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The other day I downloaded a .RAR file. I saw them here and there but to my surprise never extracted one in the past. I really needed the app which I found in Mark’s article here How To Take Screenshots Of Your Sony Ericsson Mobile Phone How To Take Screenshots Of Your Sony Ericsson Mobile Phone Read More to take a screenshot of my cell phone for another article.

So I then did a little digging around on MakeUseOf for free unzip programs that support the format and stumbled upon a 7Zip, an open-source file compression/extraction The Top 3 File Compression & Extraction Softwares The Top 3 File Compression & Extraction Softwares Read More program which supports a multitude of compression formats.

Although there is also a IZArc which MakeUseOf recently recommended in its 15 Must-Have Free Software Programs Roundup: 15 Must-Have Free Software Programs for Your PC Roundup: 15 Must-Have Free Software Programs for Your PC Read More I still decided to go with 7zip. While both seem to be rather popular among techies, I went ahead with 7zip mainly for its high compression ratio.

7Zip – How To

So in this article I’m going to get down to basics and show you how to extract and compress files that aren’t of the common variety.

First, download and install the free unzip program, 7Zip, from here.

After it has installed, start up the program from ‘All Programs’ under the start menu. The home screen should look like the screenshot below.

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free unzip programs


Your first step is to locate the file you want to extract.

Normally, after you install 7Zip it should automatically recognize supported archive formats and integrate extract options to Windows context menus. When you right click on the file, there should be a 7Zip option.

7zip context menu

Clicking on one of the Extract options will extract the files form the archive.


Alternatively, you can just run 7Zip directly and open the archive from the program interface. You can either paste the file location into the text entry box or browse for it using the icons shown at the bottom part of the above screenshot. Once you have located your file, click on it once. This will highlight it. Then, press the minus sign ( – ) in the menu bar across the top. The window below will open.

free unzip programs

Fill out the details below including where you want the extracted file to go and a password (if any). Then select ‘OK’. It shouldn’t take too long to extract and once it does your file will be ready and waiting for you beside the original compressed file provided you didn’t specify another output location.


Compression follows along much the same lines as extraction. Navigate to the file you want to compress within the 7Zip window and highlight it. Then click the plus sign (+) up in the top left hand corner. The window below will appear.

free unzip programs

Enter in the information such as compression level, compression method and password. Then click ‘OK’. Now the compressed file will be beside the original file.

A bit more on compression. 7Zip offers a compression ratio that is about 10% better than WinZip. Moreover, by compressing a file into its native 7z format, you can achieve a compression ratio up to 70% higher than the zip format.

7Zip supports many other formats for extraction and compression. Some the main ones are listed here:

  • Extracting and Compressing: 7z, ZIP, GZIP, BZIP2 and TAR
  • Extracting Only: ARJ, CAB, CHM, CPIO, DEB, DMG, HFS, ISO, LZH, LZMA, MSI, NSIS, RAR, RPM, UDF, WIM, XAR and Z.

To conclude, 7Zip will take care of most of your extracting/compression needs when your standard extractor isn’t up the the task. And unlike many of its competitors it’ll do the job for free!

  1. Jorge Sierra
    November 24, 2009 at 10:13 pm

    I've been using 7zip for a long time, and I have no complaints. It's fast, reliable, and portable.

  2. Albert
    November 23, 2009 at 11:14 am

    I agree with webpoga! Now about .rar files, I have noticed that they are FAR more common outside of the United States. I'm not sure why this is, but many tech savvy computer users in the United States have rarely if ever seen a .rar file. I suspect corporate volume licensing discounts for WinZip are the reason most people in the U.S use the .zip format. (I find it hilarious that a persons choice of compression software has become the new VI vs. EMACS!)

  3. webpoga
    November 23, 2009 at 6:05 am

    skipping the article when you already know what's being featured is one thing, but to read and rant because it never met your expectations is such a 14-year-old act.

    this type article is what MakeUseOf should be posting, after all the site's all about REMINDING us or introducing us into new things.

    • Jackson Chung
      November 23, 2009 at 6:48 am

      I couldn't have said it better myself

  4. Dean Sherwin
    November 23, 2009 at 4:29 am

    It's worth noting that while I mentioned .rar files at the start of this article as a small story about how I ran into a problem, this program also compresses and unzips may, many more formats.

    Many of our more knowledgeable readers may be familiar with these process. But others won't and may find it useful.


  5. Dude
    November 22, 2009 at 9:10 pm

    Okay … this is where I get off of this particular bus. 7Zip? Really? I mean, really? Lifehacker follows you so I will assume that any morsels of intelligence will come to me though that source. This site has gone downhill quickly and the fact that you dedicated a whole post to the wonder that is 7Zip is frightening.

    If you write for a tech site, how can you not know what a .rar file is? That’s basic knowledge. Some of these posts seem like they have been written by a 14 year old. This is one of the worst. Goodbye MakeUseOf.

    • Aibek
      November 22, 2009 at 9:22 pm

      I fail to follow your logic here, what's wrong with profiling 7zip. I mean, do you think it's that popular that everyone already knows about it? Explain!

      • Bens
        November 22, 2009 at 11:01 pm

        I agree with some of the other posters. "I saw them here and there but to my surprise never extracted one in the past." Is taking dumbing things down a bit.

    • AriesWarlock
      November 22, 2009 at 10:05 pm

      "If you write for a tech site, how can you not know what a .rar file is?"

      Though I have no problem with the article itself, that did strike me as... odd.

  6. Tim
    November 22, 2009 at 9:00 pm

    Peazip FTW! It's open-source like 7zip, but IMHO has a bit more polish.

    • Aibek
      November 22, 2009 at 9:17 pm

      I prefer IZArc. The compression differences are minor but it supports nearly two times more formats than 7Zip.

      • AriesWarlock
        November 22, 2009 at 10:04 pm

        I agree with Izarc. And version 4 will support Asian characters, so that will make it really useful.

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