Although you are more likely to encounter a ZIP file than an RAR file in your everyday activities, both are great at compressing files. However, RARs have numerous advantages over ZIP files, offering everything from a higher level of compression, to comprehensive support for error recovery. But that is no good if you don’t know how to open RAR files. Fortunately, the process is a simple one.
However, while ZIP files can be opened in nearly every operating system without third-party software, RAR files require external software to use. Windows users can always purchase the premium WinRAR application to open the files — the file archiver initially built in conjunction with the proprietary format — but most users will likely want to snag one of the several free offerings on the web with RAR support and built-in functionality.
The following are our favorites.
Although this guide is focused on Windows and MacOS, you can zip files on Chromebooks too.
Using 7-Zip – Windows
Step 1: Navigate to the 7-Zip download page and select the download link corresponding to your desired version of the software. If you’re running the latest version of Windows 10, chances are you want the 64-bit version, but if needed, confirm which version of Windows you’re running first.
When in the installer, select your desired destination folder for the utility and click the “Install” button in the bottom-right corner of the window. Click the “Finish” button when done and launch the program.
Step 2: Locate the RAR file you wish to open within the main 7-Zip interface. To do so, peruse the resulting folder directly and double-click the RAR file to access the contents of the file. Alternatively, right-click the file and select the “Open” option near the top of the resulting drop-down menu.
Step 3: Double-click the RAR file to launch it in the appropriate program, or if you wish to save the file elsewhere on your computer, highlight the file in question and click the “Copy” button housed beneath the navigation bar. Then select a save location for the file in the pop-up window, and click the gray “OK” button in the bottom-right corner.
Now that your files are out in the open, 7Zip can help you protect them too.
Using RAR Opener – Windows
Who doesn’t like having alternatives? While 7-Zip remains an excellent tool for opening RAR files, there are other solutions available for those looking to streamline the process. RAR Opener, a free download available on the Microsoft Store, is the perfect example. The app is a very basic, plugin-like tool with a few big blue buttons to both pack and unpack RAR files. It’s also directly integrated with Windows 10 and is a great pick if you need to deal with RAR, ZIP, TAR, LZH, and other file formats.
Using Unarchiver – MacOS
Zipping up files on MacOS is an important feature of the OS, but you need to be able to unpack them too. An oldie but a goodie, Unarchiver easily trumps the built-in archive unpacker that comes with MacOS — aka the aptly titled “Archive Utility”. The program touts support for a greater number of file formats and offers additional functionality more akin to 7-Zip than other available offerings on the web. Though Unarchiver also lacks the ability to create RAR files, it still allows you to open RARs with just a few steps.
Step 1: Navigate to the Unarchiver download page and click the “Download” option in the middle of the page, or head over to the App Store to download the application. Afterward, extract the file and launch the program.
Step 3: Once opened, ensure the box beside “RAR Archive” is checked — along with any other archive types you wish to open with the Unarchiver — and click the “Extraction” tab located at the top of the application window. Afterward, select your save location for the resulting file from the drop-down menu near the top of the window, control-click the RAR file you wish to open and choose the Unarchiver from the drop-down menu beside the “Open With” option.
The utility will then automatically create and save a file with the same name as the RAR file in the previously-specified location. Then, simply double-click the RAR file to launch it in the appropriate program.
Using UnRarX – MacOS
UnRarX is a simple bit of software, sure, but it’s quick and touts restoration capabilities. All you need to do is download the app, launch it, and drag any RAR files you wish to open to the application window for expansion or extraction. The aforementioned window gives you a basic, command-oriented view of how the process is working. It’s a minimalist option for those who don’t need anything fancy.