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Founded1986; 35 years ago (1986)
201 E. Pittsburgh Ave., Ste. 400, Milwaukee, WI
Area served
Number of employees

PKWARE, Inc. is an enterprise software company headquartered in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, with offices in the US and UK. The company provides encryption and data compression software used by thousands of organizations in banking, financial services, healthcare and government.

PKWARE was founded in 1986 by Phil Katz, co-inventor of the ZIP standard. Katz's ZIP innovations were a rallying point for early online bulletin board system and shareware communities. More recently, PKWARE has focused on enterprise data protection, developing products that integrate data discovery, encryption, and encryption key management.

As of 13 May 2020, Thompson Street Capital Partners has acquired PKWARE Inc.[1]


Phil Katz and PKZIP (1986-2000)

PKWARE was founded in 1986 by Phil Katz, a software developer who had begun distributing a new file compression utility, called PKARC, as shareware. PKARC represented a radical improvement over existing compression software (including the ARC utility on which it was based) and rapidly gained popularity among individuals and corporations.[2] Following a legal settlement with Systems Enhancement Associates Inc., the owners of ARC, Katz stopped distributing PKARC. He released his own compression program, which he called PKZIP, in 1989. PKZIP was the first program to use the new ZIP file format, which Katz developed in conjunction with Gary Conway and subsequently released into the public domain. PKWARE grew rapidly in its early years, fueled by enthusiasm from the bulletin board and shareware communities, along with steady business from large corporations who were eager to minimize the demands on their limited computing resources.[2] The .ZIP format proved so popular that it became the de facto standard for data compression and remains in use throughout the world after more than 30 years.[2]

Purchase and expansion (2001-2008)

In 2000, PKWARE founder Phil Katz died at the age of 37. The following year, his family sold the company to a new management team led by George Haddix and backed by investment-banking firm Grace Matthews.[3] Two years later, the company acquired Ascent Solutions, a large-platform software firm based in Dayton, Ohio.[4]

SecureZIP, a program that combined PKZIP's data compression with enhanced encryption functionality, was released in 2004. In the following years, PKWARE continued to add support for large and small platform operating systems and introduced new features for both PKZIP and SecureZIP.

Shift toward data protection (2009-2015)

A new ownership group including company management, Novacap Technologies, and Maranon Capital acquired PKWARE in 2009.[5] The company's new CEO, V. Miller Newton, steered the company toward an increased focus on its encryption products, in response to growing concerns about data security among PKWARE's customers in industries such as healthcare and government.[6] In 2012, PKWARE released Viivo, a cloud storage encryption product to help customers secure data stored on Dropbox and other cloud storage services. Viivo received attention for having been developed outside of traditional methods in an effort toward "disruptive innovation" in the emerging cloud security market.[5]

Smartcrypt (2016-present)

PKWARE released Smartcrypt, a data protection platform combining encryption, data discovery, and encryption key management, in 2016.


On 13 May 2020, Thompson Street Capital Partners acquired PKWARE for an undisclosed sum.[1][7] Under Thompson Street, PKWARE acquired Dataguise on 10 November 2020 for their sensitive information detection technologies ("data discovery").[8][9]


In addition to its data compression and encryption products, PKWARE continues to maintain the .ZIP file format standard in the public domain. The company publishes an Application Note on the .ZIP file format, providing developers a general description and technical details of the .ZIP file storage specification.[10] This Application Note ensures continued interoperability of the .ZIP file format for all users.

Product Name Description
ZIP Reader ZIP Reader is a free Windows utility.[11] Any ZIP file can be opened with the reader program, regardless of where it was created. To open an archive, the user can drag and drop the desired zip file over the program and it will extract. A second method is to simply select which file to extract from within the utility. An email address is required to download ZIP Reader from the PKWARE website.[11]
PKZIP PKZIP is a software utility that allows for the compression/decompression of multiple files and folders into a single archive or multiple archives. The name combines the initials of company founder Phil Katz with "zip," a reference to the software's speed.[2]

Originally, PKZIP was written as shareware for DOS. Since its creation, PKWARE has expanded support of PKZIP to Windows Desktop, Windows Server, UNIX, Linux, IBM i, and zSeries platforms. Later versions of PKZIP include strong encryption algorithms to accommodate security needs.[12]

SecureZIP SecureZIP was released in 2004 as an extension of PKZIP. SecureZIP contained the same compression and passphrase protection as PKZIP but also introduced digital signature authentication and digital certificate-based encryption.[13]

In 2006, the company added a new option called SecureZIP PartnerLink, through which customers can become "sponsors" and provide an unlimited number of SecureZIP Partner licenses to the organization's business partners.[14] PKWARE added support for OpenPGP encryption in 2011, along with new features that allow SecureZIP to integrate with data loss prevention technology.[15] In 2012, the company released mobile versions of SecureZIP for Android and iOS devices.[16][17]

Viivo Viivo, a cloud encryption service, was released in 2012. PKWARE made an end-of-life announcement for Viivo in 2017, with support continuing until July 1, 2018.[18]
Smartcrypt Launched in 2016, Smartcrypt is PKWARE's newest data protection solution,[buzzword] combining data discovery, encryption, and encryption key management. Smartcrypt includes a web-based management console, from which administrators can apply encryption policies across an organization's user devices and network resources.


Phil Katz was granted a patent in September, 1991, for his efficient search functions used in the PKZIP compression process.[19] In 2001 and 2005, PKWARE was awarded patents for patching technology used within PKZIP products.[20] In 2005, PKWARE was granted a patent for methods used to manage .ZIP files within the Windows file manager and Outlook.[21] In total PKWARE holds[when?] four patents, has over fourteen pending patents and, as of May 2020, is referenced in over two hundred patents.[22]


In 2002, PKWARE was awarded PC Magazine's Editors' Choice for data compression software.[23]

See also


  1. ^ a b Collins, Caroline. "Thompson Street Capital Partners Announces Acquisition of PKWARE Inc". Business Wire. Retrieved 2020.
  2. ^ a b c d Matt Murray and Jeffrey A. Tannenbaum. "The Rise and Fall of a Software Star; Phil Katz Loved Code -- and Liquor".
  3. ^ Gertzen, Jason. "Management team purchases PKWARE: Brown Deer firm leads in data compression." Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. 16 March 2001
  4. ^ "PKWARE Acquires Ascent Solutions, Inc". Archived from the original on June 15, 2011.
  5. ^ a b Kathleen Gallagher. "Milwaukee-based PKWare changes hands".
  6. ^ Kathleen Gallagher. "CEO's move to PKWare based on location". Archived from the original on 2009-11-17.
  7. ^ "Thompson Street Capital Partners Acquires Data Protection Provider PKWARE". Thompson Street Capital Partners. Retrieved 2020.
  8. ^ "PKWARE Announces The Acquisition Of Dataguise". PKWARE. PKWARE, Inc. Retrieved 2020.
  9. ^ Abramson, Daniel. "PKWARE Announces the Acquisition of Dataguise". Business Wire. BackBay Communications. Retrieved 2020.
  10. ^ "Vagas de Emprego Sync2it -". Retrieved 2017.
  11. ^ a b "Free Zip Reader".
  12. ^ "What is PKZIP (or PKZip)? - Definition from".
  13. ^ "SecureZIP".
  14. ^ "PKWARE Extends Data Security Software to Support OpenPGP" (PDF).
  15. ^ "SecureZIP for iOS targets employee side of BYOD".
  16. ^ "PKWARE Offers First Enterprise-level Security App on Google Play" (PDF).
  17. ^ "Index Page". CompletelyPrivateFiles. Archived from the original on 24 April 2017. Retrieved 2017.
  18. ^ Patent 5,051,745
  19. ^ Patent 6,289,509 and Patent 6,952,823
  20. ^ Patent 6,879,988
  21. ^ Patent Search
  22. ^ "PC Magazines' Editors' Choice Award: PKZip 4.5". PCMAG.

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