RAR vs. Zip: What They Are and Which You Should Choose

When transferring folders or files, especially over the internet, it can be useful and even necessary in some cases to reduce the overall size of the group of files. Large files can take up a huge amount of space, have long upload or download times, and can even be limited from attaching to emails.

Compressed files are the solution to fixing the issues that sharing large files can create. There are two major types of compressed files: RAR and Zip. Below, we'll outline the differences between RAR vs Zip compression, as well as some of the reasons why you may want to look for an alternative to help organize and make use of compressed files.

What is RAR?

RAR is a type of compressed file. Short for Roshal Archive Compressed file, RARs are similar to regular computer files used for storage and organization. They are often used to share computer software or large groups of files that would involve many downloads. Instead of individually downloading each file, users simply download one compressed RAR file with all of the other files included within it. Beyond simple compression, RARs are also useful for file protection. RAR files can be password protected and encrypted to shield their contents.

RAR files differ from other computer files because they need special software to extract the contents for viewing and use. Windows computers do not have the built in ability to extract RAR files. RAR is the proprietary format of the program WinRAR, which is not free. Users will have to buy and download WinRAR or search for a free alternative in order to make use of the RAR compressed file format.


Zip files serve a very similar function to RAR files. Much like RARs, multiple files can be organized and "zipped up" into a Zip file for ease of sharing without using a lot of storage or causing slow downloads. Zip files are, however, more easily accessible than RAR files, as Windows computers have the built in capacity to create and extract Zip files.

Zip files do have some limitations though. The built in capacity on a Windows device is limited to only creating and extracting basic Zip files. For advanced uses like password protection or more control over compression rates, you'll need to download separate third party software. This may not be a necessary feature for all users, but it's certainly a consideration when comparing RAR vs Zip compression.

Why you may want something better

While the functionality of RAR or Zip might be enough for simple use, the limitations of these file formats might leave some users looking for more. WinZip is an alternative to basic RAR or Zip programs with all of the functions other programs lack. It gives users the ease of compressing files as well as the ability to unzip all major file formats. WinZip also goes above and beyond, offering users banking-level encryption on their files, the ability to easily share via email, the cloud, or social media, and even connects to Dropbox, Google Drive, and more. It's the perfect solution for file management on all Windows computers and devices.

Both RAR and Zip files are useful when it comes to organizing and transferring files, but each file type has its limitations. To take full advantage of the benefits of all compressed file types, WinZip is a Windows user's best bet. From sending large groups of photos to sharing software online, WinZip can handle it all. For more information about the ways WinZip can help you with file management, check out our WinZip suite FAQ page. If you're already a WinZip user, take a look at our tutorials for helpful tips and tricks to make the most of everything WinZip has to offer.

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