What is RAR? How to Open RAR Files

Image credit: Eric Cuthbert @ Flickr

Most computer users are familiar with the ZIP file extension. Since a compression program is built right into both Windows and the Mac OS X, all you have to do to open a ZIP file is click on it, and your computer does the rest in most cases. Compressing a file or set of files and turning them into ZIP is relatively simple, too; you highlight the files, right-click your mouse and compress. However, RAR, while similar to ZIP, is not so familiar, or simple, to work with for many computer users.

What is RAR?

The RAR extension refers to the Roshal Archive compressed file. WinRAR is one of the most popular programs that creates this type of file. Much like ZIP, the aim of RAR is to decrease the size of a single large file or of multiple files. Uploading and downloading a single, small-sized RAR file is easier than uploading and downloading large or numerous files, and compressing digital files on your computer conserves storage space as well.

Why Use RAR?

The benefits of using RAR files are similar to those of using ZIP files, including:

  • Ease of use; uploading and downloading takes less time and effort
  • Smaller-sized files take up less space in email inboxes and on your hard drive
  • The ability to send large files even with email providers with maximum file size restrictions
  • Compressing all files associated with one project into one location

Choosing RAR Over ZIP

Why choose RAR over ZIP, though, when ZIP is built into both Windows and Mac? You may not have a choice but to learn how to open RAR files if you download a RAR file that someone else created, but if you’re wondering why you should consider RAR over ZIP when producing compressed files of your own, a few reasons include:

  • The ability to produce even smaller sized compressed files, due to the ability to process multi-volume archives
  • More advanced features, if you know how to tweak the options when  compressing files
  • Recovery records in the event of corrupted data

Opening RAR Files

If you receive a RAR file, download it and double-click on it. There’s a possibility you have a suitable program on your computer, already, that will open it. If the RAR file doesn’t open as soon as you click on it, you can ask your computer to search the web for suitable programs. Otherwise, seek out a free or affordable file reader online. There are two types of online file reader programs:

  1. Software you download, install and run through your computer, not through the internet.
  2. Online converters that allow you to upload the file, wait for it to convert to a file type your computer can read, and download the file again.

When dealing with RAR, the software you install will prove more beneficial in the long run. Once you install the program, any RAR file you download will have an icon associated with the program. In the future, you can simply double-click on the new RAR files you receive and it will open in your new program.

RAR Troubleshooting

If you’ve gone to the trouble of installing a RAR program and you still can’t seem to open the RAR file, there are a couple of things to check:

  • Delete and re-download the RAR file. There’s a possibility the download was interrupted and corrupted on your first attempt, or that your earlier attempts to open the RAR file in a different program changed the original formatting.
  • Check for multiple files. Because RAR works with multiple volumes when necessary, large files can be split into multiple files, and all of these files are required to be in the same folder on your computer before you can put them back together again. After the initial .RAR file, additional files will be labeled .R00, .R01, .R02 and so on.  Do not delete these additional files!
  • Discuss the problem with the originator of the file. If possible, contact the person who produced the file and have them double-check their work. There’s a chance the file was corrupted during the original creation, and if so, there’s nothing you can do on your end to make it work.

Image provided by Eric Cuthbert from Flickr’s Creative Commons

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Guest article written by: Luke Patel is a contributing writer and an IT specialist with a specialization in web design. When not keeping up with the latest tech news, he is working with his friends on designing a computer game and teaching others about easy computer solutions such as how to open RAR files.


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Guest article written by: Luke Patel is a contributing writer and an IT specialist with a specialization in web design. When not keeping up with the latest tech news, he is working with his friends on designing a computer game and teaching others about easy computer solutions such as how to open RAR files.


26 thoughts on “What is RAR? How to Open RAR Files”

  1. I use 7 Zip which is an open source windows application that handles all the different kinds of compression formats. It has the right click features for zipping and unzipping that are helpful.

  2. Wow! Interesting article. You forgot to mention that RAR is a compressed file type invented by the company or brand rarlabs website(http://www.rarlab.com). I think they are the original inventors of this file format. Sorry about the link but I believe they deserve a little credit here. As on every compressed file, there is a chance of getting mistakes of data corruption etc.

  3. There are other good tools which perform the same function like 7Zip and IZarc. Performance of both are very good and they support major file formats.

  4. I’ve been using ZIP and RAR for long time but never actually know the difference between ZIP and RAR. I used to think that both are created and developed by same company for the same purpose (reducing the file size). But I was wrong there.

  5. Nice blog post. I have been using RAR files and WinRar for years but i never knew the advantages it had over zip. This blog post has just shown me that. Thanks

  6. Hi,

    Well now a days all the files are being compresses by using .rar compression. It is best method to encrypt our data and to compress it. Winrar is the best rar software.

  7. Awesome article about RAR files Luke 🙂 RAR files can also be hidden behind images using WinRAR and a simple DOS command as WinZip is not supported for this job.

  8. RAR has a good compression ratio. Breaking an archive into multiple files is a good feature as well. Pretty solid overview here.

  9. I wonder if someone is actually going to ask that what a RAR file or extension actually is. Looking into the growth of acceptance of computers in the routine of individuals, there no one will be left to inform what a RAR file is.
    What do you think Luke?

    Read my post on Web 2.0 for businesses

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  13. I’am using WinRAR for years by now. It has the best compress ratio for me. However, 7zip is a strong competitor for WinRAR.

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  24. 7zip is good but Winrar is better because of some advance feature in compressing file. Thanks for this post it’s a great review of RAR.


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