How to Open RAR Files in Windows

By Nick Peers

To extract the contents of RAR files on your Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 computer, download and install WinRAR, WinZip or 7-Zip.

Windows does not natively support RAR files, so you can't extract their contents on your hard drive without using other software. Use WinRAR, WinZIP or 7-Zip to extract the contents of the archive. The utilities can also create RAR, ZIP and 7Z archives if you need to archive your files.


  • RAR archives can contain video files, such as AVI and MP4, audio files -- MP3 or WAV -- as well as other file types -- DMG, PDF, GBA, SRT and even EXE.
  • You can't play back, open or launch any of the files until you extract them from the archive. Software such as iTunes, Windows Media Player, Adobe Reader or Microsoft Word, can't open RAR files.


RAR archives can contain malicious files that can infect your computer with viruses or make it vulnerable to attacks. Keeping an up-to-date anti-virus program can protect you from most of these threats.

Download and Install the Software

Download WinRAR, WinZIP or 7-Zip for your version of Windows. You can evaluate WinRAR and WinZIP for free; 7-Zip is open-source software.

Download WinRAR from the Downloads section of the RARLab website. To get WinZIP, open the Download WinZIP Software page and click the Download button. You can download 7-Zip from the 7-Zip website.

Double-click the installer and install the WinRAR, WinZIP or 7-Zip utility by following the instructions.

Extract the Contents of the Archive

Any of the three tools can extract RAR archives. Furthermore, WinRAR, WinZIP and 7-Zip can open protected RAR files if you know the correct password.

Step 1

Launch the program in Windows 8.1 by pressing Windows-S to display the Search charm, typing WinRAR, WinZip or 7-Zip into the Search field and then clicking the utility in the list of results.

Step 2

Press Ctrl-O to display the Open dialog in WinRAR or WinZip and then open the RAR file. In the 7-Zip File Manager app, select the folder that contains the archive and then double-click it to view its contents.

Step 3

Click Extract To in WinRAR or Unzip To (in the Action pane) in WinZip and select the destination folder. In 7-Zip, click the Extract button and select a folder.

Step 4

Click OK or Unzip to extract the contents of the archive on the hard drive.


  • You can extract the files directly from File Explorer after you install WinRAR, WinZip or 7-Zip. Right-click the RAR file and select Extract Here or Extract Files from the context menu.
  • To create an archive, select the files and folders, right-click one of them and select Add to Archive from the context menu.
  • If the archive is password-protected, the archiving utility prompts for the password before extracting the contents of the archive.
  • The file names and extensions of files inside a RAR archive may be hidden.