What Is an RAR File Extension?

by Mitchell White

RAR is an archive format. Archive file types store other files within them. They also compress these files, making them easier to transport to other computers and devices. Files that are stored inside RAR archives cannot be used unless the RAR file is opened first. Once you use an appropriate program to open the RAR file, you can then transfer the files inside to your computer where they can be used. You may also use archive programs to compress your files into RAR formats for easier transportation through email, CD, ZIP drive, or another medium.

Using RAR

There are many types of archive files. RAR in particular is a type used primarily by the program WinRAR. This means that this program is often the most effective at using this file format. Before you can start working with RAR files, first download and install a program like WinRar (see Resources). Other archive programs may not be able to use this particular format.

Opening RAR

After you've installed the WinRar program, you can begin opening RAR files. You accomplish this by simply double-clicking on a file that ends with the extension "RAR." The program should automatically load and open the RAR for you. You'll then see the files inside the RAR archive and you can then click and drag them to the folder of your choice, where you can then use them.

Multiple RAR Files

Sometimes many RAR archive files will appear in the same folder, all linked together, You can tell because they all have similar names except that they are numbered in sequence. Usually, you don't need to open each of these RAR files individually. If you double-click on one, it should automatically load all of them and give you access to the files they were storing inside. It's a good idea to delete the RAR files after you obtain what you need from them, as otherwise they will just take up space.


RAR archive files can be used for a variety of purposes. Sometimes they are used to update antivirus definitions. Many programs will also offer software update "patches" that will be in an archive format such as RAR. If there is a program that is too large to fit onto a CD or ZIP drive, compressing this file into a RAR format can be very useful, as it could make the file small enough to then be transported on a CD or zip drive, or even through email; when this would not have been possible previously.

Compressing into RAR

WinRar will also allow you to put files into RAR format if you choose. This is done by right-clicking on a particular file and then choosing the WinRar option "add to archive." This will bring you to a new screen where you can change the name of the archive if you wish, and then when you hit "OK", the file will begin compressing into an archive. Once this is done, your RAR file will be smaller than it was before, and you can transport it to wherever you want.


About the Author

Mitchell White has been writing about fighting spyware, malware and other computer hardships for various websites since 2009. His work also includes research and articles on scientific and medical topics. White holds a Bachelor of Arts in English, with a specialty in writing, from Messiah College.