How do I open or unpack a RAR archive on my Windows PC?

How do I open or unpack a RAR archive on my Windows PC?

By Dave Taylor

The Question:I have some “.rar” files on my Windows 8 PC and am curious how to unpack them to see what’s inside. From a bit of Google work, it appears that they’re archives of some sort kinda like a ZIP file. Help!

Dave’s Answer:

The RAR files you have are indeed archives. In fact, the abbreviation stands for “Roshal Archive”, named after Russian software engineer, Eugene Roshal who created the archive format as an alternative to ZIP archives. Mostly I see these RAR files show up in the world of Bittorrent and torrent downloads, but I suppose there are other contexts within which they can be utilized.

The format is definitely not supported in a stock Microsoft Windows computer, whether you’re running Windows 7, Win8 or an earlier version of Windows. In fact, as you’ll see, double-clicking on it produces a “open with what program?” dialog box, which isn’t really very helpful, all in all.

There are a lot of different programs that can unpack a RAR archive file, but one that I like is the app StuffIt, which has been around for a really long time for both Mac and PC systems. The unpack utility is free, so it’s a good solution, even if it’s a bit of hoop-jumping to actually get the free version. (I actually recommend the Deluxe app which lets you create and manage archives and do a lot more with data management)

But let’s start at the beginning. Here’s a file icon for a “.rar” file on my Windows 8 system:


Double click it and you’ll find out that Windows OS has absolutely no idea what to do with files of this type:


Alright. Instead of digging through the Windows App Store, just jump directly to and scroll down to find the expander utility:


Looks good. And it is a great little app. Simply click on “Windows” to proceed and you’ll have to decide whether to upgrade to the full Stuffit Deluxe version or just stick with the free Stuffit Expander 2011 Windows:

Steps Continued Here

This post is excerpted with permission from Dave Taylor.

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