.RAR files are archive files just like .TAR, .GZ, .TAR.GZ, .TGZ, and zip files. Each archive file format is beneficial for different purposes. .RAR files are useful for their compression and encryption capabilities.
Roshal Archive (RAR) was developed by Russian engineer Eugene Roshal, hence the name Roshal ARchive. .RAR files have several advantages over their competitors, like zip archives.
A compressed file with a “.RAR” extension is a RAR file that needs to be opened or extracted using dedicated tools on a Windows PC since the Windows OS does not natively support this feature. However, it does support .ZIP files.
Below you’ll find different tools and methods to open and process .RAR files on either Windows 10, Windows 11, Mac, Android, or online.
Table of contents
What is a RAR File
The RAR file contains one or multiple files and folders compressed with the RAR compression algorithm. This algorithm is more efficient than ZIP compression, which is why a RAR file can be commonly used to store and share files compressed into a single file.
RAR files can be opened and extracted using a variety of tools. However, the WinRAR program is generally the one that creates them.
Moreover, multi-volume archives split across multiple compressed files can also be made using the RAR compressor. They may all have the same “.RAR” extension. However, these files often have file extensions ranging from .r00 to .r99 to differentiate between them. It’s easier to move multiple files over the network, rather than one big archive.
The RAR archive is similar to a zip file, with some added advantages.
- .RAR files can be split into multiple-part files for easier transfer over the internet.
- .RAR files come with data recovery capabilities, making them less likely to lose data in case of file corruption.
- .RAR files generally offer a better compression ratio compared to zip or other file formats, saving further disk space.
- .RAR files are encrypted by default, making it harder for malware to infect the archives.
Let us now discuss the different tools that can be used to access and extract the .RAR compressed files.
How To Open RAR Files
If you have received or downloaded a compressed RAR file, you cannot open it without a suitable program. Its icon would be blank, and you will find that no one can open it in the context menu.
Even if you open the “Open with” dialog box, not having the appropriate program would be of no use, since other suggested programs cannot open a RAR file. Open a .RAR file with Notepad will only display gibberish that you won’t understand.
Therefore, we have listed a few tools for you to use to open and process RAR files for free.
WinRAR is free-to-use software that creates archives, compresses, and decompresses files of many formats. However, since this is the only tool that creates RAR files, this is at the top of our list.
Although the tool may prompt you to purchase it, it will work without even doing so. If you do feel that the tool is useful, you can appreciate its developers by paying for the tool.
WinRAR supports a bunch of different archive and compression formats that can be commonly found.
Follow these steps to open or extract the contents of a .RAR file:
Download and install WinRAR.
Once installed, it will automatically add the option to open or extract RAR files from the context menu.
Now right-click on the RAR file, expand Open With, and then click WinRAR archiver.
The RAR file will now open inside the WinRAR window.
If you want to extract this content, click Extract To from the ribbon menu.
Now select the directory where you want to store the extracted content and then click OK.
You can now find the extracted content inside your selected directory.
Unlike WinRAR, WinZip is a paid tool but offers a 21-day trial period. Nevertheless, it supports multiple archiving formats, making it our number 2 pick.
WinZip adds the option to open a .RAR file directly from its context menu, similar to WinRAR. Follow these steps to open and extract a .RAR file using WinZip:
Download and install WinZip.
Once installed, right-click the .RAR file and then click Open with WinZip from the context menu.
The RAR file will now open in a WinZip window, from where you can access its contents. If you wish to extract the content, simply select it by checking the adjacent box, switch to the Unzip tab from the ribbon menu, and then click Same Folder as Zip.
The content will now be extracted in the same directory where the .RAR files were stored.
7Zip is another freeware used to compress and decompress different file types, including a RAR file and zip file. Compared to other archiving software, 7Zip is relatively small in size and quicker than the others.
Follow these steps to use 7Zip to extract and open RAR files:
Download and install 7Zip.
Once installed, right-click on the RAR file, expand “7Zip” from the context menu, and click either Open archive if you want to open the RAR file, or click Extract files if you want to extract the content.
Note: The icon of the .RAR file will not change. However, the option to open and extract it using 7Zip will still be present in the context menu.
If you previously selected Extracted Files, then you must now select a directory to extract the contents. Select it, and then click Ok.
PeaZip is another third-party tool that can be used to open .RAR files on the Windows platform. However, this is our 4th pick as the tool is relatively slower in responding than the tools discussed above. Otherwise, it has the same functionalities as WinRAR and WinZip.
Follow these steps to open and extract a RAR file using PeaZip:
Download and install PeaZip.
Right-click on the .RAR file, expand PeaZip, and then click either Open as archive to view the contents of the archive or Extract to extract them.
If you previously selected Extract from the context menu, then you will now need to set an extract path. Choose a directory to extract the contents of the RAR file and then click OK.
How to Open and Extract RAR Files Online
You can also extract the content of .RAR files using online services, without installing anything on your computer.
EzyZip is an online tool that can open RAR files for you. To open a RAR file, you need to upload the file to EzyZip and then preview the data as well as download the extracted data.
You can also convert a .RAR file into a ZIP file so you can extract the files on your Windows PC natively, without a third-party tool. You can also upload files through DropBox.
Simply open the EzyZip website and click Select rar file to open, and then select the .RAR file you wish to upload.
Once uploaded, the tool will extract it and show you its contents. You now click Preview to view each file or click Save to download it to your device. You may also click the down arrow beside the Save button to save the extracted content to DropBox.
Online Archive Extractor
The Online Archive Extractor is another online tool that extracts the contents of a .RAR file and then automatically downloads them to your device. Unlike EzyZip, you cannot preview the contents of the .RAR file before downloading them, nor do you have the option to download selective items.
Simply open the Online Archive Extractor website and click Browse to upload your .RAR file.
The tool will then extract the contents of the archive and download them individually onto your device.
How to Open and Extract RAR Files using Command Line
There are multiple ways to open RAR files on Windows, including the command line option. However, this cannot be done natively on a Windows PC, and you still need a third-party tool.
WinRAR comes with command-line cmdlets, parameters, and switches that you can use to modify, extract, and compress .RAR and other archived files. However, we will only be talking about extracting a .RAR file using WinRAR cmdlets.
Follow these steps to successfully extract the contents of a .RAR file using Command Prompt:
Start by installing WinRAR.
Once installed, open the elevated Command Prompt instance and then use the “CD” cmdlet to change the directory to the WinRAR installation folder. By default, WinRAR is installed at “C:\Program Files\WinRAR.”
CD /d [PathToWinRARFolder]
Once the directory is changed, use the following cmdlet to extract the contents of a .RAR file into a specified folder. Replace [PathToRAR] with the complete path to the .RAR file that you want to extract, and [ExtractionPath] with the path of the directory where you wish to extract the contents to.
Unrar x [PathToRAR].rar [ExtractionPath]
As you can see in the image above, the cmdlet has successfully extracted the .RAR file, for which you can find the contents in the specified folder using File Explorer.
Command line options are especially useful when you want to automate the processing of RAR files on Windows.
Opening RAR files on Mac
Like Windows, macOS also does not support the .RAR archiving format natively. Therefore, you must use an app.
“The Unarchiver” is a known Mac application that is used to handle compressed files in macOS. Follow these steps to open and extract .RAR files on macOS:
Download and install The Unarchiver.
When installed, right click the RAR file, expand Open with, and then click The Unarchiver.
The Unarchiver will now open a window where you can choose the destination folder for your extracted content. You may also create a new folder. Once selected, click Extract.
The Unarchiver will now extract the contents of the .RAR file to the selected directory.
Opening RAR Files on Android
On an Android device, you must also use an app to handle and extract archives, including .RAR files.
An Android application by the name “RAR” is available for you to download and install from the Play Store which can get the job done. Follow these steps to open or extract the contents of a .RAR file on an Android:
Download and install RAR from PlayStore.
Once installed, open the app and then navigate to the directory where the .RAR file is placed on your device.
Click on the .RAR file to open it and you will be able to view the items inside the file.
Select the item(s) you want to extract by checking the box next to them, and then click the Extract button at the top.
You can also extract the contents of the entire .RAR file by going up one level of the directory and selecting the .RAR file, and then click the Extract button.
Alternative to the last extraction step, you can also long-press on the .RAR file and then click Extract files from the contextual menu to extract the content.
You can’t process RAR files on Windows without using any third party software. The best tool for this purpose is WinRAR.
Some third-party tools other than WinRAR also have associated cmdlets that can be used to extract the contents of .RAR and other archives use Command Prompt, but WinRAR is the best option since it offers a variety of parameters and switches.
Type in rar or unrar in Command Prompt in the WinRAR directory to learn which commands and switches are available, and what their function is.
That said, there are many other similar tools available to open and extract .RAR, as well as other archive formats, include online tools that do not require installation. But we believe the ones we have named in this post are safe and around for many years to get the job done.