How to Open RAR Files (With Steps to Follow and FAQs)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 5 May 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

When working with different departments or clients, you may receive files in different formats. Some types of files require extra steps to download and open on a computer, especially an RAR file. If you work in an industry that uses high volumes of data and often shares large files, you may benefit from learning how to open RAR files. In this article, we explain what an RAR file is and explore methods of opening them on different operating systems and answer some frequently asked questions regarding this type of file.

What is an RAR file?

An RAR file, an acronym for Roshal Archive Compressed file, is a proprietary data storage format that can store and compress more than one file and folder. Converting multiple files into an RAR file can compress them down to a smaller size, which benefits the person who receives the data because they can download it more efficiently in a batch. This also helps with avoiding file size limits for various programs, such as email applications.

RAR files also allow users to create a password and encrypt the files before sharing them with other people, making it more secure. Although RAR files can make sharing data more convenient for users, they also usually require a few extra steps to open, often involving the use of external software or applications. Once you open an RAR file, you can extract the data inside, which reverts the individual files back into their original format.

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How to open RAR files on a macOS system

Here are steps you can follow if you want to know how to open RAR files on a macOS system:

1. Download a suitable application

Many macOS devices don't have a pre-installed application for users to decompress RAR files. You can download the free application The Unarchiver in the App Store. When you've finished downloading it, you can run the application first. Since it's your first time using this software, a screen may appear which allows you to choose what types of files you want the application to open and process for you. The application selects various common file formats by default, including the RAR format.

2. Select your preference

If you handle compressed files often, you can change various settings in The Unarchiver to better suit your needs. After you open the "preference" section of The Unarchiver, you can choose where you want to save decompressed files to. If you want to save it in the same folder as the original files, select "same folder as the archive". If you want to save it in a different location, select the path you want the decompressed files to go to. This application can also help you create a new folder for extracted files.

You can also select how you want to leave the original archive, such as automatically deleting it after you decompress the original files. You can also choose where you want to move the original RAR file if you choose to keep it.

3. Right-click on the RAR file you want to open

Download the RAR files you want to open and locate the RAR file in the "Download" folder or any custom location you may have chosen. You can see the RAR file display with The Unarchiver icon. If you don't see the icon, right-click on the file, choose to open the file with The Unarchiver. After you see The Unarchiver window, double click on the RAR file you want to decompress. After completing the process, you can see your decompressed files in the format and location you defined in The Unarchiver's settings.

How to open RAR files on a Windows system

Here are some steps you can use to open RAR files on a Windows system:

1. Download and install a decompressing application

Many Windows computers require separate software or applications to open RAR files. There are many options to choose from, such as WinRAR and 7-Zip. You can choose 7-Zip if you don't decompress RAR files regularly as its free. If you regularly receive and send RAR files and want to decompress and compress multiple files faster, you can consider using WinRAR, which requires a subscription. The exact steps for opening a file can vary depending on the application you use. The below steps explore how to open an RAR file on Windows using 7-Zip.

2. Choose the right file

Once you've downloaded and installed the application, you can identify the RAR file you want to decompress. Right-clicking on a RAR file then opens a pop-up menu that provides a list of actions you can take. From the list of actions, there's an option called "Unzip To." Click on this option and select "7-Zip". This is the command that instructs your computer to open 7-Zip to process your RAR file.

If you're using the free version of 7-Zip, you can review the options at the top of the screen and ensure that you choose "Use Evaluation Version" during this step. This allows you to save a version of your RAR file that you can open easily on your computer.

3. Choose the location where you want to save your file

Before decompressing the file, you can determine where you want to save your file on your computer. Many people download new files to their desktops so they can find them easily after the download process. If you're going to decompress a large number of files, you can create a separate folder to store the decompressed files. The options for places to save your RAR file typically appear as a sidebar on the left of your computer screen that lists your existing folders by name.

4. Click "Unzip" and open the created folder

The final step is to click the button that says "Unzip". This completes the process and saves a version of your RAR file to your computer in the folder you choose before. The new version of the RAR file typically appears as a folder with the same name. Once you see the folder, you can open it to view all the files that the RAR file has decompressed.

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FAQs about RAR files

Here are answers to some FAQs about RAR files:

What are the differences between RAR and ZIP files?

ZIP and RAR are popular file formats that allow users to archive compressed data. Although they're very similar, there are some subtle differences between them. For example:

  • RAR usually compresses data slower than ZIP.

  • RAR has a higher compression rate than the ZIP format, which means that it can produce a smaller compressed file than the ZIP format.

  • Creating RAR files requires specific software, while many computers support the creation of ZIP files without the need for additional applications.

How can I create RAR files?

The process of creating an RAR file is similar to decompressing an RAR file. First, select the files you want to archive together in the same file. Then, you can right-click the files to bring up the menu and open these files on 7-Zip. After choosing "Add to Archive", a window with several drop-down menu options appears. You can adjust the compression level based on your needs. The higher the compression level, the smaller the size of the compressed files. Click "OK" when you've finished choosing your settings to begin compressing your files.

Why create an RAR file?

RAR files are typically most useful in storing and sharing large batches of data. You may use an RAR file to share a project that contains several file formats. You may also use an RAR file to send high volumes of documents to people, such as with a book manuscript or collection of sheet music. For example, if you're a video editor and want to share all the footage and audio files you have with your team members, you may consider compressing them into an RAR file.

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What is the maximum number of files I can compress into an RAR file?

You can usually compress any number of files of any size into an RAR file. The actual size limit can depend on the file system's available memory. If you're using an older file system, it may not allow you to compress files larger than four GB. If you're using 7 Zip, it allows you to create an archive with a maximum of 16 exabytes in size.

Please note that none of the companies, institutions or organisations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

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