Linux Mac Windows

Why RAR Is Better Than ZIP & The Best RAR Software Available

Justin Pot 13-10-2011

rar better than zipRAR files are smaller, easier to split and easier to recover than ZIP files. These three features mean RAR files are better than ZIP, even though ZIP files are far more common.


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.

rar better than zip


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 7Zip: A Free Program to Unzip Uncommon Archive Formats Read More . Be aware though that it can open, but not create, RAR files.


rar vs zip

If 7Zip isn’t to your tastes, check out PeaZip, a great alternative to WinRAR and WinZip PeaZip - A Fantastic Free Alternative To WinRAR Or WinZip Read More . Again, sadly, it cannot create RAR files, only open them. It features an easy user interface:

rar better than zip

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.

Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the site alive. Read more.

Whatsapp Pinterest

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. shaun
    May 5, 2015 at 7:55 pm

    just keep with ZIP - this is like betamax and VHS arguments. Completely pointless if you ask me. Why use ZIP because it just works from my Mac, from my PC etc without having to instal additional programmes and I know the person getting my email will be able to open the file...

    • Justin Pot
      May 5, 2015 at 8:02 pm

      Compression rates certainly matter a lot less now, with broadband being widespread, but it made a big difference back in the age of dialup (and still does for people with limited connections)

  2. Jack Hoover
    November 23, 2011 at 11:34 am

    I just received RAR file from my colleague from China and my expensive WinZip couldn't open it because original name had Chinese alphabets but this free jZip DID!  Also it is much faster than WinZip.  I highly Recommend!

  3. n26x
    October 17, 2011 at 1:10 pm

    Doesn't PeaZip contain OpenCandy adware?

    • jhpot
      October 17, 2011 at 1:32 pm

      You will see some ads during installation, if you're using Windows. It's a way to support PeaZip, but it doesn't install anything to your system permanently unless you tell it to.

  4. pceasies
    October 14, 2011 at 3:38 pm

    Time: 2:51
    Size: 395mb

    Time: 1:50
    Size: 426mb

    Lot's of text, pdf, ppt files. Both set to highest/ultra compression

    • Tina
      October 15, 2011 at 7:25 pm

      7zip takes a little longer, but obviously wins because the compression is (not much, but) significantly better.

      • jhpot
        October 15, 2011 at 10:32 pm

        I love seeing research. Thanks for the info!

  5. pceasies
    October 14, 2011 at 3:27 pm

    In my experience WinRAR always unarchives faster than 7zip and RARs (with max settings) are always faster and slightly smaller than .7z files. I also prefer the splitting.

    WinRAR is basically free, it just has annoying popups after the trial expires.

    • Ben
      October 14, 2011 at 9:04 pm

      And even those go away after a while...

      • jhpot
        October 14, 2011 at 9:28 pm

        Do the popups go away? I've never kept the program around long enough to find out...

        • Ben
          October 15, 2011 at 5:03 pm

          Yep,  had WinRar for two years.  I can't remember the exact timeframe for when they go away though...

  6. Anonymous
    October 14, 2011 at 12:01 pm

    7z is way better than RAR. It's free & have better compression rates than RAR.
    I don't get it why all people are going crazy about winRAR. It certainly sucks

    • jhpot
      October 14, 2011 at 1:23 pm

      WinRAR was a big deal in the early days of the 00's, because it compressed better and was easy to use. While there are better alternatives today, many people still now don't even know about RAR, or are unsure what it means.

  7. Ankur
    October 14, 2011 at 11:36 am

    I have stopped using ZIP files from the moment i used WinRAR

    • jhpot
      October 14, 2011 at 1:26 pm

      What convinced you to stop, if you don't mind me asking?

      • Ankur
        October 15, 2011 at 5:18 am

        Firstly, all files over net are mainly rar.
        also, as you said in your posts , it is better in compression

        lastly , I got it free :)

  8. Ishar Jay
    October 14, 2011 at 9:30 am

    RAR takes longer time to compress files.

    • jhpot
      October 15, 2011 at 10:31 pm

      Do you have data showing that?

      • Ishar Jay
        October 16, 2011 at 2:50 am

        You can do a simple test. Just put some different files to a folder, specially some pdf and avi files along with other files. Over 300 MB folder is better for this test. Then use WinRAR and WinZip to make rar and zip files of that folder. which takes longer time to compress?

  9. Pierre O.
    October 14, 2011 at 4:37 am

    I have been using Izarc for many years and have totally forgotten about compressed files management problems.
    Look at what it can do for you (from Izarc's website)...
    IZArc is the best freeware archive utility supporting many archive formats like: 7-ZIP, A, ACE, ARC, ARJ, B64, BH, BIN, BZ2, BZA, C2D, CAB, CDI, CPIO, DEB, ENC, GCA, GZ, GZA, HA, IMG, ISO, JAR, LHA, LIB, LZH, MDF, MBF, MIM, NRG, PAK, PDI, PK3, RAR, RPM, TAR, TAZ, TBZ, TGZ, TZ, UUE, WAR, XXE, YZ1, Z, ZIP, ZOO. With a modern easy-to-use interface, IZArcprovides support for most compressed and encoded files, as well as access to many powerful features and tools. It allows you to drag and drop files from and to Windows Explorer, create and extract archives directly in Windows Explorer, create multiple archives spanning disks, creating self-extracting archives, repair damaged zip archives, converting from one archive type to another, view and write comments and many more. IZArc has also build-in multilanguage support.With IZArc you can open CD image files like ISO, BIN, CDI and NRG.It is also possible to convert such files from one type to another (BIN to ISO, NRG to ISO).   If you need to send large files to your colleagues, friends or customers who may not have archiving tool you can easily create self-extracting archive that can be extracted by simple double click.   IZArc can be configured to run your preferred Anti-Virus scanner when you open any archives.   IZArc supports 256-bit AES encryption to secure your data. IZArc is integrated in Windows so you can perform all archiving operations by using right-click menus in Windows Explorer. If you have broken archives IZArc can help you to repair them with ease. IZArc is 100% virus free and it doesn't contain any spyware or adware. IZArc is the most complete archive utility available today.

    • jhpot
      October 14, 2011 at 1:26 pm

      Thanks for pointing out this alternative, Pierre!

  10. Deekshith Allamaneni
    October 14, 2011 at 1:04 am

    The author might not have tried 7zip format (.7z), which is an open format and compresses files much better than rar. I have compressed a folder containing pdf files... With rar, the compressed file took 60MB, whereas with 7z, it is only 51MB.

    So, thumbs up for 7zip.

    • jhpot
      October 14, 2011 at 1:25 pm

      You guys have all convinced me: I'm switching to 7Zip files!

  11. Preston1625
    October 14, 2011 at 12:08 am

    zip you rukkinn rar and rar your zipper

    • jhpot
      October 14, 2011 at 1:25 pm

      Okay then.

  12. Austin Beatty
    October 13, 2011 at 10:25 pm

    Yeah I also prefer formats like .7z or .tar.xz because they are open source, and are just as good, if not better, at compression.

    • jhpot
      October 14, 2011 at 1:25 pm

      Open source is a good thing, but it's kind of like ODT over DOC: if none of your friends can open they they're not as useful. But yeah, I hear your point.

  13. SilverRubicon
    October 13, 2011 at 9:32 pm

    Zip is better than RAR as zip is supported everywhere.  7zip and Rar should be avoided at all costs.

    • jhpot
      October 14, 2011 at 1:24 pm

      That's certainly one train of thought, but there are good reasons to use RAR or 7Zip. Higher compression rates and better recovery options, for example.

  14. HildyJ
    October 13, 2011 at 8:16 pm

    Just to be clear, 7zip's 7z format is faster and creates more compressed files than RAR. It is also free for creating as well as reading files. Both the 7zip program and the 7z format are open source. Finally, if you're sending a file via email to someone who doesn't have 7zip, you can create a self extracting (exe) file and slap on 256 bit AES encryption to boot.

    • jhpot
      October 14, 2011 at 9:28 pm

      Time to write a new, 7zip oriented article...

  15. Sebastian Cork
    October 13, 2011 at 8:13 pm

    I currently use 7-Zip and have had no shortcomings with it. WinRAR used to be my archive compression software then my trial ran out. Great article though!

    • jhpot
      October 14, 2011 at 1:21 pm

      I'm on Linux, so I use the built-in package manager which can pretty much open any file. It's good to hear so many people using 7zip, though.

  16. Ariebitski
    October 13, 2011 at 8:12 pm

    I cannot get 7 zip to unzip a 7z file at all and winrar wont do it either

    • jhpot
      October 14, 2011 at 1:20 pm

      All you need to do is right-click the file, then uncompress it with the 7zip menu. You're using Windows, right?

  17. Quazi Farhan
    October 13, 2011 at 8:05 pm

    Why no 7zip's own format, .7z ?

    • jhpot
      October 14, 2011 at 1:19 pm

      Stay tuned; there will be other articles coming up!

  18. Jim
    October 13, 2011 at 7:22 pm

    7zip is an awesome program because of 7z compression. It's a free program on every OS with no annoying trials. Please don't use RAR, use 7z compression with 7zip. 

    • wavedash
      October 13, 2011 at 7:26 pm

       Beat me to the punch. I don't see .7z files often enough.

      • jhpot
        October 14, 2011 at 1:19 pm

        It's a fantastic point: 7Zip files are highly compressed and free to create. Sadly, even fewer people know what they are than ZIP files.