How to Extract .RAR Files for Free 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.

Windows

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.

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 OS X

In Mac OS X 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+