The simplest way to open a RAR file is to double-click on the file and let the operating system find a default application to open it. If no applications are present, one must be downloaded and installed before the computer can view and edit RAR files.
Windows does not support RAR files, but there are several third party software applications that do. Most compression and decompression applications can open RAR files. Windows users can either opt to buy the WinRAR program, which was created by the developers of the .rar file format, or get free open source offerings like the 7-Zip application. Mac OS X has a built-in archive "unpacker" application, but users can also get third party programs like Unarchiver.
Most of the compression/decompression applications can only extract (decompress) the contents of a RAR file, while some can also create compressed RAR files. The zip file format can be used as an alternative to RAR files. However, the RAR format has multiple advanced features when compared to the zip file format.
The RAR format creates more convenient multi-volume (multi-part) archives, tighter compression, strong AES-128 encryption, Unicode support and recovery records that can be used to restore an archive in case of data damage, and solid text and multimedia modes.