How to Open RAR Files

Three Methods:Understanding CompressionOpening a .rar ArchiveOpening a Multi-Volume .rar Archive

If you have ever downloaded large files such as movies or long sound files over a network connection, you have probably seen files with the .rar extension. Using the .rar file format, files can be archived for easy transfer and storage. While these files can't be opened in their compressed form, it is very easy to learn how to open RAR files by following a few simple steps.

Method 1
Understanding Compression

  1. Image titled View RAR Files Step 1
    Learn the difference between compression formats. There are several different file formats that offer compression. Compression is when multiple files are packaged together into one file, or archive. Compression software packs the files so that the single archive takes up less space than the individual files. This makes transferring large quantities of files much easier.
    • The most common compression formats are .zip and .rar. Windows has support for zip files built in natively; to extract .rar files, you will need special software.
  2. Image titled View RAR Files Step 2
    Familiarize yourself with the RAR format. A single file with a .rar extension is a compressed file (often called an "archive") that may contain 1 or many files. For example, a .rar file may contain hundreds of images compressed into a single archive. To view these files, you have to first extract or "unpack" the .rar archive.
    • RAR archives can be split into multiple pieces, or volumes, when the original archive is too large. Each of these pieces can be transferred individually, and then are reassembled by the compression program. RAR archives with multiple volumes typically have the extensions "file.part1.rar," "file.part2.rar," etc. or "file.rar," "file.r01," "file.r02," etc.

Method 2
Opening a .rar Archive

  1. Image titled View RAR Files Step 3
    Download and install a compression software application. Compression software allows you to extract RAR archives into their original, usable forms. No operating system has built-in support for unpacking RAR files, so you will need to download a third-party application.
    • While there are a variety of free options for extracting files from a .rar archive, the only way to create a .rar archive is by purchasing a commercial program.
  2. Image titled View RAR Files Step 4
    Extract the RAR file. Once you have compression software installed, you can extract the archive. To do this, either double-click on the .rar file or right-click on it and choose your compression application from the context menu. Your compression program will ask you where you want to save the unpacked files.
    • Many compression programs allow you to quickly extract an archive to the current folder through the right-click menu.
    • You may be prompted for a password if the original owner added a password during the compression process.
  3. Image titled View RAR Files Step 5
    Open the extracted files. The default location for extracting a .rar file is into the folder that it is located in. Usually it will create a new folder with the name of the .rar file, unless you specified differently when you opened the .rar. After unpacking, you can safely delete the original .rar archive.

Method 3
Opening a Multi-Volume .rar Archive

  1. Image titled View RAR Files Step 6
    Open the folder with the RAR files. To open these files, you must have all the parts. If you are missing even 1, your compression software will not be able to recover the original file.
  2. Image titled View RAR Files Step 7
    Double-click on the first file in the archive. This will open the extraction window as if you were extracting a single file. As long as all of the pieces are in the same folder, you just need to hit Extract or Unpack once and the rest will occur automatically.
    • If one of the files is not located in the same folder, your software will ask you for the location of the missing file when it comes to it in the queue.
    • When the files are extracted, they will automatically be pieced back together into the original file(s) or folder(s).
  3. Image titled View RAR Files Step 8
    Open the extracted files. After unpacking, you can safely delete the original .rar archives.


  • If you have any trouble with handling .rar files, consider compressing files in a different format. Zip files (archives with a .zip extension) are much more common and enjoy wider software support.

Things You'll Need

  • Free file compression software

Article Info

Categories: File Manipulation