What is a cabinet file?
A cabinet file (CAB) is a compression file format used by Microsoft installation engines. Many installers use CAB to compress files with a variety of file headers. The file extension is .cab.
The CAB file format allows multiple files to be compressed into one file, which makes it easier to create the installation package. CAB and ZIP archives are similar in that each format compresses multiple files into a single file container. A cabinet symbol stands for ZIP files.
CAB contains several files and contains a reserved header area for digital signatures or other data. CAB often attaches to self-extracting programs or installers. Microsoft CAB File (MSCF) markers provide easy identification. MSCF and InstallShield are incompatible file types.
CAB allows the following three different compression formats:
Deflate: Lossless data compression algorithms invented by Phil Katz
Quantum: Data compression method licensed by David Stafford
LZX: Compression algorithm invented by Jonathan Forbes and Tomi Poutanen (This was later carried over to Microsoft when Forbes joined the company.)