Windows 10 comes fully equipped to deal with files compressed using the ZIP archiving format. You can easily preview and extract the contents inside them using File Explorer. But occasionally, you may come across RAR archives, and that’s where things get complicated.
You must’ve wondered how files with RAR extensions differ from ZIP files. Though both are file archivers, RAR is a proprietary compression technology developed and maintained by RARLAB. Hence, Windows 10 has no native support for the format.
So if you download a RAR file, it’s 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 with that. Let’s get started.
WinRAR is a file compression and extraction tool developed by none other than RARLAB itself. In addition to the RAR format (which is kind of obvious), it also supports several other compression formats such as ZIP, 7Z, CAB, ISO, JAR, etc.
Tip: WinRAR offers a generous 40-day trial, but the program does not enforce that as a rule. 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 many different ways. The easiest is to right-click a RAR file and select the Extract Here contextual menu option. That should extract the contents into the same location immediately. Alternatively, you can use the Extract Files option, which prompts you to pick a directory to extract the files.
Aside from that, WinRAR also allows you to preview and extract select files from RAR archives with the Open With WinRAR option. On the WinRAR window that shows up, you can navigate throughout the RAR archive and extract select files using the Extract To menu button. You can also open files in their default programs without extracting should you want—just double-click a file to do that.
That aside, WinRAR can prove to be incredibly useful if you want to create RAR archives. Right-click the file or folder that you want to compress, select Add to Archive, and you get to pick an archive format—RAR, RAR4, and ZIP.
Note: RAR4 is the older version of the RAR archive file format. Use it if you’re concerned about compatibility issues.
Then, pick a compression method such as Store, Normal, or Best (which determines the file size) and click OK. You can also add files to existing RAR archives using the Add button on the menu bar while previewing them.
7-Zip is an open-source program that supports several compressions 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 pretty much works similar to WinRAR in that regard.
After installing 7-Zip, you can extract RAR files by right-clicking a RAR archive, pointing to 7-Zip, and selecting the Extract Here and Extract Files options.
You can also use the Open Archive option to preview the RAR archive—just like with WinRAR—and extract select items inside them.
If you don’t want the extra bells and whistles in WinRAR or 7-Zip, consider using ExtractNow. It’s an incredibly tiny utility that allows you to easily extract multiple RAR archives simultaneously. The program also supports various other formats, such as ZIP, 7Z, CAB, etc.
Download and install the tool (it’s completely free), and you can go about dragging and dropping multiple RAR archives onto the ExtractNow window to prep them up for extraction.
Then, it’s a simple matter of clicking Extract and picking a location to extract the RAR archive (or archives) to.
Additionally, you can dive into the ExtractNow Settings pane and configure a host of settings to configure how the program works. For example, you can switch to the Explorer tab and add a contextual menu option that can allow you to extract RAR archives (including any other supported formats) instantly.
As its name implies, however, ExtractNow only lets you extract compressions archives. It does not let you create them.
4. Archive Extractor
Unlike the tools that you just went through above, Archive Extractor is an online-only extraction utility. It allows you to upload RAR archives and re-download them in extracted form, making it perfect for one-off instances.
After visiting Archive Extractor, select the Choose File option to upload the files either from your computer or the Google Drive and Dropbox cloud storage services. It also supports URLs, which means that you can paste any downloadable link to a RAR archive and download it in the extracted form right away.
Warning: Due to privacy and security concerns, you must not upload any RAR files that contain sensitive or confidential data.
The RAR format has been around the block for years, but it never went mainstream due to its proprietary nature, unlike ZIP. But it’s superior compression capabilities do mean that you will run into RAR regularly, especially if you download stuff a lot on the internet. Just have WinRAR, 7-Zip, or Extract Now at hand (or bookmark Archive Extractor in your web browser), and you’ll never have to worry about another RAR file again.
Next up: Do you use an iPhone or an iPad? Here’s how to extract ZIP files without relying on any third-party apps or services.
Last updated on 13 July, 2021
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