iconWinRAR is an archive manager for Windows developed by RARLAB, inventors of the Rar archive format. It's distinguishing feature is the ability to create Rar files. But it is a powerful archive manager in its own right, supporting the ability to open and create most popular archive types.


On first impressions the user interface of WinRAR looks a little dated, due partly to the rather garish icons used. However, this cosmetic issue can easily be overcome by downloading one of the many user-provided themes to create a look that fits well with the version of Windows and other software you use.

WinRAR can be used as a file browser, like Windows Explorer. When you open a Rar file, or any other supported archive type, it is opened as a folder within the application, allowing you to browse the contents and open or extract individual files with ease.

As an alternative to the main interface there is a Wizard that takes you through the process of opening an archive and extracting its contents to a folder, creating an archive containing a selection of files, or adding files to an existing archive. This makes WinRAR easy to use, even by those less experienced with computers.

Another nice feature of WinRAR is its integrated support for virus scanning. A toolbar button lets you run your existing virus scanner on the contents of an archive before you extract them to a folder.

WinRAR doesn't support as many archive formats as some competing products like BitZipper, though it can open the most popular types. Unusually, it boasts the rather useful ability to look inside .iso CD images.

WinRAR only provides full support (including the ability to create archives and make self extracting and encrypted archives) for Zip and Rar formats. The developers probably take the view that since their own Rar format creates some of the smallest, most tightly compressed archives there is no need to fully support others. The Rar format is certainly one of the more advanced archive formats, offering not just very tight compression, but redundancy (allowing damaged archives to be repaired) and support for non-Arabic character sets. However its use for downloadable files does cause trouble for many users, unlike the industry standard Zip format which is now supported natively by most computer operating systems.

We think that WinRAR is quite a nice archive management tool. However, for users who only need to open Rar files and not to create them, the rival BitZipper supports more archive formats and is better value.

Product Information

Publisher: RARLAB

Platform: Windows

Price: $ 29

Key Features

  • Open Rar files, Zip files and 12 other formats
  • Create Rar and Zip archives
  • Create encrypted archives (128-bit encryption)
  • Create self extracting archives
  • Create smaller archives than Zip format
  • Automatically selects best compression method for multimedia files
  • Split archives into several volumes
  • Themable toolbar buttons
  • Wizard or standard user interface
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