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Is it possible, on a Mac, to create a password-protected zip file, that can be decompressed on a PC and on Mac without problems? Is there a free way to do it if possible?

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The terminal command

zip -ejr [(path to)] [path to folder to be zipped]

should do the trick. You will be prompted to enter and verify a password.

The encrypted file can be unzipped from the Finder, you'll be prompted for the password. The file should also be useable on Windows, 'nix OS's, and every other file system that supports zip:

zip is a compression and file packaging utility for Unix, VMS, MSDOS, OS/2, Windows 9x/NT/XP, Minix, Atari, Macintosh, Amiga, and Acorn RISC OS. It is analogous to a combination of the Unix commands tar(1) and compress(1) and is compatible with PKZIP (Phil Katz's ZIP for MSDOS systems).

source: zip man page

If you want a GUI solution, it shouldn't be too difficult to create an Automator workflow to automate this process.

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