Tutorial on how to open RAR files

What is a RAR file?

A RAR file is basically a collection of compressed files, processed to take up a lot less space than the actual files. The file is named a RAR file because all these archives usually have the .rar extension. A RAR file can be transferred on other computers faster that uncompressed files.

To extract the files from a compressed RAR file you need to use a special tool that is designed to work with these kind of extension.

A useful alternative to RAR files are the ZIP files, which can be decompressed directly by Windows. Now that we know what the file actually is, how do we get the special tool and decompress our precious files?

Finding and downloading the right tool for our file

Finding the right toll to open a RAR file can sometimes be a struggle. If you don’t know where to find and download such a tool, we will explain right now. The RAR file must have a tool that has RAR in its name. The official tool is WinRAR and is a small free tool that can be found on RARLAB’s website, here: http://www.rarlab.com/. You can also buy WinRAR. Here is a list of prices:

Winrar pricelist

First of all, go visit the web site. It should look like the one below:

Winrar website

As you can see, on 30 September 2008, a new version of WinRAR was released. It is called WinRAR 3.80. It is always best to have the most recent tools in your portfolio, so this would be a great addition. However, always be careful not to download Beta versions. These are test versions and can (usually do) contain errors, bugs, and possibly tracking adware.

Although RARLAB’s website is not very clean, we can still see where the English version is. Go ahead and click on the link. Since it is freeware, the download begins immediately. This is one of the fastest processes I have ever seen. With one click of the mouse you get the tool. Nice! Here is how the download looks box looks like:

Download Winrar

We need to save the file on the hard drive. Click Save File and save to a location you can remember. It is best to make a folder somewhere and name it WinRAR. Before we proceed with the actual installation, you are highly advised to save the file on a CD or DVD. Whenever you need it, it will be there, safely stored. Reinstalling Windows means that you will have to reinstall WinRAR.

Installing our new tool

After you have successfully stored the file on a CD or DVD, double click on it (either on the hard drive or on the removable media). This is what should appear:

Windows security warning

This is a security warning and it is here for a reason. Whenever you download a file from the Internet, you are putting yourself and your computer at risk. Always download from the developer’s official website. Otherwise, you might receive a file that is packed with viruses, worms, Trojans, and tracking software. These malicious pieces of code can steal confidential and private data, damage your data, or even damage your computer physically. If downloading a file poses these threats, imagine what running that file can do. This is why Windows is alerting you.

As you can see, the Publisher is unknown. It should have been RARLAB. This can be a potentially harmful download. However, since we "trust" RARLAB, we are going to run it anyway. Everybody has, so why not? Go ahead and click Run.

This is what you should see next:

First step of the setup

The program is asking you where to install itself. The default path is C:\\Program Files\WinRAR. You can change it by clicking Browse or leave it like that. Be careful, once you click Install, you are automatically agreeing to their terms and conditions. It is best to take 5 minutes to read them. Anyway, if you disagree, clicking Cancel will terminate the installation. Therefore we are, in a way, forced to accept the terms. Go ahead and click Install. Here is what you should see:

Winrar actual installation

Although the text did not appear in the screenshot (due to how fast the process goes), there is some text but nothing to worry about. After the installation is completed, you will see the following box:

Configuring Winrar

This is the main Setup. The tool is installed, but we need to choose with what to associate it. As you can see, the first result is RAR. This is exactly what we need. However, WinRAR can open many other archive types. It is best to leave the default configuration, like the one above.

Next, you can select if you want to Add WinRAR to your Desktop, Add WinRAR to the Start Menu, and Create WinRAR program group. I suggest having all these option checked. It will be more easier to locate it when needed.

The next feature is the Shell integration. For the purposes of this tutorial, we do not need to know what this means. Simply check (if not checked already) Integrate WinRAR into shell and Icons in context menus. If you need further assistance, clicking Help will provide some.

We are finished. Go ahead and click OK. You should be able to see the following window:

Running Winrar

Now that everything is in place, let’s run it and see if our RAR files can be opened. Click Run WinRAR and it should start:

Winrar standard screen

Now, go to File and click Open Archive (shortcut CTRL + O). And it really works. You have successfully opened the RAR file:

Using Winrar

Now, to extract the files from the archive, select all files (or just the ones you need). This is done by holding down the CTRL key and clicking on the files you want. If you want all, you can use the CTRL + A shortcut. Now click on Extract To from the taskbar:

Using Winrar

Choose where to extract the files and click OK. After WinRAR finishes, you are able to see and use all the extracted files. You have just learned how to open and use a RAR file. I hope you have had a pleasant lecture. Congratulations!

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