Although you are more likely to encounter a ZIP file than a 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.
Windows users can always purchase the premium WinRAR application for $29 to open the files — the file archiver initially built in conjunction with the proprietary format — but we have some alternative favorites we consider to be superior.
Step 1: Navigate to the 7-Zip download page and select the download link that corresponds 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 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 ont the files, choosing 7-Zip from the dropdown 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? 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, plug-in-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.
The Unarchiver (MacOS)
Zipping up files on MacOS is an important feature of the OS, but you need to be able to unpack them, too. Apple has a native tool for uncompressing files simply by clicking on them, but it’s a very simple option that doesn’t allow any control over the process. For a more 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 greater number of file formats and offers additional functionality more akin to 7-Zip than other available offerings on the web. Though Unarchiver 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 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.
MacOS alternative: iZip
If you’re looking for an alternative, try iZip instead. It’s a Mac-focused archive manager that makes it particularly easy to secure files and share your results without worrying about theft. You can deal with larger files easily, 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 — or just sharing a lot of files with a friend who also has the program.