If you use the Internet often then, in all likelihood, you’ve more than once downloaded a ZIP file. A ZIP is basically a compressed folder you can download as a single file. A lot of free software is offered in ZIP files. Use the Internet a little longer, though, and you will stumble upon a few RAR files. A RAR is, in many ways, similar to a ZIP. It is a single file containing multiple files, but unlike ZIP files you need special software to open RAR files.
Why doesn’t everyone just use ZIP? Well, because in many ways RAR is better than ZIP.
RAR Is Awesome Because…
The main reason people use RAR is because of the compression rate. Overall, RAR files are smaller than ZIP files, meaning they don’t take as long to upload or download.
Don’t believe me? Check out these ZIP versus RAR tests. You’ll notice higher compression in general, particularly for media files.
The lower the percentage, the better the compression.
Another nice thing about RAR files is that they can be split into multiple pieces. What does this mean? Well, you could split a large file into two or more different RAR files. This is handy if you need to store a very large file on CDs or other small disks.
WinRAR also supports the creation of recovery files, which are very handy in the event of a failing hard drive. To take advantage of this, all you need is to create a .REV file when you’re compressing. If (God forbid) something goes wrong this will increase the chances of you recovering your compressed information.
ZIP Is Still A Good Idea When…
ZIP still beats RAR in one key way, though. ZIP works, by default, on pretty much any computer on earth. Windows, Mac and Linux all support ZIP out of the box, meaning you you can send a ZIP file to a friend who doesn’t know much about computers and he will still be able to open it. Send that friend a RAR file though, and you might end up providing technical support over the phone.
Software For Opening & Creating RAR Files
Want to get started with RAR files? Here’s the best software for the job.
If you’re a Windows user, WinRAR is probably the first program you should check out. I can create and open RAR files, but be warned, it isn’t free. There’s a trial, but after that you need to pay $30 to keep using the software.
WinRAR only works for Windows, but don’t worry, you can download the command line-only program RAR to run on Mac and Linux. It can create and open RAR files, but like WinRAR, it is not free.
Looking for something free? Check out 7ZIP, which supports a number of formats including RAR. Be aware though that it can open, but not create, RAR files.
If 7Zip isn’t to your tastes, check out PeaZip, a great alternative to WinRAR and WinZip. Again, sadly, it cannot create RAR files, only open them. It features an easy user interface:
Both those programs work best for Windows and Linux. Want something for Mac? The Unarchiver is a replacement for the built-in Mac unzipping program, and supports opening RAR files. Again, creating RAR files is not supported – you need to use the official RAR program for that.
Find more WinRAR alternatives on MakeUseOf Answers.
Which format to use is obviously up to you, but now you know why RAR is better than ZIP and what the best RAR software available is.
Do you disagree with me? Let me know why below. Also feel free to pitch in with alternatives programs for creating and opening RAR files, because I know I can learn from you.