How To: Open a Rar file

How can you open a Rar file downloaded from a web site or received in an email? What is a Rar file anyway? This article will answer your questions and provide links to free downloads of the best Windows and Mac software to open Rar files.

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What is a Rar file?

Rar files are compressed archives. The term "Archive" means that the file may contain not just one, but several files. It may even contain folders full of files, much like folders on your hard disk. "Compressed" means that mathematical techniques have been used to reduce the space needed to store the files, so that the size of the archive may be much smaller than the total size of the files it contains. In short, Rar files are a space-saving way of storing single files or groups of related files.

There are many different compression techniques in use today. "Rar" is a development of the Zip compression method invented by a Russian programmer Eugene Roshal (hence the name, Roshal Archive.) The Rar format uses advanced compression algorithms that can create some of the smallest archives - typically 8 to 30 per cent smaller than Zip archives - but the penalty is that compression may take a long time.

Other benefits of the Rar file format include redundancy, which can enable damaged archives to be repaired, and support for international character sets, allowing files with non-English filenames to be stored. For this last reason, Rar files are often used by computer users in Russia and other countries that use different alphabets.

Files stored in a Rar archive will decompress to exactly their original state. This is called "lossless compression." By contrast, the compression methods used to create JPG photo image files or MP3 music files are called "lossy compression" because some of the quality of the original image or sound is lost during the compression process.

Rar files occupy less storage space and take less time to send or download. They also provide a convenient way to package and send groups of related files. However, you can't run a program directly from a Rar file. The contents of the archive must be extracted to a folder on your hard drive before they can be used.

No computer operating system has built-in support for the Rar archive format. So if you have received a Rar file you will need to download and install some third party software to open it. There are several programs that can open Rar files on both Windows and Mac OS.

Open Rar files in Microsoft Windows

ssIf you want to open Rar files on a Windows PC, recommends BitZipper. We believe that BitZipper is the best Windows archive manager available. It can open Rar files, Zip files and just about any other compressed or encoded file format you are ever likely to come across in the future.

As well as allowing you to open all these file types, BitZipper lets you create archives using many of these formats. It's also a fast and flexible backup tool. So it's something you'll find useful for a lot more tasks than opening the occasional Rar archive!

BitZipper has a Wizard interface that makes it easy to use even if you have never seen a Rar file before. More experienced users can benefit from the a Classic interface, shown on the right, which provides menu and toolbar access to all the product's functions. BitZipper is a solid and stable archive manager that can handle the largest archives without crashing.

BitZipper runs on Windows 2000, Windows XP, Windows Vista and new Windows 7.

Open Rar files in Mac OS X

Stuffit lets you open Rar files on a MacIf you use an Apple Mac computer then we recommend Stuffit Deluxe to open Rar files. Stuffit is one of the classic Mac utilities that have been around since the first Apple Macs, and contains a complete set of tools for opening and creating the various types of compressed archive that you find on the Web.

Stuffit has a handy "Quick Look" feature which saves time by letting you peek inside archives without opening them. It can also be used as a powerful backup program, which can create encrypted archives that can be saved directly to iDisk, CDs, DVDs or an FTP server. Stuffit Deluxe also has some great tools that make it really easy to send large files (up to 2GB) to your friends and coworkers,

Creating Rar files

The programs described above will enable you to open Rar files that you receive or download from the web. The only products that can create Rar files are those developed by the owners of the Rar format, RARLAB: WinRAR for Windows and RAR for Mac OS X.

The use of uncommon compression formats such as Rar causes problems for others who do not have the software to open them.'s advice is to use only the standard Zip format when creating archives that are intended to be opened by other people, as support for Zip archives is now built in to most computer operating systems.