buy a third party archiver…"

If you're looking for a deeper insight into Plummer's work with Task Manager and Zip support in Windows, then get it straight from the horse's mouth with his series of YouTube videos on the subject.

Nick Evanson
Hardware Writer

Nick, gaming, and computers all first met in 1981, with the love affair starting on a Sinclair ZX81 in kit form and a book on ZX Basic. He ended up becoming a physics and IT teacher, but by the late 1990s decided it was time to cut his teeth writing for a long defunct UK tech site. He went on to do the same at Madonion, helping to write the help files for 3DMark and PCMark. After a short stint working at Beyond3D.com, Nick joined Futuremark (MadOnion rebranded) full-time, as editor-in-chief for its gaming and hardware section, YouGamers. After the site shutdown, he became an engineering and computing lecturer for many years, but missed the writing bug. Cue four years at TechSpot.com and over 100 long articles on anything and everything. He freely admits to being far too obsessed with GPUs and open world grindy RPGs, but who isn't these days?