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How to Open RAR Files in Windows (for Free)

Melanie is a tech YouTuber who loves social media and is an expert on internet culture. She also runs a YouTube channel: The Curious Coder.

I have some important files in a .RAR. This guide will show you how to unRAR a file/folder.

I have some important files in a .RAR. This guide will show you how to unRAR a file/folder.

If you've downloaded a file with the .rar extension and you've made it here, you're probably wondering how to open the folder. There are a few issues when it comes to opening .rar files:

  • Unlike a zip file, you can't just right click the folder and click "open."
  • WinRAR, very popular software that unRARs files, can set you back a few bucks

So how in the heck do you get that folder open!? Don't worry, it's actually super easy!

There is an awesome, free, open source program to open rar files called 7-Zip. In fact, 7-Zip will also allow you to quickly and easily pack and unpack .7z, .bzip2, .gzip, .tar, .wim, .xz, and .zip files. In addition, it will allow you unpack .arj, .cab, .chm, .deb, .dmg, .fat, .hfs, .iso, .lzh, .lzma, .msi, .ntfs, .rpm, .udf, .vhd, .wim and .z files (among a handful of others.) Pretty nifty and powerful software, right?

This guide will show you how to extract a .rar file using 7-Zip, so let's get started!

The 7-Zip download page

The 7-Zip download page

Did you know?

RAR stands for Roshal ARchive. This archive file format was designed by Eugene Roshal.

Download 7-Zip

To unRAR your file, you'll need to download and install 7-Zip. To do this, download the 7-Zip installer from the 7-Zip website.

Once the file downloads, double-click it and follow the steps in the installation wizard to install it. Once it installs, you're ready to unRAR files.

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How to Open a RAR File

Once you've installed 7-Zip, follow these steps to open the file:

  1. Right click the .rar file you would like to extract
  2. Select 7-Zip from the list.
  3. In the next menu, select "Extract files..."
  4. Select where you would like the file to extract to. (I usually select the same folder the rar file is in or the desktop.)
  5. Click "OK" and wait for 7-Zip to finish extracting.

Now you're ready to use your newly extracted files and you didn't have to pay a cent!

The original RAR and the extracted folder

The original RAR and the extracted folder

Yay! Extracted files! I can actually use these!

Yay! Extracted files! I can actually use these!

After you extract your RAR, you'll have two files/folders: Your original folder that's still in its original .rar format and an extracted version which is usually in a folder.

You're free to delete the .rar file after extraction. Removing it won't harm or delete the files in your extracted folder.

If you'd like to play around with packing files with 7-Zip, right click on a file, select 7-Zip, and click "Add to archive..." Here you can pack your file into an archive. Select the format you would like to use and click OK.


Before extracting a file, you'll really want to consider where you got the file. If it's a file from a trusted source (like a close friend or a company you trust), then you should be fine.

If the file is from a less than reputable source like a torrent site, you might be risking your computer's security by extracting the file. Torrented RAR files are notorious for containing viruses, links to survey sites, and not actually containing the files you intended to download.

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