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Beginner: How to Extract .RAR Files on Windows and Mac OS X

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Have you ever downloaded a file only to find it has a strange .rar file extension? By the end of this article you will be able to view the file no matter if you are running Windows or Mac OSX.

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This article is valid for Windows XP, Windows 7, Windows 8, and even Windows Vista.

Editor’s Note: as the title suggests, this article is not meant for technically savvy readers. Please don’t be rude in the comments.

There are a variety of applications on Windows to open .RAR files, and while the default choice is WinRAR by the developers of the .RAR file format, it’s not free. If you need to create files, that’s your best bet, but if you just need to extract them, you’ll want to use the free and open source 7-Zip application instead.

Windows

Once you’ve downloaded and installed 7-Zip from their web site,  you can right-click on any .RAR file and easily choose to extract the files from the menu. Note that if you’ve got a multi-part set of .RAR files, you’ll want to click on the first file.

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You can also view the contents of the archived file by either choosing open archive from the context menu or by double clicking on the file.

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There’s a lot of other applications that support extraction of .RAR files, but because 7-Zip is open source and free, it’s our default choice.

Mac OSX

In Mac OSX there are not as many choices as on the more popular Windows platform, however there are still a few choices, like the free app “The Unarchiver“, which has great support for multi-part archive files. Once installed, you can launch the app to associate file types with the app:

The way to extract your archives on a Mac is to simply double-click on the file. The Unarchiver will create a folder with the same name as the archive and extract its contents into the folder.

If you use prefer to deal with your archives with a different tool please let us know about it in the comments.

Taylor Gibb is a Microsoft MVP and all round geek, he loves everything from Windows 8 to Windows Server 2012 and even C# and PowerShell. You can also follow him on Google+

  • Published 07/21/13

Comments (21)

  1. Siro

    not meaning to be rude, does this properly address your target audience?

  2. SgtLip

    Quote “Editor’s Note: …this article is not meant for technically savvy readers.”

    I do not consider myself a “technical savvy” person on a Mac as I have only recently started to use one. Having said that, I have tried to open .rar type files on my new Mac and wasn’t able to. So when I saw thisarticle I figured I was going to get me some learning today. That couldn’t be the farthest from the truth. I have read and re-read this article and I still have no idea whatsoever how to “Extract .RAR Files on my Mac”. Thanks for the great article though. Hopefully this wasn’t too rude but sometimes the truth hurts. Have a nice day!!!!!

  3. SuAlfons

    I’m using Keka on my Mac for 7zip compability. I think it also does un-rar, but I’m not shure, since it is nearly as rare on a Mac as .sit (Stuff-It) nowadays.

    However, the guide could have been a bit more specific on what to look for when finding a tool yourself, given it is for newbees. /wiseass

  4. John Chorley

    Oh a quick tip.

    If you install WinRAR using Ninite then it will not nag you to purchase it.

  5. John Chorley

    However I still prefer 7Zip as it’s free and will extract just about anything.

  6. Jojo Dancer

    On the Mac side, sometimes you run across a self extracting exe (often uses 7-zip or Rar compression). The only way I’ve been able to extract files from these archives (without using WINE, VMware, etc), was to find the command line versions of 7z or rar for OSX, and use those.

  7. UltimatePSV

    Have you tried looking at PeaZip? It’s free and supports a ton of different archive type files.

  8. John

    I downloaded all of my computer files onto an external hard drive and it changed all of the file names to NBA Extensions. I then reformated my hard drive to an updated windows version (from ME to XP Professional) and can not access my downloaded files on the external drive. I can see the files with the NBA Extension but my computer is asking what program do I want to use to open the files. I do not have any programs that will recognize the files. Everyone I have asked do not know of NBA Files or how to recover them.

    Please help

  9. Floyd

    NBA is a Nero backup file

  10. Bob

    If you can see the files on the external drive and are asked which program to use to open them, you CAN access them.
    It sounds, however, that you have made a BACKUP of those files to that drive using Nero, rather than a COPY of them. If that’s the case, you’ll need to reinstall Nero to open them.

  11. Sandy

    I love free 7-zip? I’ve had no nags, etc for years. I only deal with rar, cab and zip files though for the most part

  12. superfahd

    Isnt there a version of 7zip for Macs? I do see something on the 7zip site but cant test it since I dont have a mac

  13. Diggerjohn111

    7-zip is so much better than rar on a PC anyway, I have no clue about Macs. I am avoiding the over-priced Koolaid.

  14. grayhoose

    use IZarc for this

  15. Ushindi

    Alzip used to be a great, free program – then they decided it was time to start charging for it. They also sent everyone a free upgrade notice – didn’t mention it would take away the free and replace it with not-free. Silly to pay for Alzip when 7-zip is still free, but if you can find the Alzip 6.7 version, grab it and ignore any upgrade invitations.

  16. Clarence

    Have used 7-zip ever since I first needed to unzip .rar files. Works fine for me. My only complain was the over done right click menu it creates which I later found was able to be configured, Once that was taken care of things were fine.

  17. Rdyne

    I use UnRarX for Mac…pretty simple to use.

  18. Lewis Barnett

    @grayhoose: I would like to second that. I have only used IZArc for quite a few years.

  19. Gian-Luigi Valle

    i use File Roller 2.32.2 in Ubuntu and PeaZip in Windows
    File Roller is great, just right click on anything compressed and extract it right there or open the file and extract it where you want

  20. cgaleb

    Thank you! This was exactly the advice I needed!

  21. Larryd

    This was about the tenth help site I’ve read trying to understand a function of Winrar that’s bugged me for many years. When I use the right click menu and chose “extract here” sometimes it extracts the contents into a folder and sometimes it’s extracted straight into the folder it’s in which means the various files that were in the archive might be distributed all over that folder, mixed in with whatever was already in that folder. If I chose “extract to (folder name)” I usually get a folder with the name of the archive and in that folder is another folder also with the name of the archive and inside that folder is usually the detailed items that I wanted to access. What I want to accomplish is to extract an archive into just one folder and not embedded folders. But the only way I know to do that is to use “extract files” in the right click menu. But that opens up a directory which usually has the folder in a folder as part of the tree, so I have to edit the directory down to just one folder with the name of the archive. This is very cumbersome and time consuming. Is there an easy way to extract an archive into just one folder with the detailed items inside and avoid the embedded folder results?

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