Although not the most glamorous of functions, everyone needs to compress or extract files on occasion. If you need to 'unzip' some files you’ve received - or even zip some up to save space - WinRAR is a classic tool that does exactly what it says on the tin. With retro looks and plenty of power, it’s software that continues to charm us even today.
A classic app that will compress and extract with ease
WinRAR’s not fancy, but neither is compressing files!
WinRAR is one of those apps that you’ll forget you even own, until one day you download an awkward ZIP file. Suddenly, you’ll search for it frantically, and be very glad when you find it lurking in your applications folder.
Admittedly, WinRAR’s not great-looking. Sleek, modern, and minimalist are words that don’t describe it - in fact, it’s the polar opposite. Admittedly it gets occasional updates, and the most recent has shined up the icons a little, but deep down it’s a traditional Windows app with a traditional Windows look.
From a usability point of view, the interface is actually a little complex. If like most users, you just want to use the software very occasionally to help you out with a file, you won’t need to get into the complexities. Add creates a ZIP file, Extract decompresses one and with those two actions, you’ve covered about 90% of WinRAR use cases.
If you want a little more from your ZIP files, WinRAR won’t let you down. It actually supports way more than just ZIP and RAR files and will help you out with CAB, ARJ, LZH, TAR, GZip, UUE, ISO, BZIP2, Z, and 7-Zip. It encrypts files, fixes broken ones, creates volumes, and deals particularly well with multimedia files, automatically choosing the best compression method for each media type.
WinRAR is not actually free, although it might as well be. Technically, you’ll be offered a 40 day trial period, after which you are meant to purchase the app. That said, it will keep working after 40 days, even if you don’t. Whether or not to pay is mainly up to you. It’s clearly a small, personal enterprise and we imagine that if you had any problems, the developer(s) would be more than happy to help you out.
Where can you run this program?
WinRAR runs on Windows, Mac, Linux, and Android. This version is for Windows.
Is there a better alternative?
There are lots of alternative compression and extraction apps for Windows, with PeaZip and 7-Zip being two of the most popular. In general, 7-Zip comes out best when both speed and compression ratios are taken into account, but not by a huge margin. Strangely, none of the apps are great to look at.
WinRAR is a program that makes me smile, with its free-but-not-free approach to charging and retro looks. For many users, especially those with basic file compression or extraction needs, it’s no longer necessary - many OSs, like Mac and Windows 10 - can perform those tasks natively.
You may be someone who needs a little bit more from their compressed files, whether that’s a wider variety of formats or more file options. If you’re in that group, you’ll then have to decide if WinRAR is the software for you, or if you’ll opt for one of the slightly more modern/faster versions out there. Nostalgics may well opt for WinRAR and if they do, they’ll most likely be entirely happy with their decision
Should you download it?
Download it if you’re nostalgic and need a fuller-featured file extractor. If you definitely need more options and you really want the best, consider taking a look at one of WinRAR’s competitors.