PROS / WinRAR’s proprietary compression algorithm is well-known and efficient.
CONS / This file compression program only supports two compression formats. You can zip files only to RAR and ZIP formats.
VERDICT / WinRAR is well-established file compression software with a popular and proprietary compression format. It offers ample features and supports several extraction formats.
Editor's note: A newer version of this product is available (WinRAR 5.40) with added security features and a new compression format. We will evaluate the new version of this product when we next update our File Compression Software reviews. The information below pertains to WinRAR 4.2, except for a brief section about security updates to the 5.40 version.
WinRAR file compression software offers a full list of quality features and supports a host of extraction formats. However, the company’s proprietary RAR format ranks among the best for speed and accuracy of compression. WinRAR’s features include all the tools necessary to both combine files in archives and compress files, which are two of the most common uses for software of this type. WinRAR only offers two compression formats, but it ranks among the best for the number of supported extraction formats, so you will be able to open all the popular compressed file types.
Compression & Other Features
The first WinRAR version, with the proprietary RAR format, was released in 1993. The format is a chief rival of the ever-present ZIP format. Though you can only compress files into the two formats with this software, it lets you unzip 14 different formats and supports more than forty languages.
Because of the growing need to send and receive large files, a file compression software may be one of the first and most important pieces of software to add to your operating system. And it is important that your file compression software manages the tasks of compressing, decompressing, and archiving without requiring you to put too much thought into it.
This application's most user-friendly aspects are the drag-and-drop feature and the Archive Wizard. WinRAR automatically detects the type of files you are compressing and adjusts the compression rate accordingly.
One of the most powerful features of WinRAR is the wizard mode. This tool helps users who are unfamiliar with creating or extracting archives by walking them through the process step by step. WinRAR uses a traditional display involving menu trees that make it relatively easy to find the files or folder you want to work with. You can also use the familiar drag-and-drop feature found throughout Windows software to move files from your computer’s hard drive, email or external hard drives to the setup wizard.
You can also access WinRAR directly from Windows Explorer. This means you can use the right-click function of your mouse to extract or compress files without opening the full application.
WinRAR also offers multiple volume support. If you want to break up a large archive file into multiple smaller files, all you have to do is right-click the file and choose the Add to Archive option. You will then be sent to the application window where you can use the drop-down menu to choose the size of the files you’d like the software to create in breaking down the larger, original file. This is a useful way to convert large archives into a manageable size to email.
WinRAR includes the option to add file stamps, which are helpful when you want to figure out when a file was last accessed or changed. Adding stamps to files can also be helpful if you have multiple versions of a file. You can easily tell when each file was originally created or the last time you last changed it.
Even though WinRAR compresses only two archive types, it can extract files from a number of different formats. This software supports the extraction of 14 archive formats. In addition to RAR and ZIP, these are CAB, ARJ, LZH, TAR, GZ, ACE, UUE, BZ2, JAR, ISO, 7Z and Z archives. In our rankings of the best compressions software, WinRAR scores high in our extraction format category.
WinRAR can also repair damaged archive files. Files, particularly large ones, can be damaged when they are decompressed and then compressed again multiple times, as would be common when a group changes and reshares a file repeatedly. This can lead to file corruption and loss of information. If your archives have damaged or missing files, WinRAR will automatically find and repair those files when you start the extraction process.
Another stand-out feature WinRAR offers is its ability to create SFX, or self-extracting archives. These archived files can be sent to anyone who may not have an extraction software, like WinRAR, and they can be opened from any compatible operating system. So, for instance, you could archive a large number of high-resolution photos and email the archive file to someone without worrying about their ability to open it. Because the archive file is compressed, you also won’t have to worry about your email provider telling you that the file is too large to send.
WinRAR Download Options
WinRAR is available for download on both Windows computers and Android devices, but not on Mac or iOS. The installation file is only 2MB, so the download process will go quickly. The PC version is a trialware, so you can try the software free for 40 days.
There are 32-bit and 64-bit versions available (and we’ll discuss the differences a bit later) for any computer that has Windows XP or later, including support for Windows 10. When you download and install the software on your computer, you will be prompted by a window that allows you to choose the type of files you would like the software to recognize, and you have the option to add an icon to the desktop and/or the startup menu.
The version for Android devices is available for free from Google Play. It is a full-featured app that allows for the same compression, archiving and extraction features as the Windows version, but optimized for your mobile device. In addition to archiving and extraction features, the mobile app also works as a good file explorer application. It can be hard to keep track of files on a mobile device, but the WinRAR app does a good job of making it easy to search and send files. The mobile app also includes a repair command to fix damaged RAR and ZIP files.
WinRAR 64-bit vs. 32-bit
WinRAR gives you the option of choosing to download either the 64-bit or 32-bit version of its software for your PC. You’ll want to make sure to choose the version of software that matches the operating system and processor (architecture) of your computer. File compression and decompression are tasks that create a significant workload for the processor. If your computer is built around a 64-bit architecture, that means that it is capable of handling twice as much information in the same amount of time as a 32-bit system. Note that 64-bit architecture can support more than 4GB of RAM, while 32-bit systems cannot. Having ample amounts of memory at your disposal makes memory-hungry programs, like WinRAR, run faster and more efficient.
The other limitation to using file compression inside a 32-bit architecture is the amount of information you can compress and the size of the compressed file. With the 32-bit version of the software, you will be limited to compressing files smaller than 4GB. You will also be limited to decompressing files smaller than 4GB.
WinRAR Password Remover
WinRAR Remover is a utility designed to crack password-protected files. It doesn’t come as part of the WinRAR download, but it is available as a free extension of the software. It is a useful addition because of its ability to unlock protected files for which you have forgotten or don’t know the password.
If you want to open a password-protected file, simply open the application, choose the file that needs to be cracked and let the software go to work. This password cracker uses two different methods to get into a protected file. The first method tests all possible combinations of characters, so if you can remember some portion of the password, you can add any known combinations to speed up the process. The second method the program uses for cracking the password is dictionary password recovery, which tests passwords from a carefully defined password list. This utility is as simple as it gets, and it performs an important function in a world that necessitates, what seems like, an endless parade of passwords.
You can choose to password-protect archives and encrypt file names using a 128-bit AES (Advanced Encryption Standard) encryption algorithm. In addition to protecting your archive files with a password, you can hide the file names inside the protected archive. WinRAR also allows you to use your favorite virus scanning application before extracting compressed files. This feature adds a layer of security when you’re downloading compressed files from an unknown source. This level of security makes it almost impossible for someone to see the files inside the archive without the password.
You will find that WinRAR seems to initialize unusually slow for an application of its size. It may seem annoying, but this is another added security measure to keep your files safe. This means a hacker is limited in the number of passwords they can test per second.
We suggest downloading your version of WinRAR from the manufacturer to ensure that you receive all the files necessary to properly run the software. Downloading software from and untrusted source can lead to missing and corrupt files that may circumvent some of the security features put into the software by the manufacturer.
WinRAR 5.40 Security Additions
WinRAR has released a new version with added security features, including 256-bit AES encryption. You may have heard some concerns about malware popping up when opening a self-extracting file, but according to the manufacturer, this has been fixed in the latest update. We haven’t had a chance to test the newest version yet, but when we do, we will evaluate all the new upgrades.
Help & Support
WinRAR provides basic help and support options, including a comprehensive in-application manual, online FAQs and a knowledgebase. If you can't find what you're looking for from those resources, you can contact WinRAR by email. There is no user forum for this file compression software. It has no telephone support or live chat, either.
WinRAR compresses files into only two archive formats – the proprietary RAR format and ZIP. Those two formats are widespread and very useable. This file compression software also extracts 14 different file formats, which adds to its utility, and it offers a full array of quality features like creating self-extracting archives, supporting multiple volumes and repairing damaged archives. You may want to add the WinRAR Password Remover utility to your file compression tools if you plan on extracting password protected files.