Everyone eventually receives a file they’re unsure how to open or manage. Sometimes you’ll need specialized, third-party software because the Windows OS doesn’t support all file formats natively.
The RAR file format is a typical example. Despite being hailed as the best Windows OS that ever existed, Windows 10 doesn’t natively support RAR files. This makes it difficult for those who have never encountered this file format to open or manage it.
In this guide, we’ll explain how to open RAR files on Windows 10, what those files are, and which programs you can use to manage them. So, without further ado, let’s dive right in.
Open RAR Files Using WinRAR Software
Unlike ZIP, RAR is a proprietary archive file format that the Windows OS doesn’t natively support. As such, Windows requires third-party software, such as a WinRAR Archiver or 7-Zip software, to manage RAR files.
In this section, we’ll explain how to open RAR files on Windows 10 using WinRAR Archiver. Please don’t be confused by the fact that we’re using Windows 11 in our example (photos) — the process is identical on Windows 10.
Step 1: Locate and Open the RAR File
Locate the RAR file you want to open using WinRAR software. Depending on your use case, yours probably came through the electronic mail, or you downloaded it from the internet.
Please note that RAR files might contain malicious software. Luckily, modern anti-virus programs are good at recognizing malicious files within RAR archives and will notify you when an archive is suspicious.
Additionally, most e-mail services perform their own virus scans before sending the archive, so you should be safe. However, just as a precaution, we strongly advise against extracting the archives you received from an unknown source. For the purpose of this guide, we created our own RAR file.
Once you’ve located the RAR file you want to open and extract, double-click it using your left mouse button. Doing so will open the archive through WinRAR Archiver software.
Step 2: Extract Compressed Files
Once the WinRAR Archiver opens your RAR archive, it will display all the files contained within the same archive. To extract all files, select the “…” symbol within the archive and click on Extract To in the upper left corner. This will open the Extract path and options window.
In the Extract path and options window, navigate to and select the destination path for your files. For the purpose of this guide, we made a separate folder for WinRAR to extract the archived files in.
Once you’ve selected the desired destination, click OK in the bottom right corner. The process might take some time, depending on the size of the RAR file you’re trying to extract.
The process described above is used to extract all files within the RAR archive. However, if you want to extract a single file, the process is pretty much the same. All you need to do is select a specific file, and then and then click Extract to. The rest of the process is the same as described above.
If you want to extract multiple individual files but not the entire archive, simply use the Shift or Ctrl modifier keys on your keyboard when selecting files within the archive. Then click Extract to, and follow the previously mentioned instructions.
Step 3: Locate Extracted Files
Once WinRAR extracts your files, navigate to the destination folder you selected during file extraction. All the selected files should be inside the destination folder.
However, you can automate this step and instruct WinRAR to open the destination folder automatically once the extraction is complete. Select the destination folder as described in Step 2, and check the Display files in Explorer option under the Miscellaneous section.
Once you click OK, WinRAR Archiver will open the destination folder once the file extraction has been completed.
Open RAR Files Using the Context Menu
We already established that Windows OS doesn’t natively support RAR files. Because of that, this method also relies on using WinRAR Archiver, which is integrated into Windows’ context menu.
The advantage of this method is that it’s faster than the first one. However, the drawback is that it doesn’t allow individual file extraction from within the archive — it simply extracts everything.
Step 1: Right-Click Your RAR File
Navigate to and right-click the RAR file you want to open, to access the context menu. Once the context menu is open, hover over the WinRAR option to open a sub-menu. Depending on your use case, you might choose between Extract files… or Extract Here options.
Step 2: Extract Your Files
Choosing the Extract files… option (marked in red) opens the Extract path and options window. From here, you can choose the destination path and whether to display the extracted files once the extraction is complete. It’s pretty much the same as with the previous method.
However, things play out differently if you choose the Extract Here option (marked in blue on the left). WinRAR Archiver will automatically extract compressed files from your RAR file without requesting a destination folder. Instead, it will extract the compressed files to the same folder that contains your RAR file. In our case, that was the desktop.
As with the previous method, the decompression time depends on the size of the files in your RAR archive. Depending on which option you choose, WinRAR may automatically open the destination folder using Windows Explorer.
Unlock the mystery with this helpful video guide! Learn step-by-step instructions and essential tips for effortlessly extracting RAR files and accessing their contents. Check out the video to simplify your file management experience today.
Open RAR Files Using Other File Compression and Archiving Software
Windows natively support ZIP file compression format and don’t require any third-party software to access or manage ZIP archives. However, the same can’t be said for the RAR archive. While WinRAR Archiver is most commonly used to open RAR files, you can open RAR files on Windows 10 using other software.
For example, WinZip is a popular file compression and archiving program that supports a wide range of compression formats, including RAR files. Likewise, 7-Zip is a free and open-source file compression program known for its high compression rates and fast compression and decompression times. You can also use it to open RAR, ZIP, and 7z files.
In fact, there are many popular file compression programs, both free and paid, that support the RAR file format. Their use mostly comes down to user preference.
What Is a RAR File?
A RAR file is a compressed archive file format used for compressing, storing, and transmitting large files or groups of files. RAR stands for Roshal Archive, named after its creator, Eugene Roshal. These files use advanced compression algorithms to reduce the size of compressed files by up to 50%. Of course, this depends on the files and compression level.
With the advent of massive storage and cloud storage, file compression for the sake of effective file storage loses its purpose. Cloud now offers a practically infinite amount of storage, and massive storage drives in personal devices now measure their capacities in terabytes.
However, RAR files — and other file compression archives — are still used for more effective file transfer, especially online. Imagine having to send someone a thousand pictures via e-mail. Instead of manually selecting a thousand pictures, you can easily compress them into a single file.
With a lower compression level, both compression and decompression times are greatly reduced. And you’re left with a single file to send or upload to your file-sharing server; a much more convenient option compared to manually attaching one thousand files to your e-mail.
In addition to convenience, RAR files can be password-protected to ensure the security of their contents. To open the RAR archive, the user has to know the password; otherwise, the file won’t decompress or extract.
RAR vs. ZIP Files
RAR files have several advantages over typical ZIP files. For example, RAR files generally offer better compression rates compared to ZIP files, resulting in smaller file sizes. Additionally, while both file types use password protection, RAR uses a more advanced encryption algorithm, making them harder to crack.
RAR files also have a built-in file recovery feature in case the archive becomes corrupted. ZIP doesn’t have file recovery, and you won’t be able to recover your files if the archive becomes corrupted. Compared to RAR, the only advantage associated with ZIP archives is their widespread compatibility and native support with Windows OS.
How to Install WinRAR
RAR is the native format of the WinRAR Archive. Other file compression programs can also manage RAR files on Windows 10, but we’ll stick to the native software for now.
To download WinRAR, go to the WinRAR website, and click on the Download button. You’ll be taken to a download page where you can select your language and operating system.
Run the downloaded installer, and follow the onscreen instructions. During the installation process, the WinRAR Setup will ask you which file extensions you want to associate WinRAR with.
ISO and JAR file extensions aren’t selected by default, and we recommend that you keep it that way. Just click OK at the bottom of the setup window and finish up the installation.
All done, your WinRAR file compression software is now integrated with the Windows OS, and you can use it to open RAR files. It’s important to note that WinRAR isn’t a completely free program. Instead, it offers a trial version of the software that can be used for an unlimited amount of time.
However, this trial version has some limitations, such as disabled advanced options, etc. If you use WinRAR frequently or require access to all of its features, consider purchasing a license.
RAR Files: 5 Must-Know Facts
Here are five must-know facts about RAR files:
- The RAR file format was developed and introduced in 1993 by Russian software engineer Eugene Roshal. It quickly gained popularity due to its advanced compression algorithm, leading to widespread adoption.
- RAR files can be split into multiple parts, which is useful for transmitting large files over the internet. The parts are sequentially numbered, so they can be joined back together by compatible compression software.
- The maximum file size for a RAR archive is 8 EB (exabyte), which is equivalent to 8 billion GB (gigabyte)
- RAR archives support several compression methods, including multimedia compression for video and audio files.
- RAR archives can be updated or modified without having to decompress and recompress the entire archive.
How to Open RAR Files on Windows 10: Final Thoughts
Since it was introduced, the RAR file format quickly gained widespread recognition for its superiority compared to ZIP. However, due to licensing issues, it never gained native support on Windows, requiring the use of third-party software to manage RAR files. Hopefully, our guide has provided you with the knowledge necessary to open RAR files on Windows 10.
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The image featured at the top of this post is ©Mingirov Yuriy/Shutterstock.com.