How to open RAR files

Most apps and programs for your PC are a breeze to download, but others might give you a hard time. When you click on the file to install, you might notice that it has a .rar file extension you’re not familiar with.

While RAR files offer many advantages, it does take a bit more knowledge to open them on your computer. Here, we’ve provided a few simple ways to open RAR files, whether you’re using Windows or MacOS.

7-Zip (Windows)


Step 1: Navigate to the 7-Zip download page, and select the download link that corresponds with 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 it’s a good idea to 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.

Once you get used to the process, you can shorten your steps by right-clicking on the files, choosing 7-Zip from the drop-down menu, and choosing to extra the files as you need to. Finally, now that your files are out in the open, 7-Zip can help you protect them, too.

Other Windows alternatives

Who doesn’t like having alternatives? Other apps may be right for you, whether you want to make some comparisons or just look for a different interface. We’ll start by recommending the entirely free Zip Extractor app, an elegant little extractor that is fully compatible with RAR files. It’s also pleasantly free of ads, trials, and “you can only use this as part of this other software package” gimmicks. It merely extracts and downloads with no fuss.

If you want something a little more, then check out WinOpener. It received a full redesign for Windows 10 and lets you preview and extract RAR, Zip, and 7z files easily. In-app printing and sharing for Word Docs or PDFs is also supported, which could save busy professionals some time. The downside is that the full price of WinOpener is $20, but we encourage you to keep an eye out for sales if this seems too high.

The Unarchiver (MacOS)

Zipping up files on MacOS is an essential feature of the operating system, but you need to be able to unpack them, too. Apple has a native tool for uncompressing files by just clicking on them, but it’s a streamlined option that doesn’t allow any control over the process. For those seeking a complete tool, we suggest another option.

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 more significant number of file formats and offers additional functionality more akin to 7-Zip than other available offerings on the web. Though Unarchiver cannot 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 2: 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.

Step 3: 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.

Other MacOS alternatives

Are you interested in alternatives that may be friendlier for your purposes or easier on your eyes? Start with Keka, a file archiver that’s also excellent for extracting ZIP, 7z, and RAR files, among many more. It has an excellent interface and works well with splitting and recombining files when necessary. It costs a few bucks, but it’s worthwhile if you have quite a few files to compress and reassemble on your Mac and need a reliable app going into the future.

Otherwise, you may want to try out iZip instead. It’s a Mac-focused archive manager that makes it incredibly easy to secure files and share your results without worrying about theft. You can deal with larger files quickly, encrypt your work, and share over a secure connection that works between different operating systems. It may be a better choice for professional RAR management, but it also has more of a learning curve for casual users.

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