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What Is a RAR File and What Is It Used For?

Do you often download and deal with RAR files?

The RAR file format is one of the most revolutionary file types to come out of the 1990s. The RAR file has become the most popular type of its kind, preferred and loved almost universally.

But what is a RAR file? It’s a specific compression file type similar to ZIP but far better. We’ve all seen it, used it, and become accustomed to the iconic book stack icon.

Most people don’t know about the background of RAR files or what makes them so good. Below we’ve prepared a guide about the origins and uses of RAR. We’ve included a discussion about what makes RAR so great and how it continues to innovate.

So what are you waiting for? Read on.

The Background of RAR Files

The RAR file format has its origins in the 1990s when WinRAR first introduced it. Many of us grew up using WinRAR (and abusing the infinite free trial), so it’s been a part of our lives for a while. The thing that made the RAR file so special was its superior ability to compress multiple files than its competitors like ZIP.

This was possible thanks to a unique compression algorithm developed by Eugene Roshal. The RAR acronym comes from a mixture of his last name and “archive.” Since its introduction, RAR has been one of the most popular compression methods.

It knocked ZIP out of the water and continues to do so today. So what is a RAR file used for?

What Are RAR File Used For?

RAR files have two primary uses, each of which works together. The first is file compression for easy storage. The RAR file’s other function is encryption for security.

Because RAR files offer higher compression, it’s possible to store larger files. Raw camera footage or large galleries of photos can get condensed into a single archived file. It’s even possible to achieve a compression ratio of less than 27% of the original size.

Putting a password on the file also protects it from the prying eyes of others. It’s also easy to make archived volumes by serializing your RAR files from 1-99. This lets you break up even massive files into more manageable chunks.

The process of extracting your files or volumes is as easy as a few clicks and a one-second wait.

What Makes RAR Special?

It might surprise you to know that ZIP predates RAR. When RAR came in, it stormed into PC users’ hearts. This is because it offered more than an alternative—it offered extra features.

We’ve already talked about RAR’s superior compression rates to ZIP. Something worth noting is that RAR’s multi-volume capability was also an industry novelty. It paved the way for flexibility and robustness by allowing you to send huge files over the slow early infrastructure of the internet.

RAR also stores a backup of the original files within the archive. This allows you to repair things if your files get corrupted or don’t extract properly. This is yet another feature that RAR introduced before its competitors.

What makes them extra special is that they still innovate in all the years since they’ve come and won a place in the internet hall of fame. RAR now supports AES (advanced encryption standard), for example. Although WinRAR is the most common tool, others also support RAR.

7-Zip is a good alternative to WinRAR for dealing with RAR files. Unfortunately, Windows only offers ZIP support as default. So, if you want to use RAR, you will need to avail yourself of third-party tools.

WinRAR is technically Mac-compatible now but doesn’t offer GUI support.

Alternatives like BetterZip and Unarchiver are better on Mac. If you don’t like working with command lines, these are the ideal options. Check out this article for helpful tips on using RAR on a Mac.

Technical Considerations

When ZIP ruled, the world compression was far more limited. Until recently, ZIP only allowed a 2GB maximum, which has moved to 4GB. RAR came into this picture swinging, offering almost an uncapped compression limit.

For the sake of needing programming limits, RAR’s current limit is 9,000PB. This is the equivalent of 9 million terabytes. Such a limit is astronomical and unlikely to get matched anytime soon.

It serves more as a technical limitation. These are often necessary to stop things from crashing or malfunctioning. They also often reflect current and anticipated computing capabilities.

The RAR file, as well as archivers like WinRAR, have shown a commitment to updates. Should the need ever arise for higher limits, or better speeds, you can be sure they’ll be at the forefront.

Alternatives to WinRAR

As mentioned earlier, Windows doesn’t come with default support for RAR files. The same is usually true for Macs. To use RAR files, you need a third-party extractor capable of reading and working with them and other formats.

WinRAR is the most popular, but it isn’t the only choice. 7-Zip, Win-Zip, PeaZip, BetterZip, and B1 Free Archiver are only a few notable ones. Many like B1 Free Archiver or BetterZip are Mac compatible.

The Unarchiver is a famous Mac-only option too. When working with different formats, it’s good to have as robust of a tool as possible, especially when dealing with different OS.

What Is a RAR File?

We’ve been using RARs for a long time but have never stopped to ask, “what is a RAR file?” As it turns out, RAR has a long history of innovation and providing better features. The RAR file format has stayed ahead of the competition since it launched back in 1993.

This is why RAR has become one of the most popular compression methods in the world. It lets you compress more, with better security and recovery than most contemporaries.

For more information on RARs and how you can use them with your Mac, explore our site.

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