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Avast Academy Security Other Threats What Is a RAR File and How Do I Open it?

What Is a RAR File and How Do I Open It?

So you’ve downloaded or been sent a file ending in .rar — now what? RAR files are a type of compressed file used to send multiple files together. Learn how to open RAR files on Windows, Mac, Android, and iOS. But before you open any unknown files, install a security app like Avast One to protect your device from threats that downloaded files may contain.

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What is a RAR file?

A RAR file contains one or more files that have been compressed into a smaller file using WinRAR software. The .rar file extension name stands for Roshal Archive, meaning a high quality compressed file (also known as an archive) that can be encrypted with a password.

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This article contains:

    What are RAR files used for?

    RAR files are used to transfer or store huge files, like when you download your data from Google or Facebook, or send gigabytes of data as image, audio, or video files. Compressing the files into a single RAR file lets you speed up transfer and download times.

    Sometimes, file size limitations make a single file inconvenient for storing on a drive or sending in an email. In this situation, you can create a multi-volume archive by splitting your compressed data into multiple RAR files, known as “volumes.”

    Each volume is numbered in the file name (volname.part001.rar, volname.part002.rar). Then, when you uncompress your files, you need to have all volumes in the same location and extract them in chronological order.

    RAR vs. ZIP: What's the difference?

    The biggest difference between RAR and ZIP is that .zip formatted files are more widely used because the file format is flexible and can work with any operating system. Although both file types allow you to compress large amounts of data, here are some of the other differences between how the RAR and ZIP formats compress files:

    • Data compression: RAR uses a higher data compression ratio than ZIP. That means RAR creates a smaller file size than ZIP. It doesn’t take as long to upload or download your RAR file, but it’s slower than compressing the same data using ZIP.

    • Encryption: Both file formats support password protection, but they use different encryption methods. RAR uses AES-128 encryption, which is generally superior to the ZIP 2.0 encryption algorithm. If you use 7-Zip to create your ZIP files, you get AES-256 encryption, which is more secure than both RAR and regular ZIP files. With RAR, you can also lock encrypted archives to prevent accidental modification of your files.

    • Error recovery: Like other file types, RAR and ZIP can get corrupted, making the content they contain inaccessible. If this occurs, you can repair the damage using RAR repair software, which allows you to reconstruct damaged data.

    • Software: Most operating systems have built-in features for opening ZIP files, and there are many free apps available for creating ZIPs. Creating RAR files, by contrast, requires extra software, which makes RAR files a bit harder for some people. Although you need software to create RAR files, many of the data compression applications enable you to convert RAR files into other archive formats — ideal for someone who doesn’t have the necessary RAR opener software.

    How to open a RAR file?

    To open files ending in .rar you need a special RAR file opener for extracting the data. If you’ve ever downloaded an app to unpack a ZIP file, the same software can usually unzip RAR files too.

    Here’s an overview of the most commonly used applications for opening RAR files:

    • WinZip: A paid app for RAR and ZIP file management available on Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android. Download it from WinZip, the App Store, or Google Play. Then select Use Evaluation Version for a free trial.

    • WinRAR: A paid app for extracting and creating RAR files on Windows. The app comes with a free trial, and you can download it from WinRAR.

    • 7-Zip: A free, open-source app with a high compression ratio and its own archive format called 7z. Available for Windows PCs and downloadable from 7-Zip.

    • iZip: A free app for ZIP and RAR file management. Available for Mac, iPhone, iPad, and Windows PC. Download it from the App Store or iZip.

    • The Unarchiver: A free app for unpacking archived files on Mac. Download it from the App Store or The Unarchiver.

    How to open a RAR file on Windows

    WinRAR is an app for Windows 11, 10, 8, and 7 that you can download and use for free during the trial period to open RAR files. It was created by the same developers who came up with the .rar file format, and you can also use it to create RAR files.

    Here’s how to unpack a RAR file using WinRAR:

    1. Download and install the WinRAR app.

      Installation window for WinRAR 6.11 to start installation on Windows 10.
    2. Right-click the RAR file you want to open and select Open with WinRAR.

      A .rar file icon with a windows context menu showing Open with WinRAR selected.
    3. Click Extract To, then select a destination folder for the unpacked files.

      WinRAR window with an open .rar file and the Extract To button highlighted.

    Your RAR file is now open, and all the files are available in the destination folder you selected. Or, you can open the files directly from the WinRAR window.

    How to open a RAR file on Mac

    The Unarchiver is a free app you can download from the App Store to open .rar formatted files on Mac. Here’s how to unpack a RAR file using The Unarchiver:

    1. Download the Unarchiver directly or find it on the App Store.

    2. Open the app and ensure RAR Archive is selected on the Archive Formats screen.

      The Unarchiver app on Mac, enabled for RAR Archive extraction.
    3. Click the Extraction tab and select how you want the extracted folder to be saved.

      In the Extraction tab of The Unarchiver, click the drop-down menu next to "Extract archives to" and select your preference.
    4. Right-click the .rar formatted file and select Open With > The Unarchiver.

      Right-click the RAR file and select Open With > The Unarchiver to extract the file.
    5. Select a destination folder for the unpacked files, then click Extract.

      Select the destination folder where your RAR file will be extracted.

    Your RAR file is now open. The files it contained are available in the destination folder you selected.

    How to open a RAR file on iPhone

    iZip is a free app you can download from the App Store to open .rar formatted files on iPhone.

    Here’s how to unpack a RAR file using iZip:

    1. Download iZip directly or find it on the App Store.

      Searching for iZip in the App Store on an iPhone.
    2. Find the RAR file on your iPhone. Tap the iOS share icon and select iZip.

      A .rar file with the share icon selected and the iZip app as the selected action.
    3. Select OK when prompted to unzip all files.

      A .rar file open in iZip with a prompt to confirm unzipping all files.

    Your RAR file is now open. The files it contained are available in a new folder that has the same name as the original RAR file.

    How to open a RAR file on Android

    WinZip is a free app you can download from Google Play to open .rar formatted files on Android. Here’s how to unpack a RAR file using WinZip:

    1. Download WinZip directly or get it at the Google Play store.

      Searching for WinZip in Google Play Store on an Android phone.
    2. Tap the WinZip icon on your home screen to open the app. Tap Start, then select the free trial option.

      WinZip start screen side-by-side with the WinZip purchase screen and the Try free for 3 days button selected.
    3. Find the RAR file where you saved it (internal storage, downloads folder, Google Drive).

      WinZip home screen with file storage locations for selecting the location of a saved file.
    4. Tap the three dots icon next to the RAR file and select Unzip to.

      WinZip app with the three-dot icon highlighted next to a .rar file and Unzip to selected from a menu of actions.
    5. Select a destination folder for the extracted files, then tap Unzip here.

      WinZip app screen with Android phone storage locations and the Unzip Here button highlighted.

    Your RAR file is now open. The files it contained are available in a new folder that has the same name as the original RAR file.

    How to create a RAR file

    The easiest way to create a RAR file on Windows is with the WinRAR application. Here’s how to do it:

    1. Open WinRAR.

    2. Use the drop-down menu to select the folder with the files you want to compress into a RAR file. Select the individual files and folders you want to include in the RAR file. (Hold down the Ctrl key on your keyboard to select multiple files).

      An open WinRar window with files selected ready to be compressed to .rar format.
    3. Click Add. You can also edit the file name for the new RAR file. Check that the Archive format is set to RAR. Here, you can also adjust compression level, volume size, and other archiving parameters. Click OK to create the new RAR file.

      An open WinRAR window with the Add button highlighted and a second archive name and parameters window overlaid.
    4. Wait while the RAR file is created. To minimize the WinRAR window during this process, click Background.

    5. Once the file has been created, you’ll see the new RAR file selected in the WinRAR window. Your RAR file is automatically saved to the same folder as the original files.

      An open WinRAR window with a newly created .rar file highlighted.

    That’s how you make a RAR file. If file compression is your main goal, you can also create a ZIP file, which gives you similar benefits.

    How to convert a RAR file

    Sometimes the simplest compression option is to convert your RAR file into a ZIP. This makes it more accessible for people you need to share it with. Here’s how to convert a RAR file using WinZip:

    1. Right-click the RAR file and select Open with > WinZip.

      A .rar file that has been right-clicked and the Windows context menu shows Open with and WinZip selected.
    2. Click the down arrow next to Unzip to and select the location where you want to save the file. Then click Unzip.

      An open WinZip window with the down arrow highlighted in the Actions menu on the right side.
    3. Open WinZip. Drag and drop all the files that have been extracted into the WinZip window.

      A Finder window with files selected and an arrow pointing from the Finder window to an open WinZip window.
    4. In the menu, select File > Save As. Choose the location where you want to save the new ZIP file and click Save.

      An open WinZip window with the left-side File menu expanded and Save As highlighted.

    Your RAR file has now been converted to a ZIP file.

    Are RAR files safe to use?

    RAR files are usually safe to use. But just like regular files, compressed files (RAR or ZIP) can also contain viruses or malware. Note that any virus compressed in a RAR file can’t harm your device until you extract it. The best way to keep your device safe is to use the best antivirus software to make sure your computer scans files to identify threats before you extract them.

    If you want to protect your files from falling into the wrong hands, then encrypting your RAR file with a password can help. If you create a strong password, prying eyes won’t even be able to see the names of the files within your RAR archive.

    Here’s how to password protect a RAR file using WinRAR on Windows:

    1. Add your files to a new RAR archive by following steps 1 and 2 in our how to create a RAR file instructions above.

    2. Click Add. After naming the new RAR file, click Set password.

      An open WinRAR Archive name and parameters window with Set password selected.
    3. Enter a password for the file, then re-enter the password to confirm it. Check the Encrypt file names box, then click OK.

      A WinRAR window for creating a password with a check box to encrypt file names and the OK button highlighted.
    4. Click OK to create your RAR file, which will be password protected.

      An open WinRAR archive name and parameters window with the OK button highlighted.

    Unlock ultimate protection with Avast

    No matter where you want to create, manage, or download RAR files, you need to shield yourself from any cyber threats they might be hiding. With comprehensive file scanning and malware detection, Avast One makes it easy to confidently create and extract RAR files on any device. Install Avast today to keep your PC, laptop, or phone virus-free.

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    Other Threats
    Security
    Anna Wratislav
    24-11-2022