Windows 10 is fully compatible for opening and processing files compressed using the ZIP archive format. You can easily preview and extract the content from them using File Explorer. But sometimes you may come across RAR archives, and this is where things get tricky.
You must have wondered how files with RAR extensions are different from ZIP files. Although both are archive file formats, RAR (or Roshal Archive) is a proprietary compression technology developed and maintained by RARLAB. Windows 10 does not have native support for the format.
So if you download a RAR file, it is impossible to open, let alone extract its contents, without a compatible third-party program. Below you will find four free tools that can help you. Let’s start.
WinRAR is a file compression and extraction tool developed by RARLAB itself. Apart from the RAR format (which is pretty obvious considering the name), it also supports several other compression formats including ZIP, 7Z, CAB, ISO, JAR, etc.
Point: WinRAR offers a generous 40-day trial, but the program typically doesn’t enforce it, so you can keep using it for as long as you want without paying.
After downloading and installing WinRAR, you can extract RAR archives in various ways. The easiest way is to right-click on a RAR file and select the Extract Here context menu option. This should immediately extract the contents to the same location. You can also use the Extract Files option, which prompts you to select a directory where you want to extract the files.
In addition to this, WinRAR also allows you to preview and extract selected files from RAR archives with Open with WinRAR option. In the displayed WinRAR window, you can browse the RAR archive and extract some files using the Extract to menu button. You can also open files in the affected programs without extracting them if you want – double-click them to do so.
Other than that, WinRAR can prove to be incredibly useful if you want to create RAR archives. Right click on the file or folder you want to compress, select Add to archive and you can choose an archive format – RAR, RAR4 and ZIP.
Note: RAR4 is the old version of the RAR archive file format. Use it if you are concerned about compatibility issues.
Then choose a compression method such as Store, Normal, or Best (which basically determines the size of the file) and click OK. You can also add files to existing RAR archives using Add option from menu bar while previewing them.
7-Zip is an open-source program that supports multiple compression standards such as 7Z, TAR, WIM, and ZIP. Unlike WinRAR, however, it does not allow you to compress RAR files. It lets you extract them, and everything works pretty much the same as WinRAR in this regard.
After installing 7-Zip, you can extract RAR files by right clicking on a RAR archive, pointing to 7-Zip and selecting the Extract here and Extract files options.
You can also use Open Archive option to preview the RAR archive – just like with WinRAR – and extract some items inside.
If you don’t want the extra bells and whistles in WinRAR or 7-Zip, consider using ExtractNow. It is an incredibly small utility that allows you to easily extract multiple RAR archives simultaneously. The program also supports various other formats, like ZIP, 7Z, CAB, etc.
Download and install the tool (it’s completely free), and you can drag and drop multiple RAR archives into the ExtractNow window to prepare them for extraction.
Then just click on Extract and choose a location to extract the RAR archive (or archives).
Additionally, you can dive into the ExtractNow Settings pane and configure a plethora of settings to configure how the program works. For example, you can switch to the Explorer tab and add a context menu option that can let you instantly extract RAR archives (including any other supported format).
As the name suggests, ExtractNow only allows you to extract compression archives. It does not allow you to create them.
4. Archive extractor
Unlike the tools you just walked through above, Archive Extractor is an online-only extraction utility. It allows you to download RAR archives and re-download them in extracted form, which makes it perfect for Spot Instances.
After visiting Archive Extractor, select the Choose File option to download the files from your computer or Google Drive and Dropbox cloud storage services. It also supports URLs, which means you can paste any downloadable link to a RAR archive and immediately download it in the extracted form.
Warning: For the sake of privacy and security, you should not download any RAR files that contain sensitive or confidential data. You never know where your files may end up.
The RAR format has been around for years, but it never became mainstream due to its proprietary nature, unlike ZIP. But its superior compression capabilities mean you’ll come across RAR almost regularly, especially if you download a lot from the internet. Just have WinRAR, 7-Zip, or Extract Now handy (or add Archive Extractor to your web browser), and you’ll never have to worry about another RAR file again.